Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Death of Katoucha Niane and the Disappearance of Waris Dirie

Katoucha Niane

Waris Dirie

On February 28th of this year, the body of former African model Katoucha Niane was found in the Seine River. Katoucha lived on a houseboat on the Seine and returned there from a party on February 1st. This was the last time she was reportedly seen alive. On February 4th, police opened a missing persons case for her. Katoucha's purse was found untouched outside the door to her boat. Police believed that no foul play was involved, and that she was likely intoxicated and fell into the Seine. However, on Friday March 7th her family filed a legal complaint with an investigating judge saying they suspect her death was a homicide.

After her modeling career ended in 1984, Katoucha became an outspoken opponent against female genital cutting (also known as female genital mutilation or female circumcision). She herself had the procedure performed on her at the age of 9 and in 2007, she published a book about her experience, "Dans ma chair" (English translation: "In My Flesh"), in France.

In a separate incident earlier this month, former Somali model Waris Dirie went missing for 3 days in Brussels, Belgium. She was found alive on Friday March 7th by a plainclothes policeman in the presence of a local window cleaner. When first found, Waris (the cousin of fellow Somali supermodel Iman) claimed that she was lost and couldn't find her way back to her hotel. Waris has now stated that she was abducted and assaulted during the time she was missing. According to her, the story of having been lost was to keep the press from asking her too many questions.

As was Katoucha Niane, Waris is also an activist against female genital cutting as well as a childhood victim of the procedure. Also like Katoucha, Waris wrote a book about her experiences (the 1998 European bestseller "Desert Flower"). Waris' disappearance came just hours before she was due to speak alongside US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at a top level European Union conference on women's rights.

Last week when I first read about the disappearance of Waris Dirie, I was thinking it was a repeat of the Katoucha Niane story due to their similarities. Because both women spoke out against female genital cutting, I began to wonder if there might be a connection. My eyebrows were really raised when I read this morning that Dirie's disappearance came on the eve of her scheduled speech at the women's rights conference. What do you think... coincidence or conspiracy?

If you would like to read more on female genital cutting, click here.


Bar L. said...

Not a coincidence.
I am heartbroken and appalled every time I hear that this horrific act continues to be practiced today.

These women are beautiful and brave and that braveness cost Waris Dirie her life (it seems). I hope justice is served...but how can it be for all the women this has happened to over the years?

avogle said...

Hmmm. Certainly sounds like more than a coincidence. How sad.

Have you been watching this "cycle" (ugh) of America's Next Top Model? This reminds me of 22 year old Somalian born Fatima, also a victim of genital mutilation.

It's hard to believe these customs still exist!

Lori said...

Very sad. Generally, I'm open to viewing customs within their own cultural context. But really, after viewing a documentary on this topic . . . and hearing the screams of those little girls, mutilation is the only thing it can be called, besides horrific.

pjazzypar said...

Conspiracy! We just talked about genital mutilation in class last week. I have a female in my class from Kenya and stated that it was practiced in her country, but she was never circumcised. I think it is a deplorable practice. Thanks for illuminating this issue.

The Rock Chick said...

I have to admit, I am suspicious by nature, but there is a saying that "there's no such thing as coincidence"...things are somehow linked even if you can't figure out the link.

I'd have to say as outspoken as both of these women were and considering one was to publicly speak about it, it's a little too suspicious to be just coincidence.

It's hard to fathom that anyone could think that doing something like this is a good or desired thing, but obviously, there are those that do. It seems so horrific, I can't even imagine.

Open Grove Claudia said...

This is so horrifying, Malcolm. I'm glad you are mentioning because I thought exactly the same thing but the story was never anywhere. (shaking my head) I don't knwo what to think...

Malcolm said...

Thanks to all who have commented on this issue thus far. It looks like we are all in agreement that the incidents involving these two models may be linked.

When I was originally putting this post together, I used the term "female castration" exclusively. However, I came to realize that this term was a misnomer; therefore, I included the other two terms which from what I've read describe this practice much more accurately.

What's A Donzer: No, I don't watch ANTM. Did the show allow Fatima to go into detail regarding her ordeal?

X. Dell said...

Interesting coincidence, but that's what I see this as, pending evidence that ties them together. What gets me is the official indifference in Niane's death. To me that's not so much evidence of a cover up as it is the police's estimate of the worth of minorities.

Malcolm said...

The indifference gets me too, but it's not really surprising. If these two incidents are somehow tied together, I am skeptical of the truth coming out.

Anonymous said...

The men who do these horrible things to these poor women should have their willies cut off themselves!

Malcolm said...

Anon: It's hard to argue with your sentiment. Thanks for commenting.

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