Alienation is it. Here’s some alienation for you.

The family and friends of an 18-year-old girl, doused with petrol and set alight in broad daylight by the man she refused to marry, led a silent march through a Parisian suburb yesterday. Chahrazad Belayni is currently fighting for her life in intensive care after suffering severe burns on 60 per cent of her body. She is being kept in an artificial coma…She knew her assailant. He was a former workmate of Pakistani origin who was angry about her refusal to marry him. The man and a suspected accomplice are on the run.

Gee – what a loving gesture. Hard to imagine why she didn’t want to marry him.

Several hundred people marched to the town hall yesterday behind a smiling portrait of Chahrazad and a banner calling for “justice, liberty, respect”. “We are here to denounce this horrible act,” said the girl’s brother, Abdelaziz, who criticised the lack of public outcry following the attack. “We are here, not to call for revenge but that justice is done. We are here to denounce all violence against women: women must be able to say No or Yes”.

Say it, Abdelaziz. What a welcome change from the brothers who kill their sisters or slap them around. Let’s just all keep patiently talking and marching and persuading until all brothers see things that way and wouldn’t dream of slapping a woman, let alone dumping gasoline on her and setting her on fire. That’s not so much to ask – that’s not insanely utopian – and it’s certainly not ‘racist’ or Islamophobic or anything like it. You’d never know it to hear some fools talk, but it’s not.

The march was co-organised by Ni Putes ni Soumises (Neither Whores, nor Submissive), an association that tackles growing violence against women, mainly in France’s suburbs. “We are here to tell Chahrazad’s parents that they are not alone in this fight. It is not just a family problem. It is a problem for the whole of France,” said Fadela Amara, founding president of the organisation.

Say it, Fadela. They are not alone in this fight. Not just a family problem, not just the whole of France, it is a problem for the whole world. Women are neither whores nor doormats; we’re people.

Ni Putes ni Soumises has more than 6,000 members and 60 local committees campaigning against the repression of girls in largely Muslim housing estates, where the choice is either to adhere to strict clothing and behavioural codes or be considered to have loose morals. Yesterday’s march was, it said, a “tribute to all the victims of machismo”. Ms Amara said the organisation was overwhelmed by calls for help from women suffering from violence or forced marriages, and asked the government to give more concrete help, notably through campaigns in schools. The French minister for social cohesion and sexual equality, Catherine Vautrin, described the attack on Chahrazad as a “horrible illustration” of male violence against women, which claimed the lives of 163 women in France in 2003 and 2004.

Let’s hope Chahrazad survives – and can have a decent life in spite of the scars. Let’s hope Ni Putes Ni Soumises has such success that it’s no longer necessary, and evolves into a giant book discussion group. Let’s hope branches of Ni Putes Ni Soumises are formed in countries all over the world – including the UK, Canada, the US – until they too are no longer needed. Let’s hope that in much less time than we think, the situation will change and it will become simply unthinkable for men to attack women, all over the planet.

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