Burqa Wearing Woman missing in Lodbjerg Klitplantage

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Burqa Wearing Woman missing in Lodbjerg Klitplantage

by Hans Vibe
Aug 3, 2014

LODBJERG KLITPLANTAGE – An item in Tuesday’s daily police report was so unusual that Agger Nyt had to get more details:

Woman in burqa reported missing is found alive. At 8:13 AM a man called from a summer cottage at Tolboel to report his wife and their two daughters had the previous evening gone for a walk in the heavily wooded area near their home. He further stated that all were wearing traditional style burqas. At one point the wife had to go alone and signaled the daughters to walk on. She never caught up to them and although making some detours on their way back the daughters reached the cottage without finding her. The husband’s following searches were in vain as well. The officer arriving at the cottage soon called for a dog unit, and after about twenty minutes of searching the wood the dog found the missing woman unharmed but still wearing her burqa.

Officer Magnussen had responded to the call and gave a more detailed version of the incident which necessitated visiting the cottage.

Agger Nyt was greeted by Mr. Gujjar, an Oriental looking man around forty with short black hair, a little mustache and a thin strip of beard. He was wearing an off-white shirt to his knees to ‘confirm’ he was of Pakistani descent, but from his Danish it was clear he came from Copenhagen and had lived there for many years.

“Welcome Mr. Vibe. Let’s enjoy the Indian summer weather and go and sit on the terrace. I hope you will partake of a cup of tea and some home baked Pakistani pastry?”

While waiting for the tea he explained that he owned some computer repair shops in Copenhagen. Without warning three blue burqa clad women appeared, one carrying a tray. The three women moved in a way to, very likely deliberately, get a look at the guest for a moment before taking a stand at the table opposite to Mr. Gujjar and looking towards the ground. The glimpse of their hidden faces across the table showed nothing but black to be seen through the meshes which covered their eyes. After having praised the pastry it was time to learn about the incident from Mr. Gujjar.

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“My family do not wear a burqa in daily life in Copenhagen. Despite owning the shops we are just a normal middle-class family and we can only afford to visit the more distant members of our family living in Pakistan about once in a decade. We plan to go there next year to attend the wedding of a beloved family member, but because for many years we were students, the last time we could afford to go there was on our honeymoon, and thus our daughters have never been there. My wife suggested that we should use the summer holiday this year to tell them more about life there. In Pakistan my family live in a very conservative rural town where there is strict sex segregation and women wear burqas in more situations than in the streets. This lifestyle is very different from our normal life. Not at least the clothing and especially the burqa is something that only feels natural if growing up there. Following the talk between my wife and daughters, they decided they wanted to try to wear such clothing all day for a couple of days, but when we all agreed that walking the streets of Copenhagen in burqas would cause such attention that it didn’t come anyway near being in public in Pakistan the idea came up to rent a remote isolated summer cottage. We have been here since midday Saturday and the women have been wearing the clothes of the town in Pakistan since. This means burqas when outside and sometimes inside as well when we act as if having male guests. The women when outside stay within sight of the cottage and only I go to the local grocer’s or to Agger for our needs. In Pakistan as well shopping for everything but what the women need to see or try is done by the men.

Some of our relatives live in villages close to the town and because it’s a region with low mountains the roads go where it’s easiest and rarely take the shortest distance. There are more direct foot paths and the women can normally get permission for making visits and walking the paths without male escort because they generally don’t follow the roads. At dinner last night my wife asked me if she and our daughters could take a longer walk of an hour or so without me on the paths in the nearby wood while being fully dressed in Pakistani clothing including burqas so as to be better prepared for visits to the Pakistani villages. I agreed because the chance of meeting someone during the evening, although the sun sets late, in this part of the local district is very small, you know better than me, with the nearest housing being several kilometres away. And so after clearing away the evening meal they went out.

I think one of the women has to tell you about the trip. My wife behaves as closely as possible to the Pakistani lifestyle to teach our daughters, which means she won’t speak in the presence of other men than me. In Pakistan for a firsthand account of such a women-only trip it would have had to include a girl below the age of puberty, but to get a true account out to your readers I’ll order my oldest daughter, Mahzala aged seventeen, to speak. A woman being ordered to speak to strange men could happen in Pakistan as well in courts in cases where women are the only witnesses.”

The voice of the person wearing the burqa to the right that started speaking was very low and muffled but it was no doubt coming from a self-assured Danish high school student from Copenhagen used to talking to an audience, although she had still her head bowed but now lifted it a little more.

“The plan was to take the shortest path to the hill of Pentbjerg and walk over its top to, as best as possible here, make us imagine we were walking on a hilly and stony path in Pakistan, although Pentbjerg is no more than fifteen metres above the surroundings and made of earth. We would return by a different path along Flade Lake.

It was far from a usual walk in the woods. We walked very slowly, firstly because the burqa and the other clothing prevented us from walking at a normal pace, secondly because the paths are very rough with roots sticking up and have many small holes which your foot could be caught in, and thirdly because even in full light the vision was dark and blurred through the burqa mesh and there are stretches where the trees makes it even darker. Due to bad sight and having to fully concentrate on walking, orientation was not easy and we had neither brought a phone with GPS or a printed map as women in the strict town we would be visiting are not allowed to have phones. Besides reading either one isn’t possible through the burqa mesh and lifting the burqa and showing the hands in public is not permitted. But where mother had told us the paths in Pakistan where easy to follow with few forks Danish woods, as you know, are a criss-cross of paths both made by man and animals. Each time the path forked we agreed on which direction to take by pushing either the right or left hand against the burqa so as to make it bulge from the inside to indicate which direction we believed was right to take. Several times one disagreed with the two other.

After walking for I would guess nearly half an hour mother, through body language made it clear she had to, how can I say this politely . . . be in private for a few minutes and we daughters should keep walking. Of course we slowed down but mother being far more accustomed to walking in a burqa, we had no doubt she would be able to catch us up. We also expected it would take a longer time than such a stop normally would though because with the Pakistani outfit there are many clothes to pull away or lift. But after about ten minutes I stopped and gestured to Gulnar that I would have expected mother to have caught us up by now. We turned and walked back to the point where we parted, although I wasn’t quite sure if it was the right place. I gestured we should talk so as to be able to go through all our options thoroughly and without misunderstanding each other, but Gulnar signaled we should ‘stay silent’ because mother would scold us if she returned and heard us speaking. We waited at the spot for about ten minutes and when I gestured ‘what now?’ Gulnar picked up a stick which she held under the burqa without showing her hand. She made a drawing in the dirt to show there was a path forking of from the path we had walked without it being a clear fork. I hadn’t noticed this fork but nodded and we walked forward again and I found out she was right. We then walked along this side path for some five minutes and then Gulnar stopped and faced the sun. The light had already dimmed somewhat and sunset was about half an hour, perhaps only twenty minutes, away. Now I found a stick and drew some paths back home I remembered from the map suggesting we returned by an alternative route that was not much longer.

We were both worried when seeing the cottage without meeting mother, and father was even more worried when told that we had strayed from each other. He immediately went into the wood with his phone with GPS to search. The sun had long set and there wasn’t much light left when he returned after an hour with no result. When Gulnar and I went to bed at one o’clock father said he would wait some more hours. I’m sure none of us slept very deeply. Around half past six in the morning I heard father leave. If mother had returned she would surely have awoken us to stop us worrying.”

Mr. Gujjar gestured Mahzala to become silent and he continued the story himself.

“Although I have always lived in the city I know there are no risks as such as spending a night in the open air without protection at this time of year. But being sure she would only remove her restrictive clothing if about to die. she, with her limited vision, could have stumbled and broken a leg to be almost unable to move, or got the clothes tangled up in scrub and got stuck and unable to free herself. She could also totally have lost her sense of direction after dark to get further and further away from the cottage, but even if to some extent walking in circles the wood is not so large that after all these hours she wouldn’t have reached a road or the sea. But if staying in the wood almost no matter what her commitment to being Pakistani also would make her refrain from crying-out for help. Mahzala is right I hardly slept and just after daybreak I decided I’d better go searching once more rather than calling for help. As you know the search was fruitless and on arriving home I knew I had to get help, but I gave her one more chance to return by first having breakfast.

The dog was given a stained glove to smell and then ran into the wood as fast as its handler could manage. After less than twenty minutes officer Magnussen received a call from the dog handler. After Magnussen had exchanged a few words with him, from which we all understood that my wife was found safe and well, he handed me the phone so the dog handler could repeat to me that my wife seemed well and uninjured, but she wouldn’t talk to him or remove her burqa. As he understood her body language she wanted me to come and take her home. I asked him to hold the phone to her ear and said I loved her and I would be with her as quickly as I could. The dog handler then said my wife had nodded several times to this and then he asked me to put officer Magnussen back on the phone. Magnussen got his GPS coordinates and soon after Magnussen said, both to the dog handler and us, that he now knew which paths to take.

I started running towards the wood. Officer Magnussen had no trouble keeping up with me to soon be a few steps ahead to show the way. We reached my wife in just over ten minutes. I took this photo which I’ll permit you to publish.”

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Mr. Gujjar was asked what had happened to his wife since she lost contact with her daughters. He told Mahzala to tell what happened as the daughters had got a thorough account while Mrs. Gujjar had a bath and changed clothes.

“Mother, soon after starting to walk again, apparently took the opposite direction to us at the unclear fork. She just walked on along this path and without really knowing how after a time reached Lodbjerg. She had of course expected to catch up with us much earlier but when she didn’t she had expected us to wait for her here. Instead she waited until after sunset and then started walking back towards the cottage. But now she could hardly see anything through her mesh and apparently took the wrong path at some point. When having walked very slowly and cautiously for about an hour she found a tree good to lean against and sat there all through the night until being found. It was only some hundred meters from where we got separated because the path had a disputable fork. Of course she met no one and heard no humans but throughout the night she heard animals moving about. This reminded her of the rural town of her relatives, and of course the villages where many keep animals, and she had pleasant dreams about living a covered and restricted life there.”

The burqa in the middle, while keeping her head down, nodded repeatedly. Did this mean that she wished that in real life she could live in Pakistan in submission and always heavily veiled?

Copyright 2014 Agger Nyt

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