The Daily Times (18 October, 2006) reports (based on a report in the UK tabloid The Daily Mail) that “A Pakistani woman seven feet and two inches tall is to live in Britain on benefits after claiming asylum because she is ‘too tall’ to return home.”
Zainab Bibi, 33, claims she faces constant persecution and ridicule in her own country over her height. She has lodged an asylum claim with the Home Office and has already been granted a two-year visa to remain in the UK. Zainab, who in 2003 held the title of the tallest woman in the world, plans to live off benefits and take advantage of free NHS healthcare. Zainab lodged her application for asylum claiming she was repeatedly attacked in her hometown Toba Tek Singh near Faisalabad. She said youths in her hometown threw stones and rocks at her and often pulled at her clothing. She added that one man hit her with a stick breaking her wrist and now she is too afraid to return to Pakistan for fear of further attacks. After flying in from Pakistan, she claimed asylum in June and was given a council flat in Stockport, Greater Manchester, where she pays no rent or council tax and receives Â£40 a week in benefits. Zainab’ss case is likely to be heard next year, according to the Daily Mail.
Years ago when I was very young I remember meeting Alam Channa, then the tallest man in the world. I still have a photograph with him. I remember that instead of being awed by this ‘world record holder’ that everyone was proud of, I felt really bad and sad for this gentle soul and the great discomfort he had to go through (I remember watching him coming out of a small Suzuki 800). Since then, I have never understood the silly glee and shallow pride that some people get out of supposed ‘records’ such as this and, frankly, now I have a very low opinion of most things in the Guinness Book of World Records.
I feel sad for Zainab and can only imagine the type of ridicule and taunting that she must have to go through where people start treating her like a ‘tamasha’ rather than a real human being. In Alam Channa’s case it was a medical condition that made him tall, I do not know if it is the same in Zainab’s case.
In a society where just being a woman can sometimes be difficult enough, being a woman who is ‘so different’ and ‘stands out’, quite literally, could possibly not be easy. I wish however, that people in her home town had not chased her away and still wish that somehow we could give her the respect and the ability to lead a normal life within Pakistan. I note in the picture her broad smile and the Pakistan flag she wears proudly around her neck. Could not the image-makers of Pakistan do something better for her than a Council flat and 40 a week?