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Friday, March 07, 2008

Coincidence or conspiracy?

When the drowned body of ex-model Katoucha Niane was found last week in the Seine, an immediate buzz began circulating the Net that the model had met with foul play. Paris police now declare Katoucha's death an unfortunate accident. According to the report, Katoucha simply fell off her houseboat into the Seine and immediately sunk to the bottom. Weeks would pass before her body would float to the top and be discovered. Despite the report, there are those who still believe that she met with foul play. Why this assumption? Because Katoucha, originally from Guinea, was an outspoken advocate against female genital mutilation and had even written a book about her own harrowing experience at the age of nine. The book, Katoucha, In My Flesh, was published last year. Many believe, and rightfully so, that when a woman advocates female rights, there are those who would try to silence her.

Katoucha was not the first African model to speak out against female mutilation or even write a book about it. Ex-model Waris Dirie, a Somalian who became an international model during the late 80's (following in the footsteps of her famous cousin, model Iman), recounted her own mutilation at the age of six (correction: five) in her book, Desert Flower, which was followed by Desert Dawn and Desert Children. Despite the immeasurable pain she suffered, Waris considered herself "lucky" since two of her young cousins didn't survive the procedure. Because of her suffering as well as that of millions of other young girls, she felt she couldn't remain silent and decided to expose the heinous custom to the world. In 1997, she was even appointed by then UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to be a Special Ambassador for the Elimination of Female Genital Mutilation. She received the Chevalier de la Legion d'honneur last year for her humanitarian work.

Despite Waris' global success, or because of it, she had several frightening experiences with a persistant stalker who attacked her in 2004 at her Vienna home after chasing her across Europe.

Waris has been reported missing since March 4, after having a verbal altercation with a cab driver outside a Brussels hotel.

When the murder conspiracy theories started bandying around the internet, I really didn't give them much credence because there is always someone who wants to claim foul play when facts show the opposite. Still, even I had to sit up and take notice when another African model, another outspoken advocate against female mutilation, all of a sudden has gone missing. I mean it just seems too eerily coincidental to be a coincidence. Still, maybe Katoucha did just accidentally fall into the Seine and maybe Waris's disappearance may turn out to be innocuous. Or maybe her stalker found her again. Or maybe, the man she was seen arguing with took matters into his own hands.

Still, there is something unsettling about both cases, both of which are generating more questions than can be satisfactorily answered at the moment.

UPDATE: Waris Dirie has been found alive in Brussels. Thank goodness. So it was just an eerie coincidence after all.

Here is a recent interview with Waris Dirie conducted by AlJazeera.

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Sharon Cullars Coffee Talk at 3/07/2008 06:58:00 AM Permanent Link     | | Home


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