Balochistan is one of the most underdeveloped provinces in Pakistan, marred by deep-set poverty and lack of infrastructure to offer its inhabitants basic needs for a normal life. Geographically, it’s an arid desert and mountainous region and has been named after native Baloch tribes who inhabit the region with a traditionally heavily male-dominated patriarchal society. The Balochistan region is administratively divided among three countries including Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan. Since its annexure in Pakistan the Baloch national separatist, insurgencies have been fought in 1948, 1958–59, 1962–63 and 1973-77 — with a new ongoing and reportedly stronger, broader insurgency beginning in 2003. Historically, “drivers” of the conflict are reported to include “tribal divisions”, the Baloch-Pashtun ethnic divisions, “marginalization by Punjabi interests”, and “economic oppression”.

In such an insecure scenario, for the first time ever I showcase the interview of a Baloch rebel fighter, 32-year old Nadia Zehri* (not her real name), a Masters graduate in Sociology.

Saadia Haq: Asalam O Alaikum (Peace be upon you) how are you doing Nadia? Thanks for talking with me.

Nadia Zehri*: Wa-Alaikum-Salaam, I am very well, thanks.

Saadia Haq: Can you tell me how you got involved in the Baloch cause?

Nadia Zehri: Being a woman in Balochistan has never been easy as you know, we have a very tribal and staunch male dominated culture, plus we have been marred with internal conflict since way before I was born. Things took a very disturbing turn when General Musharaf’s operation against Bugtis ended into the death of Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti, one of our tribal lords. Since then conflict escalated and I realized it was time to become active.

Saadia Haq: Musharaf’s operation that killed Akbar Nawab Bugti was a response to his direct involvement government with a series of deadly bomb blasts and a rocket attack on President Pervez Musharraf? What do you have to say about it?

Nadia Zehri*: Well, Balochistan is home to gross human rights abuses done by army and it is not limited, the Baloch insurgents have been involved in many activities in response to this.

The Baloch have made serious accusations against the Pakistani government and Armed forces military operations and human rights violations. Mass graves, the arming of Baloch rebel militants – the dirty proxy wars thanks to Indian role and abductions of locals are most common occurrings’ seen in the recent few years. Might I remind you that this year, Pakistani human rights activist Sabeen Mehmud  was shot dead minutes after the end of an interactive event ‘Unsilen­cing Balochistan’ organized by her and attended by journalists and rights activists, including the founder leader of the Voice for Baloch Missing Persons, Abdul Qadeer Baloch. I wrote about it, here. Many voices have been silenced before and after Sabeen Mehmud for just supporting the end of religious military conflict against the Baloch people.

Saadia Haq: So in your opinion who and why foreign elements outside supporting Baloch cause?

Nadia Zehri*: Well, there are contradictions to why they are helping us, obviously they are not friends of Pakistan and nor of us. They probably want their share of the “economic resources loot.” In case of India’s support to Baloch insurgents is kind of tricky, there have been claims and negations but several Wikileaks provide evidence. I think India sees Balochistan as payback for Pakistan India disputed Kashmir issue.

Saadia Haq: So tell me more about your own role in the Baloch movement?

Nadia Zehri*: I and my group focuses on the problems of Balochi women and children that are stuck inside this bloody conflict – as fighting continues from both sides. The western jihadi supportive elements also using our internal war for their vested interests. In today’s time, Balochi women are suffering from severe discrimination, there are mass abductions of local women and men, missing persons and killings have gone up. Nine years ago a male cousin went missing for two years and was later his dead body was found in an unknown place. That was the starting point when I realized that I needed to stand up and do something for the women’s situation here.

Saadia Haq: So your work takes a feminist perspective?

Nadia Zehri*: Well I don’t believe in labels, I don’t like saying I am this I am that. But yes, you can say I am feminist in my own way. But feminism is very selfish in many ways, for instance Pakistani feminists or UN level foreign feminists are all talk about women rights and equality, but they are always silent on the atrocities done on Baloch women by military or jihadi factions. God save Baloch women from such sort of feminists who come here and tell us – oh you need to learn how to drive? Saadia I mean seriously? We the Baloch women need to be protected from rape and abductions and treated like humans, given economic opportunities to improve our status in becoming independent.

Saadia Haq: Yes, I totally agree with you and having worked with international organizations on such issues to come towards such realizations. So tell me more of your work?

Nadia Zehri*: I am supporting the documentation of missing persons, unexplained deaths and filing cases of abducted men and women. I also report case studies of relatives of abducted Baloch women and children, all in all we work very carefully otherwise we could end up dead tomorrow.

Saadia Haq: When you joined the movement, what was the reaction of your family?

Nadia Zehri*: They were worried but agreed that women cannot sit at home and accept their fate to die or become widows. In recent years, there has been a very positive increase in numbers of women taking up active and leading roles in the Baloch nationalist movement. In my sessions with women I have been discussing the need for women’s participation at various places. Sometimes, the husbands or children also come to sit in at these meetings.

Saadia Haq: What are the reactions of women and people on such sessions?

Nadia Zehri*: It is usually a space where we can freely discuss on our problems, women voice many grave issues. The reality is that Baloch are fed up of being marginalized and discriminated against. The baloch anger is rooted in deep poverty, for despite its vast natural wealth, Balochistan is desperately poor – barely 25% of the population is literate (the national average is 47%), around 30% are unemployed and just 7% have access to tap water. And while Balochistan provides one-third of Pakistan’s natural gas, only a handful of its own people have gas in their homes. We want to control our natural resources rightly so, no Pakistan, no China, India, US or no whatever.

Saadia Haq: I agree, because during my several visits to Quetta, I saw the state of affairs and the daily struggles of the people. I also noticed during my meetings with activists that there is strong anti Pakistani fervor and can understand the reasons. What have you to say about this?

Nadia Zehri*: It is true but I want to clarify that we are against the government and military’s doings because otherwise many Baloch people have been integrating into other places like in Karachi and Hyderabad. However, here Balochi school going children refuse to sing the Pakistani national anthem or fly its flag. Like myself, many women fed up of being stuck into conflict have joined the struggle and many universities are full of nationalist sentiment. But the GoP should ask itself as to what it has really done for us, instead the Punjab governments are hell-bent on draining our resources.

Saadia Haq: If Baloch insurgents take control over Balochistan’s resources, will that help the Balochi people?

Nadia Zehri*: That is a question I have been asking myself time and again. I fear Baloch people’s struggle will be manipulated by the militant lords for their own interests. I and many other female activists are arguing to end this conflict peacefully because we are suffering the most!

Saadia Haq: If you don’t mind me asking do you personally feel any Pakistani sentiment within yourself. Do you think that Pakistan and diversity go hand in hand?

Nadia Zehri*: Pakistan is a country where on a major scale the ability of Pakistanis to live together despite its patchwork of ethnicities and cultures under an Islamic shadow is our strength. All in all, there is a strong sense of oneness despite me being Baloch, you being Muhajir and so on. But there are grave threats to its own existence mostly due to corruption and bad governance.

With this we came to an end of this interview, I thanked Nadia Zehri* for agreeing to speak considering the risks involved to both of us. This is a true story but names and details have been changed to protect the interviewed. 

The online series “In Conversation With The Human Lens” is a copyright and sole property of its author Saadia Haq. Any reproduction, distribution, display or transmission of this content from this website is strictly prohibited, further more any REBLOGGING, DISPLAY, DISTRIBUTION OR REPRODUCTION for personal or commercial use in any form is strictly prohibited and liable to action. Copyrights@2015. 

Reader Caution is Advised.

In Conversation With The Human Lens, A Child Soldier in Pakistan

Call them as bambino soldato, enfant soldat, kindersoldaten doesn’t change the fact that today global trends prove that child soldiers as young as 10 are getting recruited and on an average child soldiers are between ages 15 and 18. In the 21 century, the child soldiers phenomenon has taking over  and it wouldn’t be wrong to consciously fear this new idiocy that has risen across Asias, Africas, Europe and elsewhere. Amnesty International, quotes “Approximately 250,000 children under the age of 18 are thought to be fighting in conflicts around the world.”  A poverty struck country Pakistan continues to suffer bad governance, regional proxy wars and internal terrorism and is a ripe nest for jihadi factions like TTP, LeT to recruit innocent children. At most, poor children are offered free education in so-called religious schools or madrassas and end up falling into wrong hands of fundamentalists operating on Pakistani soil.

For the first time ever at The Human Lens, I bring you a real story of a child soldier, Akbar Nawaz*,  a 14-year-old boy hailing from Waziristan, Northern Pakistan. Coming from a family of six siblings whose father is a daily wages laborer, Nawaz was born into abject poverty and has never been to a regular school. His parents got him enrolled at a local madrassa offering free education at the age of nine but due to security matters he declined to offer precise details of this association.

Saadia Haq: Asalam O Alaikum (Peace be upon you) how are you doing Akbar? Thanks for talking with me.

Akbar Nawaz: Wa-Alaikum-Salaam, I am fine baji ( Urdu word for elder sister). So what do you wish to ask me?

Saadia Haq: Tell me how did you join the madrassah (religious school)?

Akbar Nawaz: Well.. you know I am poor, my father is the only bread-winner to feed a large family of seven. So my parents decided to send me to a local madrassah where I could at least get basic education and learn Quran. This is how I ended up being in madrassah.

Saadia Haq: Before joining the madrassah were you aware of their teachings or activities? 

Akbar Nawaz: Not much, there were some rumors that it wasn’t the best place to study but with corrupt governments that don’t open schools for children in the north province we have limited options.

Saadia Haq: What is a usual day like at the madrassah?

Akbar Nawaz: It’s a regular but harsh routine to wake early mornings, go to pray and then recite the Quran and so on. Later during the day the advanced level teachers come and its all physical activities.. some that I didn’t like initially but now I know its part of our mission.  

Saadia Haq: Waking up in mornings was hard at first? Were the teachers upset? 

Akbar Nawaz: In the cold weather especially, yet the teachers are very hard they regularly beat those who don’t follow the rules. Most of us get beaten by our teaching staff sometimes with canes, other times we have to go hungry so finally we reach a stage where we just give in. 

Saadia Haq: I am sorry to hear this Akbar*, tell me what are your lectures about? Do you study educational subjects like Islamic history, theology and worldly affairs?

Akbar Nawaz: Well, they are mostly based on Islamic Sharia, and baji (elder sister) we are taught that Muslims don’t need to study any history, western education or world affairs, because our mission is for Allah SWT.

Saadia Haq: Hmm…but do you know Nawaz that Islam’s Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) had stressed upon getting education? The Quran also stresses that Muslims should strive to educate and progress with openness for learnings’?

Akbar Nawaz: Umm… well who thinks this doesn’t correct Islam. Because we are studying under real Islamic teachers we know the right things. 

At this stage into the interview, I will highlight that Akbar Nawaz* not his real name had been trained into combat missions. Given that honor and revenge are intrinsically linked in Pashtun culture we will see the crux of what is motivating many innocent children into becoming brain-washed into such activities as he answers some candid questions. 

Saadia Haq: What about your physical education? What is it like?

Akbar Nawaz:  Here we practice our theoretical subjects as main theme in lectures in both the senior (ages 16 and older) and junior (ages 7 to 15) camps is centered on saving the Muslim Ummah and taking revenge for illegal wars done by foreigners who are waging war on Islam. 

Haq: What do you mean by revenge and illegal wars?

Nawaz: Well, the west is conducting illegal wars on sovereign countries..Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. But who gave them this power?They should not be arrogant to think they know best for us Muslims, they speak humanity but truth is they just come to plunder resource rich Muslim countries and our corrupt democratic governments sit like cuckoos and slaves in front of them. Some one has to take matters into hand, and our mission is that.

Haq: Can you tell me who teaches these particular lectures? 

Nawaz: Our physical activity trainers are foreigners, highly trained into all sorts of combat but I cannot tell you more than this.

Haq: Ok, thank you. When you say mission what does it mean for you? 

Nawaz: It means jihad and saving our innocent Muslim sisters and brothers from the evil powers of the Infidels. 

Haq: What is jihad and what are infidels? 

Nawaz: Jihad is to strive in name of Allah The Magnificent and save the Muslims from evil doers, it requires to pick arms to help those in Ummah suffering at hands of international wars. And infidels are those who are waging open war on Islam, they are the enemies. 

Haq: Tell me Nawaz have you ever thought that many people living in the west are just like us, normal innocent peaceful people who don’t mean us any harm? Do you know waging war against innocent people is something Allah SWT have strictly forbidden? 

Nawaz: Umm… (silent and looks lost for words) I can’t answer this but I know they don’t like Muslims, I saw so many videos where they were torturing and abusing Muslims in Iraq and Bosnia. I am not sure because during my lessons I have read and seen many videos of their abuses on innocent Muslims.. 

Haq: Ok. Coming to another thing, what are your parents thoughts on your mission? 

Nawaz: ( Shocked expression on his face), they don’t know nothing because its secret. This is also why I have not been to my home since couple of months. 

Haq: Don’t you think they will be worried about you? Have you asked your teachers to inform them or let them meet you? 

Nawaz: Baji (elder sister) I used to cry a lot in the start, as I missed them but after I got so many harsh beatings I stopped because I know it’s not possible. Now my life is dedicated to the mission and InshAllah (God-willing) I will meet my parents in Jannah (Paradise). 

Haq: Think carefully for a moment Nawaz, these are your parents we are talking about?

Nawaz: I know but I have no choice, I have been selected for a greater mission above all and this is the sacrifice I have to make. And I don’t want to risk their lives and its possible they will stop me from my mission, something my teachers are not agreed to because now I am part of this mission. 

Haq: Is your training complete to start the mission? 

Nawaz: Yes am near to complete my training and with Allah SWT’s grace I hope to soon go on mission, but I can’t say more. 

With this we came to an end of this interview, I thanked Akbar Nawaz* for agreeing to speak considering the risks involved to both of us. This is a true story but names and details have been changed to protect the interviewed. 

The online series “In Conversation With The Human Lens” is a copyright and sole property of its author Saadia Haq. Any reproduction, distribution, display or transmission of this content from this website is strictly prohibited, further more any reblogging, display, distribution or reproduction for personal or commercial use in any form is strictly prohibited and liable to action. Copyrights@2015. 

Reader Caution is Advised.




Organ trafficking- Pakistan’s Kidney Bazaar Part III – In conversation with A Kidney Seller

The current series on “Organ trafficking- Pakistan’s Kidney Bazaar” has highlighted the grave problem of the illegal trade of kidney transplants that continues to flourish in Pakistan, which officials believe is a result of the lack of implementation of the Transplantation of Human Organs and Tissue Act (THOTA), 2010. In the third and final part, we have an interesting interview conversation with Pakistanis who have sold their kidneys.

Saadia Haq: Asalam O Alaikum, first of all thank you very much for agreeing to be interviewed and sharing with us your story. How are you doing?

Nadeem Raja: I am fine, and thanks a lot for actually approaching us.

Saadia Haq: Thanks a lot, can you tell me how the idea of selling your kidney came to mind first?

Nadeem Raja: Well, it’s simply because we poor are forced and helpless in face of our poverty.  I knew of people in my village that were selling their kidneys to pay a debt to the landlords so on back of mind I knew if ever I got stuck in a really tough spot,  this could be one solution. Let me tell you that within southern punjab the landlords are evil and corrupt with their limitless powers, they leave us work on their lands or factories on meager incomes and in a way they are no less than Gods because if they aren’t happy with you.. it means hell is coming.

Saadia Haq: Yes I understand that the feudal system has been root cause of much suffering in Punjab and many communities are suffering. How long did the idea take a final shape and when did you sell your kidney?

Nadeem Raja: Well, despite working as an agricultural laborer, I earn modest money and I have a wife, and old parents to support. We live in a small house and my younger brother also works in the factory. Still at end of day we make just enough to barely survive living day-to-day and once my wife became pregnant things changed. It was our first baby and so we were really excited but all that changed….

Haq: Go on, please continue your sharing. What happened?

Raja: Salima, my wife of three years was apparently healthy but from the start she suffered several ailments that we put down to morning sickness and work stress. She used to sew clothes to make some income and wanted to continue saving for our baby. Sadly, near the time of my child’s birth she suffered blood pressure issues and severe exhaustion, day she fell from the stairs and had to be immediately taken to a doctor.

Haq: So did you manage to bring her to a medical facility or hospital?

Raja: Yes, but because we had to travel almost 10 hours to the nearest big city and find a hospital her condition worsened. The doctors told that they had to immediately do a surgery otherwise the Salima and my baby were at risk.  I was in a shock, the operation was going to cost me dearly and what I had on me, was nearly spent in making to the hospital. The doctors weren’t going to operate if I didn’t immediate arrange the registration fees.

That was the first of the very horrible days of my life, I felt so helpless I had no money and neither did my parents. Salima’s parents themselves aren’t in any better position than us so my choices were getting scanty. Kidney selling seemed an option that could help pay for the operation.

Haq: So what happened next?

Raja: Usually hospitals in punjab side have independent agents who hang around and while I was sitting outside thinking what to do, I was approached by a middle-aged man who was already informed of my situation and offered to break a deal for a healthy kidney in exchange. I cannot discuss more details, because this surgery wasn’t done legally by  the hospital but as we know all goes around in Pakistan … underground. Finally I had the money for Salima’s operation but many hours had been wasted, still the hospital procedures went ahead and they operated on Salima.

Haq: You sold your kidney to save your wife and baby, tell me what happened after the operation?

Raja: Unfortunately, despite selling my kidney I was unable to save my wife and baby as they both died due to complications in cesarean surgery. I was so sure that they would be saved after the surgery, but Allah had some other plans, my dreams weren’t meant to be. And that was the worse day of my life when I returned home minus a kidney and funeral van carrying the corpses.

Several months have passed since this very sad incident and Nadeem Raja is suffering the consequences of selling his kidney. The hospital where he sold his kidney has not provided any further assistance to this sad widower. He suffers from shortness of breath and is unable to physically exert like before. For a farmer, this is a huge obstacle and one poor like him, more so.

Kidney donors need constant check-ups to keep their blood pressure and sugar under control and protect the remaining kidney. But in southern punjab, Nadeem Raja and scores of other kidney donors said they received no follow-up care. Before biding farewell, Nadeem Raja said that he has lost hope for the future and criticized the government of Pakistan for not tackling a myriad of issues including feudalism and exploitation of the poor masses of the country.

Note: The identities have been changed to protect the privacy of the interviewed people. 


Organ trafficking- Pakistan’s Kidney Bazaar Part II

In 2010, Pakistan’s than National Assembly and the President Asif Ali Zardari finally passed an important legislation for curbing the menace of organ selling mafias, the new law “The Human Organ and Tissue Transplantation Law”seeks to curb the illegal trade of organs and encourage donors to help patients who are truly needy. This led the Pakistan’s Ministry of Health to  make a separate department for tackling the problem and the GoP’S Human Organ Transplant Authority started working in all provinces with immediate effect. 

In the first part of this series, we highlighted one case to depict the gravity of the situation the country is facing since more than decades. Local health researchers and clinicians report that Pakistan has remained a major destination for international patients seeking to buy black market kidneys.  Local researchers conducted press meetings where they shared the socio-economic context through a research based on a sample size of over 450 cases of organ trafficking since March 2010.  However, according to Professor Abidul Hasan Rizvi, Pakistan’s Ministry of Health and Human Organ Transplant Authority have failed to address the resurgence in organ trafficking despite being presented with detailed evidence identifying participants in the kidney trade.  He also highlighted how kidney sellers have been victims of kidnapping, sexual assault and coercion where they gave up their kidneys against their wills.

Human rights activists and the medical community have criticized the new legislation stating it has many loopholes that vaguely address the problem at large.  For a start, it does not completely ban ‘unrelated’ donations. A clause allows kidney donations to be made by people not related to the recipient, provided they are “voluntary, genuinely motivated and without duress or coercion.”

On the other hand, Prof. Anwar Naqvi of the Sindh Institute of Urology and Technology (SIUT) in Karachi says, “Any law is only as good or as bad as society makes it to be.” Another campaigner for regulatory laws Mr. agrees and points out that “Now at least action can be taken to curb a nefarious activity that enjoyed complete legal impunity.”

The new law in a highly controversial manner has banned organ donations to international community, a move welcomed by scores of Pakistanis. With the promulgation of the ordinance, opportunities for unrelated donations have become limited, making the open buying and selling of kidneys illegal. As First world rich patients, suffering from end-stage renal diseases, have been flocking in from the United States, Europe, and the oil-rich Arab countries of the Middle East, to buy black market kidneys from improvised locals, there is a strong need to send out a clear message.That is, Pakistan is on its way to curb its unsavory reputation of being one of the world’s cheapest kidney bazaars where you can throw money at some vulnerable and make away with a healthy kidney.

Despite commercial transplants being banned, the heinous practice has gone underground since then, just like in India. However  the new law stipulates setting up of evaluation and monitoring committees in each health institution or kidney centers. The committees will include 2 notables from civil society to ensure no foul play or exploitation of the poor to benefit the rich takes place.

Within Pakistan there is also a great need to invest into the health sector that has for long being ignored in favor of 50% national GDP spending on Armed Forces and military advancements.

The trade will go on as long as there are poor and healthy donors around as well as rich patients needing a kidney and ready to pay the price. However, under THOTA, those involved in trafficking human organs or illegal kidney transplants can be punished with up to 10 years in jail and a fine of up to Rs1 million – but this rarely happens in reality as we know.

Stay tuned for part iii of the series which is coming soon to bring investigative interviews related to the issue. 

Organ trafficking- Pakistan’s Kidney Bazaar Part I

The phenomenon of Organ trafficking is not a fantasy as perceived by many. It exists around the world due to the simple  economic rule of supply and demand. According to the research by Rubab Azeem of the George Mason University, Pakistan enjoys a global reputation for transplant tourism and supplying kidney organs to buyers at both local and international scale.  Her research titled as Pakistan’s Kidney Bazaar throws light on how the global health system of “long waiting lists for patients” creates a demand for organs and the supply of organs comes from desperate individuals with no other option but to sell a kidney. The “Kidney mafias”, clinics, gangs and other associates around Pakistan have made a lucrative business out of this increasing demand. Along with China, India, Thailand, Philippines in Asia, Pakistan remains a major destination for international patients seeking to buy “black market kidneys” from improvised Pakistanis. 

Case Study 1: 

Almost seven years ago, an Australian named John David Horne came to be in the country on his quest for a kidney transplant. John, a semiretired businessman from Australia’s Gold Coast, was told by his doctor that without dialysis he had six months to live  and at that time, inside Australia the waiting list for kidney was approximately seven years. This led to John to search the internet to find a place that could supply a swifter kidney. He found four or five different countries that were offering transplants. After his in-depth internet search, he considered Philippines and China but settled for Pakistan because it was -“the cheapest option.” He stated that the Philippines had a very big kidney research transplant clinic and it would have cost him about $120,000 Australian dollars, while China was not an option because his “source” informed him that the Chinese kill until they find a match.

Finally John traveled to Pakistan with his best friend, Noel Oliver, as a caretaker. During the first 24 hours after landing into the country, he spoke with other transplant patients including  two Bulgarians, a Russian and a Pakistani who recently had received transplants making him more confident about the operation. John was briefed about the kidney owner who would sell his organ, a 26-year-old man hailing from Lahore for the price of about $3,500 or $4,000 U.S. dollars.  According to John, the price was sufficient when converted to rupees and was enough to last the kidney donor up to 10

15 years for giving up his kidney. What was most unbelievable is that within a period of six months, John was able to inquire different options carrying out transplant selling and operations and fly to one destination that had everything prepared for him. It is unbelievable that within a period of six months, John was able to inquire about different places carrying out transplant operations and fly to a country that had everything prepared for him. The most heinous side of this real case study is that the Australian John David Horne hypocritical belief that the “the poor are not being exploited” and that paying dollars absolves him of his moral depravity. He justified his own actions by comparing his own experience of giving blood to buy a drink when he was in the navy to people selling organs for monetary gain.

While the reality is that blood donation is drastically different from selling a kidney as the only means to scrap through abject poverty, like the 26-year-old kidney donor for John David Horne.Such beliefs are common in international recipients traveling on transplantation tourism purposes. In the end, John did not have to get an immediate transplant as his condition improved but this case highlights the exploitative nature on which the “organ selling” mafias operate across the world.

The Kidney Donors usually supply unlimited organs from illiterate and impoverished people from rural areas of Pakistan to fulfill the demand of wealthy foreigners especially from United Kingdom, Europe, USA, Australia, Canada, Saudi Arabia, rich Arab States etc. The international buyers of these organs, particularly the recipients need to understand that individuals selling kidneys are just as desperate as them. And that both the seller and the buyer have one thing common between them – their limited options to survive.

The government of Pakistan needs to address the negative consequences of organ trafficking since majority of Pakistani citizens are illiterate and a certain percentage is manipulated by the Kidney Mafia clans into forcefully giving up their kidneys through extortion and intimidation. It is difficult to recommend one solution to deter organ trafficking in Pakistan as various factors contribute to the problem but the second part of this series will highlight the recent counter measures taken up within the country to protect its citizens from falling into the hands of organ trafficking networks.

On rector scale 7.5 magnitude – Hindu Kush Earthquake Hits South Asia

The 2015 Hindu Kush earthquake was recorded with a magnitude 7.5 earthquake that struck South Asia on 26 October 2015, at 13:39AFT, 14:09 PKT, 14:39 IST (09:09 UTC) with the epicenter 45 km north of `Alaqahdari-ye Kiran wa Munjan, Afghanistan. An aftershock of magnitude 4.8 struck 40 minutes after the main earthquake; thirteen more aftershocks of magnitude 4.1 or greater had struck by the morning of 29 October. The main earthquake occurred at a depth of 210 km. According to the United States Geological Survey, Pakistan falls in the most active quake zone and has been hit most badly by this recent quake. The Hindu Kush range countries were also affected and this earthquake was also felt in the Indian city of New Delhi and in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, and in the prefectures of Kashgar, Aksu, Hotan, and Kizilsu in Xinjiang, China while damage was also reported in Afghan capital Kabul. The tremor was even felt in the Nepalese capital of Kathmandu, where people initially thought that it was one of the sporadically recurring aftershocks of the April 2015 Nepal earthquake.

In Pakistan the scene was of high chaos as huge losses are feared. Already 400+ have died and the rescue mission for victims is under way. The tremors were felt in Islamabad, Gujranwala, Sialkot and other Punjab regions and people were seen exiting their buildings while reciting religious invocations. Additionally, the telecommunication structure has been disturbed and many union districts are unable to connect their relatives.

In the aftermath of this catastrophe several governments have taken action:


Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif directed all federal, civil, military and provincial agencies to declare an immediate alert and mobilize all resources to ensure the security of citizens of Pakistan. According to Inter-Services Public Relations, Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif has directed army personnel to reach out where required to help affected people without waiting for orders. 


Chief exexecutiveofficer of Afghanistan Abdullah Abdullah called an emergency meeting of senior officials to respond to the disaster. 


The Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, contacted Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and offered help. 

 United Nations

According to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, UN agencies are mobilizing to assist Pakistani and Afghan relief operations.

Interestingly, Google deployed its ‘Person Finder’ tool after major South Asian earthquake within hours allowing people to upload or request information about their loved ones.

Facebook too followed up and in a post, Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg said his social media company launched a new tool called Safety Check in response to the earthquake that struck Afghanistan, Pakistan and the surrounding region. If you’re in the affected area you’ll see a notification to mark yourself safe. You can also mark friends as safe also. A news feed story will be created with your update. You can also check the status of your friends and family. Facebook will send you notifications about friends that are safe in the area, too. Only facebook friends will be able to see your safety status and the comments you share.

How can you help the victims? There are a number of ways to help the countries who have been affected in this disaster. You can check out the current Aid organizations on the ground to find volunteer positions (please see some are given below) or else to donate responsibly to credible humanitarian assistance interventions.

Prayers abound.


Hussein (A. S) The Glorious Miracle of Islam


So the first month on the Islamic calendar, Muḥarram has started, and it is one of the four sacred months of the Islamic year. In this month, Muslims across the world commemorate the events from our religious history; the Battle of Karbala and martyrdom of Hussein ibn Ali.

Hussein was the son of Fatima Zahra, the daughter of Islam’s prophet and her husband, the forth Caliph of Islam, Ali Ibn Abi Talib. The status of Hussein A.S is among the most important figures in Islam, his legacy is known across the world and as the commemoration activities across Muslim world took place on 10 Muharram, here are some of the most key sayings on the sacrifice of “Iman Hussein” who along with 72 followers (including women and children as young as few months old) embraced martyrdom in the battle of Karbala.

Islam’s Prophet and The Messenger of Allah said: “Hussain is from me and I am from Hussain.”

Author James Corne said:  Hussain and his companions faced eight kinds of enemies. On the four sides the army of Yezid was their enemy which was ceaselessly raining arrows; the fifth foe was the sun of Arabia that was scorching the bodies; the sixth foe was the desert of Karbala the sands of which were scorching like a heated furnace; the seventh and eighth foes were the overpowering hunger and the unbearable thirst. Thus on those who fought with thousands of infidels in such conditions has ended bravado; on such a people no gallant (hero) can ever have pre-eminence.”

Dr. K. Sheldrake said: “Husain marched with his little company not to glory, not to power or wealth, but to a supreme sacrifice and every member of that gallant band, male and female, knew that the foes were implacable, were not only ready to fight but to kill. Denied even water for the children, they remained parched under a burning sun, amid scorching sands yet no one faltered for a moment and bravely faced the greatest odds without flinching.”

Father of the Nation, Pakistan Muhammad Ali Jinnah said: “The world is unable to present an example finer and brighter than the personality of Imam Hussein (a.s). He was the embodiment of love, valor and personification of sacrifice and devotion. Every Muslim, in particular, must learn a lesson from his life and should seek guidance from him.”

The great Begali poet Rabindranath Tagore said: “In order to keep alive justice and truth, instead of an army or weapons, success can be achieved by sacrificing lives, exactly what Imam Hussain did. Imam Hussain is the leader of humanity. Imam Hussain (R.A) will warm the coldest heart.”

Father of the Nation, India’s Mahatma Gandhi said: “My admiration for the noble sacrifice of Imam Hussein (a.s) as a martyr abounds, because he accepted death and the torture of thrust for himself, for his sons, and for his whole family, but did not submit to unjust authorities. I learnt from Hussain how to achieve victory while being oppressed.”

American biographer and historian Washington Irwing said: “It was possible for Hussein to save his life by submitting himself to the will of Yazid. But his responsibility as a reformer did not allow him to accept Yazid’s Caliphate. He therefore prepared to embrace all sorts discomfort and inconvenience in order to deliver Islam from the hands of the Omayyads. Under the blazing sun, on the parched land and against the stiffing heat of Arabia, stood the immortal Hussein.”

World famous Arab historian al-Fakhri has said this about Imam Hussein’s sacrifice: “This is a catastrophe whereof I care not to speak at length, deeming it alike too grievous and too horrible. For verily, it was a catastrophe than that which not more shameful has happened in Islam…There happened therein such a foul slaughter as to cause man’s flesh to creep with horror. And again I have dispersed with my long description because of it’s notoriety, for it is the most lamented of catastrophes.”

A Hungarian scholar Ignaz Goldziher writes:“Karbala symbolizes the true face of struggle against injustice – non-violent resistance. Not taking life but sacrificing your life for Islam.”

Muhammad Iqbal, poet and philosopher of Pakistan said: “Imam Hussein uprooted despotism forever till the Day of Resurrection. He watered the dry garden of freedom with the surging wave of his blood, and indeed he awakened the sleeping Muslim nation.”

The French author Victor Hugo said: “The principles of Hussain’s revolution became an approach to every rebel who want to take his rights from his oppressors.”

– Tolstoy, the Russian thinker and author said: “No doubt Hussain was among greatest rebel men in purpose to correct the governess who were deviated away from the right path, and for his attitudes he obtained that martyrdom which the free once wishes.”

The day of Ashura crosses by us every year, after the martyrdom of Hussain on the 10th of Muharram; a battlefield between truth and falsehood, where truth triumphed for eternity. This tragedy marks the most defining day in Islamic history, it reminds us of how the beloved grandson of Islam’s Prophet did not bow down to a tyrant leader like Yazid and laid down all that he had for truth and justice.

Islam’s greatest miracle took place in the moments when Imam Hussein and his followers were mercilessly slaughtered. Imam Hussein A.S was hit 45 times by arrows, 33 times by spears and over 40 times by sword blows. But in laying down his life, no doubt he taught Muslim generations to not bow down to unworthy rulers who will do more harm to Islam than good.

Imam Hussain’s resistance was in order to remove a tyrannical despot, a self-appointed Caliphate, and thus safeguard the religion. While Yazid was power-hungry and blinded by the love of the world, Hussein was truthful and provided a pure model for future Muslims to follow.  Yazid died of an incurable disease only 3 years after he tasted his short-lived power.

But. The legacy of Hussein (A.S) lives on, it belongs not only to Muslims, but to this world as he is a symbol of resistance who stood for humanitarian values and justice.

Bringing the Gold Home, Twinkle Wins Asian Brench-Press Championship 2015

The 19-year-old Twinkle Sohail, Pakistani Christian girl has become the first Pakistani female athlete to win an international gold medal at the “Asian Brench-Press Championship 2015” in Muscat, Oman. Twinkle Sohail secured six white flags after passing all three lifts perfectly. The Lahore-based power lifter declares the achievement as “priceless” says her tireless efforts in the gym has finally paid off.

CQXp_0PUEAEjVnlTwinkle Sohail says, “I’m excited, and I’m proud, I was a little nervous before coming here and competing at the top-level in the continent. But I kept my nerves in check and I just knew that I had to perform well. I maintained my focus and now I’m a winner in my category. I still can’t believe I’ve become the first female Pakistani powerlifter to win something this big. I’m still processing the feat.”

Twinkle was part of the three female member team that accompanied four male athletes to Oman for the event. This is also the first time that the Pakistan female team has accompanied men at any international championship and straight away shown immense female power by winning straight Gold medals. Along-with Twinkle Sohail, Sonia Azmat and Shazia Kanwal But won gold medals for Pakistan, by outshining  international athletes representing 12 other countries. 


The proud coach of the Pakistani athletes, Mr. Rashed Muhammad Malik told media that the girls has been training for about 2 years.  When asked how he felt at three gold medals by female athletes, he said proudly, “Our women have been the most successful and have  impressed everyone. The Indians, who have the biggest contingent, were shocked. On top of that our girls won these medals in a Middle Eastern country  and it has broken all kinds of misconceptions that people had about Pakistan.”

 The four male athletes also won consecutive one gold, one silver and one bronze medal and according to the coach, this tour has been the most successful one for Pakistan, with all seven athletes winning medals in their respective categories.

A proud moment for Pakistan, saluting women and men of power. Pakistan Zindabad!!! 

Zeenith Irfan, Trailblazer Motorbiker From Pakistan


Believe it not, the girl in the photo is a 20-year-old woman from Pakistan and her name is  Zenith Irfan. She is a student from Lahore who also happens to be a daring biker and is fulfilling the unrealized dreams of her departed father. In doing so she has full support from her wonderful mother and brother and none of the resistance that one would imagine a usual Muslim family has on their daughters. Truly Zenith is an inspiration for young women from all corners of the earth, but she’s nothing short of a heroin in Pakistan.

Women traveling alone, especially in the central and north Pakistan is frowned upon heavily, in some instances forbidden by family. So when Zeenith Irfan undertook her bike tour she was well aware of the challenges that lay ahead. A country where many hold the opinions like “ The women are property of men (check the male insecurity levels) and only “THE GOOD WOMAN” is the one that stays at home, or at best if she steps out of the house, she covers herself in a “cover” (in other words hijab) that does not show her “EVIL TEMPTING FACE” to men lest they should lose control. And when/ if a woman does show her face, she is fair game for all men.”

Pathetic but true, trust me I face this sort of shit daily because I don’t conform to be pushed into forcefully wearing a hijab as I go out, so imagine a bike rider like Zenith Irfan. On this issue, she says that, “A social taboo is enforced on them (female motorcycle riders), by creating a sense of disgrace and shame.” Next, she mentions the ‘public stares’ her journey was riddled with and she acknowledges the limitations posed by her lineage however she mentions how she knows how ‘to calculate her speech and body language.’

IMG_6134-2While Pakistan was celebrating its birthday on August 14, 2015, this biker had a different plan, Zenith devoted 20 days to exploring the sublime topography of Pakistan and fulfill her father’s dream. Eager to discover what life would deliver on the road, she started her 3000 kilometer journey from Lahore and stretched to the Khunjerab Pass, a cement gateway connecting Pakistan and China. From there, the route took her along the infamous Silk Road, mighty plains of Deosai, and scenic Karakoram Highway(KKH). She also ventured into Hunza for a unique dose of history and culture where the locals made her feel very welcome and energized her spirit with their wonderful stories. Once all of the big-ticket items were ticked off her list, she rode to a small valley known as Misgar, a 30km detour from Sost and says that she  left dazed by its natural beauty and how the sunlight illuminated the hay fields and fresh farms.

Through the mountains of Kashmir and Karakoram, this life-challenging journey for a girl in Pakistan is not less than a dangerous adventurous experience. Zenith’s ride across the world’s highest paved road was not just adventure, it was a message of peace and that Pakistani girls can ride motorcycles without any fear of being harassed. In her own words, “I hope to be an inspiration to all aspiring female riders in South Asia specifically.”

The Human Lens wishes Zenith Irfan the best of luck and prayers for more miles for her mission of 1 Girl 2 Wheels!

The Written vs.NOT Written Stuff: Crime, Culture & Cruelty Towards Women Prisoners inside Jails Part II

Part II, Written by Papatia Feauxzar of Between Sisters, SVP!

I read Saadia Faruqi’s last short story in Brick Walls and thought, ‘It doesn’t get any monstrous than a man who lies on a woman because she refused his advances’. I was highly disturbed by this piece of fiction and this story stayed with me for a while. It haunted my thoughts for weeks! But it’s sadly the reality of many women in Pakistan as you can see with Saadia’s Haq interviews with real life victims in jail in part I of this fourth and amical collaboration. The interviews are depressing and highly disturbing to say the least. They shook me to the core for sure because innocent women are being jailed over nothing. While we can see the glass half-full by comparing these women to the situation of Prophet Yusuf (aleihi salam) and taking comfort in the fact that Allah has a Master plan for them, we can’t help by concluding that the precarious and predicaments these women endured are very unfortunate and sad. So, Allahu alim.

To continue, a selfish man wants another wife, he frames his current wife by lying on her and she lands in jail. Done deal and he’s proud of himself. Another selfish man can’t get his ways with a woman he’s obsessed with, he lies about her and lands the woman in jail for zina or theft. This effer is also giving himself kudos because in his eyes, the victim deserved what happened to her. She should have put out and disrespected her Rabb to satisfy his needs, period.
The list is long of reasons why these innocent women land in jail. That said, we can debunk three more reasons for this injustice.

1. Wali requirements
In the Hanafi madhab, a woman can get married without a wali. Read more here. It’s also very easy for families to claim that a suitor they don’t like isn’t suitable. Allah sees them and they should be scared. Furthermore, many vicious and ignorant Muslim families betrothed their female relative in marriage because they can or because they want to save their honor. They will force a woman in marriage because she can only marry the person they desire for her. If they desire that candidate so much and foresee a great future with that candidate, why don’t they marry the candidate instead? Huh? Why? Why do they have to force others to get what they want? It’s just wrong. What happened to freedom? She has to have a say and it’s sunnah. I mean she’s the one spending the rest of her life with the suitor.

2. Culture above Islam
Many Muslim families also prefer to marry their children within their own culture. They would totally deny that Islam has priority over these tribal and compatriot lines. While I understand that there is culture shock to account for when we let Islam prevail over cultural points, many Muslim families prefer their own people to others because we all have our own racism, nepotism, and bigotry we bring to the table. We believe stereotypes we hear about other cultures and we put all the representatives of different cultures in the same bag. I say we should all work on our personal bias.

3. Finally, jailed women deserved to be abused
This is the cherry on top of the cake. This is so nonsensical and it baffles me. Even offenders have rights and not all prisoners are guilty. Women are abused, raped, assaulted, and treated badly because they’re in jail. In the series Orange Is The New Black based on the real story and memoir of Piper Kerman’s Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison, you get a small glimpse in how women prisons operate and how abuse takes place. I tell you can land in jail for anything and it makes you pray harder for that jail possibility to never cross your path. May Allah protect us, ameen.

I hope you learned something from our fourth collaboration. Please comment and help us stay revolutionary! Love fil-Islam!

The Written vs.NOT Written Stuff: Crime, Culture & Cruelty Towards Women Prisoners inside Jails Part I

Part I, Written by Saadia Haq of The Human Lens

It is not easy to be a woman in today’s society but if you are unfortunate enough to be in Pakistan, it means that your luck has completely run out. It’s a society that treats women worse than second class citizens and men certainly need to learn that women are their equals, if at all we are to progress.

But monkey business continues, inside Pakistan, what one man is doing the other will do also and follow blindly. Take the example of violence against women in name of religion “Islam” it’s rampant all over the place. But what about the women behind jail bars, do we know their situation? Not much is said or discussed about the women prisoners lavishing in abject misery inside jails. But there are humanitarian forces working for the betterment of women prisoners within the country. Last month I had the honor to interview several jail inmates from Karachi Central Jail, I do think I won’t be living down this experience for a long time to come.

After listening to their scarring tales, I decided to team up with my coauthor Papatia Feauxzar to dedicate our forth collaboration for raising awareness for jailed women rights and highlighting the legal discriminations’ responsible for landing them behind bars. In 2004, eighty-eight of the two hundred and forty-six women at the Karachi Central Jail were held under the Hudood Ordinance’s Zina laws. Almost all were working class, factory and domestic workers and most interestingly 99% of them were jailed because of a complaint filed by a family member saying they had committed Zina: a husband claiming he had never divorced an ex-wife who was now married to someone else, a mother complaining her daughter was kidnapped by someone for sex. They were charged under one or more of the five sections of the Zina laws: Zina itself and offenses where Zina may have occurred, such as kidnapping, abducting or inducing a woman to compel her marriage; buying and selling for prostitution; detaining, enticing or taking away a woman for criminal intent; and attempt to commit a crime.

The men responsible for ruining these women’s lives – the real criminals roam freely, chin-up, on the streets of Pakistan as they are well aware of the punishments for their actions — none.

For instance, thirty-six year old Katherine, a Christian Catholic was inside jail since four years, thanks to the compliant filed by her husband, Peter who claimed that she had committed Zina with his nephew. She told he produced sixteen witnesses, most of whom are family members who claim to have known about the affair. Katherine’s husband Peter craftily used the so-called Islamic Shariah to get rid of her, while Katherine complained that she had a bad marriage, where her husband and step children would beat her regularly for a period of seven years. On one occasion, her husband thrashed her with a metal pipe. She has visible scars to prove her side of the story, she says one day she had enough and left her husband. She took refuge in her brother’s home but soon got charged with adultery and landed behind bars. Her husband has a dispute with his nephew concerning money and killed two birds with one stone, getting them both implicated in a Zina case.

The traditionally staunch cultures like those of the northern Pushtuns, marrying without ones parents’ consent results in severe punishments. The mentality here is that a Muslim woman cannot marry without her “wali” (guardian’s choice) because certain sections of Muslims misinterpret the Quranic teachings to control the sexuality of daughters. Honor, family’s prides are more important to most than a smile on their daughter’s face, this holds true for Saman, an 18-year-old of the Northern village of Parachinar. She told us that she had married a man against her parent’s wishes. Her parents had her husband arrested on Zina charges, and she was arrested a few days later. Her parents then produced a fake nikahnama (marriage certificate) claiming that she was previously married. The fake husband was also produced as a witness in court where thanks to “Law of Evidence” nonsense woman’s testimony hold no value.  The judge ruled in favor of her family and the profanity of her fake husband to declare her marriage invalid. Her green eyes and pale skin, typical of her ethnic background, seem paralyzed in fear. Although her parents hired a lawyer for her, she says that they want her to leave her husband and often they show up in jail to pressure her into leaving the man, whom she had the audacity to choose without their consent.

Social activist and popular philanthropist Abdul Sattar Edhi feels that our whole system needs to be changed. He says, “What can be expected from a nation that is lacking the ability to seek the truth and show goodwill to others. First of all, we must do away with the Hudood ordinance which is very discriminatory against women. As far as the Shariat Bill is concerned, it should not be implemented under any circumstances. The women in this country are already exploited and face much discrimination.”

Nuclearisation of Pakistan is not that important as the liberation of our nation from obsolete, archaic tribal and feudal mindsets and rituals. Recent Twitter sensation Aunty Pakistan pulled out the big guns by tackling misogyny in disguise of religious policing of women when she asked out loud “So my husband may be a drug addict. I may work, support and feed him all life but on Hajj pilgrimage he becomes my Mehram & protector.” This ironically holds true for women married with drug addicts in our society, a trend that we see rising with time. For instance during several meetings with jailed women, I met Zarin, a thirty year resident of Lyari Colony whose had a horrible story to share. A divorcee from her first husband a drug addict who forced her to sleep with other men because he was impotent yet wanted a child to boast of his manhood. During his usual drug-induced stupor he would beat her regularly, for money for the next fix. An illiterate Zarin worked as a domestic worker to support their fractured marriage for years, but in the end she gained legal separation. Afterwards, she married Falak, a carpenter and had a daughter with him. But her ex-husband got the police involved in the case. Her brother also colluded with him and together they stole her divorce decree. Now she’s in a fix as she can’t prove divorce from her first husband in court. Her second husband is also inside Karachi Central Jail on the same Zina charges. Although Zina primarily is used as a weapon against women, men too are caught in the whirlwind. In particular men who come from poor and miserable backgrounds.

In the Islamic state of Pakistan, money is power and corruption is rampant. In cases like Zarin, Katherine or Saman local police take money from families to help frame innocent women to stay inside jails for crimes they didn’t commit. While the naked truth is that the principle of forgiveness is loved by Allah The Most Merciful and for this you can stay tuned for part ii of the series that is coming soon!

Note: The Written vs. NOT Written Stuff is joint online initiative of two Muslimah writers, Saadia Haq and Papatia Feauxzar. We will be pleased to hear your feedback, here at wordpress or through email which ever medium works for you.  

Copyrights @2015





Syrian Mezon Almellehan & Pakistani Malala Yousafzai On Education, Not War

The Mighty Girls Duo On Pens, Not Bombs

               These Muslim Feminist Girls Duo Say Pens, Not Bombs

Malala Yousafzai, the youngest recipient of the Nobel peace prize and a champion of education rights for children, rebuked world leaders for failing the Syrian people, specifically Syrian children who have been deprived of education. This summer, Yousafzai turned 18 and to celebrate this, she opened a school for Syrian refugee girls in Lebanon and called on world leaders to invest in “books not bullets”.

Our leaders are still choosing bombs slammed Malala after she visited Syrian refugee camps in Jordan and Lebanon. During her visit to the Zaatari camp, in Jordan she met with a 16-year-old Syrian refugee activist Mezon Almellehan busy in campaigning with the refugees towards education. Most children refugees in Jordanian and Lebanese camps have lost their regular schooling due to the conflict and have to make do with tent schools.

While Mr. Assad, Obama and cronies go on with their dark missions, here we see a girl after having lost her whole life, fleeing her land to live in a tent with a mission that she goes from tent to tent each morning to encourage girls in her camp to go to school. ‘We have the right to attend school and I feel I have a responsibility towards the community.’ World leaders shame on you all as a mere and vulnerable teenager is talking about her responsibility to her community.

Last year, refugee and education activist Mezon met with Malala Yousafzai during the girls’ education activist’s visit to the Zaatari refugee camp where Mezon was living at the time. Malala was so impressed by Mezon’s passion for education that she invited her to be one of her guests  during the last year’s Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo.

The international media has called Mezon the “Malala” of Syrian refugees for her passion for education. Mezon, who hopes to be a journalist one day, faces many obstacles such as the fact that her school lacks electricity but she remains undaunted in her pursuit of education and her efforts to encourage other girls to continue their studies.


Recently Malala Yousafzai has again condemned world leaders for the fresh violence and international strikes in Syria, citing that if the whole world stopped spending money on the military for just 8 days only, we could provide 12 years of free, quality education to every child on this planet. She has been open with her critique on the world’s response to Syrian refugee crisis.  She feels we need collective action otherwise the world would completely fail the Syrian people and especially the Syria’s children.

Currently Mezon is back into school at a new camp in Azraq, Jordan and in 11th grade. Despite all odds, this committed teen believes education is her ticket out of her fraught situation, sincerely Mezon Almellehan is the ray of hope for the future of Syria, amidst this greedy and dark world.

As long as there will be inspirations like Mezon and Malala we can be assured that there is some light at the end of this turbulent tunnel.





Amnesty International| When You Don’t Exist

When you don’t exist is Amnesty International’s campaign for the human rights of migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers in Europe and at its borders. People move to Europe for different reasons. Some flee persecution or war. Others leave because of chronic poverty. They hope to find a safer, better future in Europe. But too often they find a different reality.

Europe is failing migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers. Negative attitudes to asylum-seekers and migrants are widespread. European countries are stepping up measures to control migration. This can cause serious human rights violations. People on the move have their rights violated, often out of the public eye. They are effectively made invisible. This video is an eye-opening fiction work and depicts the current human rights tragedies of our times.

Some facts to serve as a reminder for the west’s anti-migrant sentiments:

  1. 14% of all refugees in the world live in the 27 EU countries. This amounts to less than 1.4m refugees living in the EU. Pakistan alone hosts over 1.9m refugees
  2. 301,000 people applied for asylum in the 27 EU countries in 2011. The population of Kenya’s Dadaab refugee camp is 463,000. 
  3. 58,000 irregular migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees managed to reach European shores in 2011. Of these, 28,000 were Tunisians who mostly landed on the Italian island of Lampedusa. These figures are a far cry from EU media warnings of up to 1 million refugees “pouring into Europe” through the Mediterranean.

Europe could do well to look back into its own shameful history of forceful colonization and invasion of the Africas, Asia and Americas which ended into:

  1. Europeans bringing smallpox, measles and influenza, diseases usually associated with domesticated livestock to Americas and others.
  2. European lifestyle and cuisine caused disruption to local food supplies, damaged the local environment and changed the ecosystem.
  3. Europeans settlers’ favored the extinction of the native population in most of its colonies. If not that, slavery was a gift bestowed on people of Asia, Africa and others.
  4. European missionaries felt they had an obligation to convert misguided natives to Christianity, off course this was carried out through whatever means felt necessary by the ‘civilized’ first world. And today Europe cries “Muslim invasion through migration.”


Debunking The Western Narrative On Bombing Syria

The lies being told since several years for justifying an external and unwelcome, uncalled for “western” military intervention in Syria have resulted into the French bombings on Sunday. The ludicrous idea of “Bombing people to save them” always comes from the West, where several states have lined up for carrying out air-strikes in Syria.

The propaganda of bringing democracy through western military operations to the so-called third world and foremost importantly Muslim countries continues to sell and spin, here today and there tomorrow.  The west cites the humanitarian situation is desperately forcing them towards this action, but how much can of these bombings help into ending the already escalating conflict on ground Syrian soil.  One wonders how can pouring soldiers and weaponry result into things getting better, most likely they are getting worse before.

The values that define the reasoning for bombarding Damascus with air-strikes and the reasons given to the world at large are at best ridiculous. The western world imagines that the values of so-called freedom and democracy are defined by them and therefore any shift from what the White-House or EU Parliament Headquarters prerequisites poses a great threat to WEST.

Call me a cynic, or whatever you wish to –this won’t however stop me from debunking the military intervention in Syria.

Myth Number One: U.S moves to attack Syria because Mr. Assad a dictator gone too far has used chemical weapons against his own people.  Reality is that U.S- coalition forces move to attack Syria are not driven by whether the reactionary regime in Syria used nerve gas against its own people. As the Revolution wrote, “The rulers of the U.S. view atrocities and war crimes—real, or invented—through warped and twisted lens of ‘how does this work for us.’ Mr. Obama and his nation’s move are not made in interest of the people. The nature of U.S. attack on Syria is defined by the needs of imperialist U.S. Empire.

Myth Number Two: The European Union is flooding and struggling with millions of Syrian refugees that are fleeing Syria to come into Europe. Citing this late summer’s entering refugees from the Balkans, European narratives are marketing that “The current humanitarian crisis is the largest that European Union has seen since the World War II.” While the reality is that for years the EU kept refugees out of sight and out of mind by paying their own appointed Libyan dictator Qaddafi’s government to intercept and turn back migrants that were hearing for Europe. Qaddafi effectively was the acting bouncer on Europe’s payroll helping to keep a significant number of African migrants and other refugees from ever reaching the white man’s continent. The methods employed by his administration were terrible; Libya imprisoned migrants into camps where rape and torture was a daily norm. But Europe was happy to have someone else worrying about the problem, and the usual European Union mantra of humanitarian values was sleeping amidst these human rights violations.

Myth Number Three: The Syrian people are at huge risk due to Mr. Assad’s regime a dictatorship and void of any democratic measures, where as the reality is that President Bashar Assad won another seven years in office, getting 97 percent of the vote in a nationwide referendum. Europe and rest of western powers shamed the events saying ‘this could not be considered a genuinely democratic vote and termed the election as a farce.’ Reality is that Europe and the US have both tampered and interfered in many democratic processes in the third world to install horrifying monster puppets that have served their “interests.” Just because Mr. Assad refuses to dance on the tunes of Obama and cronies, this election suddenly becomes un-democratic. So flooding Europe with Syrian refugees, drowned children as collateral damage to gain empathy votes with the media blaming it all on Mr. Assad helps justify more air strikes, military equipment and devastation to be unleashed on the Syrian soil.

Myth Number Four: Obama’s Syrian policy has imposed a very warped, distorted, and false framework on discussion and debate over its attack on Syria where it positions US-NATO coalition attacks into a benevolent role for the good of the Syrian people. And to crush out the ISIS menace. Reality is that the current air strikes on Syria are another war crime in the long annals of US’s war crimes against people of other countries. With US coalition, France and Russia’s strikes soon everything might spin out of control. This is going to result into a greater suffering of the people there and become another Afghanistan God forbid. Groups like ISIS, Taliban, Al-Qaeeda have been armed and placed into action through western assistance. Period.

Myth Number Five: He who said “ But we are the United States of America, and we cannot and must not turn a blind eye to what happened in Damascus. Out of the ashes of world war, we built an international order and enforced the rules that gave it meaning. And we did so because we believe that the rights of individuals to live in peace and dignity depends on the responsibilities of nations. We aren’t perfect, but this nation more than any other has been willing to meet those responsibilities.” What message will we send if a dictator can gas hundreds of children to death in plain sight and pay no price?” Reality is Rewriting fake history my dear? We know how US used napalm in Vietnam—a chemical weapon that stuck to humans, including children, and set them on fire. Another example from not that long ago where U.S. allies supplied Saddam Hussein’s regime with the necessary requirements to chemical weapons, which were then used on the battlefield against Iran—directed in part by U.S.-supplied intelligence—in order to prevent an Iranian victory in the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war. The U.S. also turned a blind eye to Hussein’s gassing of the Kurds, particularly at Hallabja in 1988—in which indisputable proof exists that at least 5,000 Kurds were massacred—because Hussein was still considered a potential U.S. ally everything was done to continue that fruitful relationship.  And when “THEY” speak about children and their care – in 1990s, U.S-NATO coalition was responsible for  deaths of over 500,000 Iraqi children by denying them clean water and medicines—as well as adequate food—through sanctions. At that time, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations said “We think the price [of U.S. sanctions against Iraq that resulted in the deaths of 500,000 children] is worth it.” Do talk about this “unspeakable outrage” that makes Syrian president Assad’s very real crimes pale in comparison. Apart that, the drone strikes in Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan have resulted into civilians deaths, including those of innocent children but the CIA downplays them.

Myth Number Six: The Muslim countries are not accepting Syrian refugees, how does Muslim world justify these immoral inhumane actions. Moreover, Muslim countries should accept that this is an ISLAMIC problem as opposed to supporting Syrian Muslims to come Europe or US’s way. Such humanitarian ideas can well be imagined into the western circles. And reality is that with the exception of rich Arab States, the second largest Syrian IDPs in total, four million Syrian refugees are currently being hosted in Turkey (1.9 million), 1.1 million in Lebanon and some 630,000 in Jordan. These figures are hardly discussed in Europe’s main stream media, not only that many Muslim charities and philanthropists are raising money for humanitarian aid for the Syrian refugees. Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai demanded that world leaders treat the rest of the world’s children as their own children and is actively collaborating with a Syrian refugee turned activist Mezon whom she met last year in Zaatari camp in Jordan. Another issue to be noted is that none of the Muslim countries are involved in “BOMBING SYRIA” so why expect them to pick the consequences of westerners. 

As Simon Jenkins said – Bombing is immoral, stupid and never wins wars. Syria is the latest victim. Those of you who think that as a Muslim and human rights activist I shouldn’t be having this power to debunk the lies told by west need to have a reality check and stop sending hate messages.

It won’t change the reality which is simply the fact that we are NOT buying your lies and deceit on the Syrian air-strikes and that we don’t believe fresh violence will serve any good for the betterment of the Syrian people nor global peace.


Assad Or Hollande| Who Is The Bigger Butcher Really?

Western Propaganda Machine Kicked Into Action as France Commenced Bombing in Syria Apparently in “Self Defense.”

France’s president and prime minister think Syria’s Mr. Assad is a”butcher” and “dictator.” Agreed and no one in any part of the world is arguing that Mr. Bashar al-Assad is the most benevolent leader in the history of statecraft, but when Western propaganda reaches the point where Syria’s President is accused of being a “butcher” and, going still further, of facilitating the recruitment of the very people who are trying to oust him, the world should start asking questions. I will begin by asking some here.

This Sunday, France proudly announced that it had launched its first strikes against ISIS targets in Syria. Mr. Hollande confirmed that the warplanes had attacked the training camp in eastern Syria after it had been identified by French air surveillance with help from the coalition of Western and Middle Eastern states conducting the air campaign against the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, ISIL or Daesh.  He added that France might launch other strikes in the coming weeks if necessary, with the goal of “identifying targets that are training camps or places where we know that the Daesh terrorist group can threaten the security of our country.” Later on, France’s Prime Minister Mr. Manuel Valls also confirmed to reporters in southeastern France on Sunday that the airstrikes had taken place. “We are striking Daesh in Syria because this terrorist organization prepares and organizes attacks in France from Syria, from these sanctuaries,” Mr. Valls said. “We are therefore acting in self-defense, which Article 51 of the United Nations Charter permits us to do.” There is something very ironic when both Hollande and Manuel Valls call Assad a butcher and dictator.

So now Paris needs to bomb Syria in “self-defense” because clearly, a lunatic group of militants who only exist because they’re still a useful tool in Washington’s geopolitical calculus, pose a very real threat to the territorial integrity of France.

There are millions of westerners buying the Western narrative with regard to Syria, but here in the east we are looking beyond the Assad regime appalling humanitarian records, the ISIS-Daesh group terrorist follies (for which I as a Muslim am expected to apologize) and the recent Syrian refugee crises. As we speak thousands of Syrians are fleeing their country, while NATO powers are proposing  to step up the bombing of their war-torn country and the drive for regime change in Syria.

Hasn’t Syria suffered enough already?

Apparently the west doesn’t think so and therefore is stepping up to completely destabilize the country, remember the NATO shenanigans in Libya? The world and foremost Libyans are still paying the deadly price of the international games that have been played on their futures and fates. Then there is the divisive question we need to be asking at this stage as exactly what would such bombing achieve? More killings and destruction and there is no guarantee that  it would achieve any military result whatsoever or change the political situation on the ground.

The European Union and NATO are playing a very dangerous game with their new war in Syria – that is at the expense of the Syrian nation. Recently,  Susan Rice, the US Ambassador to the UN has said that NATO-backed terrorists would perform more attacks unless President Bashar al-Assad stepped down. Quoting her,”The longer Assad clings to power, the greater the risk of destabilization in Syria and throughout the region.” This threat although subtle is clearly asserting that unless Assad steps down voluntarily, the attacks in Syria will continue. Interestingly Rice added, “Bombings also remind us of the urgent need for a political solution in Syria before it is too late.” 

Unfortunately it is already too late for Syria as NATO forces are attempted to seize control over Syria. Once again NATO is using same factions that assisted in the overthrow of Gaddafi to destabilize Syria. The Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), responsible for the violence in Syria, is an arm of the al-Qaeda terrorist groups that are CIA funded and trained. NATO is poised to claim Syria from their sovereign regime. The US Ambassador, Susan Rice, is publicly showing her support of this plan. For me the agenda is clear.

Frankly speaking, the Syrian people have already suffered enough, and no new regime can possibly be worth the destruction its people have already suffered. It is high time that western politicians and allies compromise on their foreign policy objectives before Syria’s once thriving state infrastructure and multicultural society disappear into ashes altogether.

The heart goes out to Syria and the Syrian people.

Breaking Stereotypes|Pakistan’s female truck Shamin Akhtar Means Bussiness


Pakistan’s first female truck driver 53-year old Shamin Akhtar has a message to the women of her country: ‘nothing is too difficult and that we are capable enough to do a lot more than we think or are allowed.’

Breaking stereotypes and driving through gender-based obstacles, Shamim Akhtar from Rawalpindi is Pakistan’s first female truck driver. An inspiration for many, she was issued a public service vehicle license, a first for a Pakistani woman allowing her to pull trailers, drive trucks and tractors. She received training and certification from the Islamabad Traffic Police training course.

Shamin Akhtar is a single mother of five, and stepped out of home, a long time ago first driving local taxis to support her five children. Later on, in order to support her two children at home and to cover the cost of her three eldest daughters’ weddings she decided to go for the truck driving stint.

Today she drives across Pakistan’s rugged and unforgiving mountain terrain to desert localities and so on, this iconic woman truck driver gives us Pakistani women a boost of motivation and a pride to be a citizen of this nation, where women triumph despite the odds set against us.

She gave a message to her fellow Pakistani women, “Women, try to do something all the time, don’t make yourselves lazy or believe that you are weak and can’t achieve such milestones. We can do everything. We are capable enough, by the grace of God.”

Saluting women of power, saluting Pakistani women!

Neglected Genocide-Human rights Abuses against Papuans

Most of you know that The Human Lens is part of the Free West Papua campaign and from time to time, we bring forward issues related to the on-going conflict. As decades of conflict have passed in West Papua, Indonesia where its civilians, soldiers and resistance group members are paying the costs of their right to self-determination against what they deem as Indonesian colonization.

The ongoing human rights abuses against the Papuans demand that both Indonesia and Papuan people find intelligent measures  towards ending this cycle of violence and find solutions to benefit both indigenous Papuans and Indonesia. The Neglected Genocide’ is a report detailing a series of human rights abuses that took place in the Central Highlands of Papua, during the military operations in 1977-1978. In this publication, the AHRC reports that at least 4,146 Papuans, including children, women, and the elderly were killed.

The research found that the methods of killing employed by the Indonesian military at that time included aerial bombings and strafing of villages using America-supplied Bronco OV-10 planes as well as indiscriminate shooting.

Survivor Witness Testimonies were collected by AHRC and here are some of the most devastating events:

1. Rosa Endama, sixty-six year old West Papuan living in Wosilimo village who managed to survive the brutal operation held by the Indonesian military. She was married and had three sons when the military came to her village in 1977. She had just given birth to her third son when she and her family had to escape to the forest to save their lives from the military, leaving the farm at which they cultivated bananas and sweet potatoes. According to Rosa Endama, people were gathering in the village to cast their vote when the military came and started arresting them. When Endama and her family ran to the forest the military was chasing them and Endama was afraid her new-born child might be shot. She decided to conceal the baby in a safe place in the forest but the next day when she returned she found that the baby had been shot dead. Endama testified that many other children died due to lack of food during the period of hiding in the forest while some others died of exposure to the elements. This story was confirmed by another female survivor, Ika Pakage who also lost her five-year old boy when he was shot by the Indonesian military.

2. Papuan Matius Wenda, now a Reverend, was only eight or nine years old when he survived himself the massacre and abuses in the Central Highlands took place during 1977–1978.58 He had witnessed terrible and traumatizing experiences, including seeing a husband and wife forced by military officers to have sex in front of the public under the threat of being killed. The sexual intercourse was taped by the military officers who later sent it to Indonesians and other people abroad, to send out the message that Papuans were like animals, that they like having sex in public. Reverend Matius also witnessed elderly Papuans being ordered to dig a fish pond. After the pond was finished, the military officers asked them to get into it. Military officers later came and defecated in the pond. They told the Papuan that their faeces were ‘Dutch fishes’ and forced them to eat it. As the evening was approaching, the military officers let the elder Papuans to get out of the pond and brought them to a military post. The officers gave the elder Papuans cans full of their urine and forced the Papuans to drink it. They told the elderly it was ‘Dutch or American tea’. Reverend Matius has also witnessed military officers forcibly insert batteries to a woman’s vagina while her husband was severely beaten. ‘I find it difficult to forget what I have seen,’ Reverend Matius told the AHRC.

3. Maria Entama, an elderly Papuan told the AHRC that ‘they were also raped by the Indonesian military officers and heated iron rods were forced into their rectums and mouths by the officers until they died. Some of them had their breasts cut off and internal organs pulled out. Many pregnant women in Kuyawagi village had their vaginas cut with bayonets by the Indonesian military, and their babies were cut in half. The Indonesian military also forced penises cut from dead mens’ bodies into the womens’ mouths. In cases where the women were married, the military officers would rape them in front of their husband and other people. ‘Breasts of some women were cut and they died. Maria says that ‘We were raped, abused and killed because of the Papuan movement. Some women were only raped but others were raped and murdered. The military committed it indiscriminately.’ She had three children when the military operation in the Central Highlands commenced in 1977 and two of her children died due to malnutrition as they were hiding in the forest.

During my meetings with West Papuans and several key activists, the testimonies I have heard and those I highlight here make me wish to draw attention towards the murky politics in Indonesia and raise my voice with the Papuans.

Let us support the rights of the indigenous people of West Papuans. Let us take action to call for an end to this violent genocide, now.

This publication was a collaboration between Asian Human Rights Commission Human Rights and Peace for Papua (ICP) and friends can download the report here:

Pakistanis Stuck in ASEAN Labor Trafficking Scams

Pakistan_MalaysiaIn current scenario, the cases of sex trafficking get a lot of global attention and media coverage, whereas labor trafficking gets sidelined. Needless to say, labor trafficking is a huge phenomenon faced by the world.  While labor trafficking is not exactly a secret, it is very difficult to identify the persons who become the victims of labor trafficking scams. But if we look around, this is something we see “everywhere.”

Recently on a Dubai-Kuala Lumpur transit a group of closely attached young Pakistani men were seen at the airport lounge. The group constituted 12 men and it was apparent that it was their first ever time to sit on a plane. The most interesting thing to be noted was they were barely able to speak in Pakistan’s national language Urdu, and barely managed few liners in English. However they were all on their way to Malaysia holding valid work permits.

Local investigations  find that a quarter of all workers in Malaysia in forced labor include large number of young men from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. Most South Asian youth arrive to Malaysia via employment recruiting agencies. This trend has been criticized within Pakistan by several leading politicians who argue that Pakistani workers sign agreements with lucrative wages and wonderful terms in Pakistan, but when they actually land inside Malaysia, the outsourcing companies substitute those contracts for more exploitative ones.

Speaking with a Pakistani labor who has recently returned back into the country was an eye opener. For maintaining privacy, we will call this twenty-six year old man Zahir Murad originally from Faislabad district. Zahir spent five years in Johor, Malaysia where he worked as a window cleaner on the tourist Hotels.

In his own words, “I spend my days hundreds of feet high to work overtime all the time, day in day out, sickness or not. I don’t think I will ever think of going abroad again.” Zahir Murad was offered a lucrative contractual job by a recruiting agency of a construction company but upon arrival to Malaysia, he turned into cleaner overnight and spent almost all those years cleaning only despite his educational credentials. More ever, he lived in a small room with other four men.

Zahir watches me but his expression tells me he is reliving those times, and suddenly he blurts out, “I feel like such a failure, what I got after spending five years aboard to show it at home. On top of that, the recruiting agencies told such wonderful stories of Malaysia, a great destination for Muslim migrants.” 

The humiliation Zahir suffered won’t fade away so easily and like many others, this trauma has scarred him for life. After speaking with him, my mind immediately thought of those eager looking faces at the Dubai airport terminal. But I will probably never know what happened to them, one can just hope that their fate wasn’t like that of Zahir’s.

For past two years, another Pakistani Junaid Mohammad is working as a security guard in Kuala Lumpur with a Malaysian security company. He is one of the hundreds of young Pakistanis and Afghans who came to Malaysia seeking better career prospects and larger earnings. His recruiters provided documents that on paper seemed like a Golden Dream come true and even instigated that the company car would pick him at the airport. But upon arrival, Junaid spent four days at the departure terminal to understand that nobody was coming. Finally, the recruiting agency man came making excuses of a family emergency. He took Junaid to the new work premises, but went away with his passport citing official documentation motives.

Junaid’s contract stated his monthly salary at 3000 Malaysian Ringgits (approximately US$900).In reality, he’s actually only managed to less than half of the promised amount and cannot move freely to seek help due to his vulnerable status of being a foreigner without his passport. During this time, he fell sick and needed medical attention. As he braved the roads, he was arrested and labelled as an illegal immigrant. The local police let him go; it seems bribes work well in Malaysia just like Pakistan.

Junaid complains of being abused both by his recruiters and the authorities in Malaysia who don’t want to deal with the problems of migrants workers. But he knows, any open retaliation means he will be fired and without his passport he is stranded into nowhere.

Some of his colleagues were able to contact the embassy but that too didn’t help change their situation. Junaid says, “The embassy staff in Kuala Lumpur don’t help us at all, they are immoral and unkind. They are enjoying good salaries but when it comes for serving Pakistanis, they really do nothing.”

Junaid and his colleagues demand that Governments of Pakistan and Malaysia respectively look into the matter, because migrant labor rights are getting abused as we so speak. Such cases are a tip on the iceberg of the complexity that faces Asian migrant laborer rights and need immediate attention. The regional network CARAM Asia works on migration and health issues says that Pakistanis makes up the majority of  more than half of foreigner workers in Malaysia. The organization also says that over two-thirds of migrant workers don’t get their wages on time and many get physically and sexually harassed.

Its time to stand up against Labor trafficking which is a form of modern-day slavery in which individuals perform labor or services through the use of force, fraud, or coercion.

Idearaya Malaysia 2015 – Giving Voice to Regionally Marginalized Communities


The Human Len’s short visit to Idearaya Festival was engaging and exciting. Ideayara; the combination of these two words provide an overview of alternative ideas in Southeast Asia provides a platform to marginalized communities. The concept is celebrated by means of forums, lectures, screenings, discussions, workshops, performances and exhibitions that took place during the two-day festival at the Home of Culture, Shah Alam.

This year, the festival themes included: rights, history, philosophy, culture, economy and ecology and the festival is driven to support grass-roots and marginalized communities towards empowerment and a fair space in the society. Most interesting aspect was that this year’s festival has been coordinated by the youth themselves and there were forums, film screenings, resource centers, workshops, art exhibitions and musical gigs.

A total of 20 speakers including both male and female change agents represented diverse areas of human rights frame-work during the weekend proceedings. Among them included several noteworthy human rights activists boasting immense outreach within their communities, region and global attention.


1.Adrian Pereira, North-South Initiative

Vice President of ICMICA/MIIC Pax Romana and Executive Director of the North-South Initiative, Adrian Pereira is based in Petaling Jaya. He works for a bridge to the “brink of solidarity” based on human rights between the developed and developing countries. He also focuses to strengthen grassroots initiatives that represent marginalized groups such as indigenous peoples, students, Papua Barat, migrant workers, refugees and farmers. Among the movement’s main job at the moment Adrian is working with groups of young people in Pattani, southern Thailand where they are making a grassroots initiative for a just peace.

For Adrian, the foundation stone for empowerment is not to represent the voice of marginalized groups instead he believes that each group can overcome oppression in their own way. The model of social change that’s working on this concept comes from South to South Solidarity where he believed that developing countries discuss together in solidarity and to determine appropriate development agenda of their own.

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2. Sharifah Nursyahidah, Socialist Alternative / CWI

The land below the wind, Sharifah Nursyahidah is a driving force of community roads in Kota Kinabalu, and Socialist Alternative / CWI. Previously she had also been involved in an advocacy campaign on Birth Registration and Documentation in Sabah. She is a Graduate in Political Science from UiTM and SMEs, she acts as a cultural and political observer of her country, Malaysia.

Sharifah reflections cover a wide spectrum, from punk culture in Malaysia Sabah up to the political commentary of the nation. Her writings can be found at The Centre Review, a literary magazine, and political and Workers Solidarity, a leftist newspaper about matters of class struggle.

3. Wayan Gendo Suardana, Forum Bali Less Reclamation

He is a strong voice from Bali Island, Indonesia boasting of its beautiful heritage of indigenous and Hindu cultural heritage, amidst a magnificent coastline. All that can be lost into the ongoing dangerous uncontrolled development. Wayan leads a strong social movements in Bali opposing the destruction of their land and working on land rights issues.

Forum Bali Less Reclamation, the movement headed by him, has now become one of the ecological mobilization that is increasingly recognized not only in Indonesia but also in the international media. With multiple actuators and environmental activist, Wayan Gendo Suardana now at the forefront of the efforts of ordinary people questioning the values and meaning of development in the Third World.

To know more this exciting event, please check out their facebook page at


For A Refugee Child Aylan Kurdi | Call For Humanity

A little person, to be exact a three-year old Aylan Kurdi belonging to Syria’s city of Kobane is no longer with us. In his final moments, little Aylan Kurdi didn’t know he would become ‘only a body on a beach.’

He was among the many millions of refugees from Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan and African countries with hopes of building new lives in the European Union. The pictures of his death made it in European news were followed by social media campaigns where people argued it was necessary to show those images in order to wake up Eurocentric politicians to sit up and do more than what they are already struggling with for the new refugees arriving to the continent.

As the world continues to wage wars on innocent people, millions are paying the price for the exalted egos of a few. According to the United Nations, today more than 43 million people worldwide are forcibly displaced as a result of war, conflict and persecution, the highest number since the mid-1990s. Out of them, 41% are children refugees and other half women.

The age of refugees has dawned upon us, whether we continue to deny it ad nauseum.

In past one week, I have seen way too many images of little Aylan Kurdi a refugee child of yesterday, today no more.  That they broken my heart once again. As a journalist in particular one having a huge background into field journalism I have lived in war-torn places where I witnessed war refugees in appalling living conditions. I have also seen the fallen dying bodies of refugees, children and adults. In most of these conflicts I have covered extensively children and women issues. Therefore I strongly feel that Aylan Kurdi’s death is not a matter for ‘facebook likes’ competitions like ones currently going on.

I have seen death from a very close call, it has effected me profoundly and this is something I find to be very useful in my work as a human rights journalist. I have looked at the issues of children refugee assistance in both confrontational and controversial ways always lending the actual person or child in my story be its center and offering my voice medium as a means to get out the message. I have tried and strive for maintaining the dignity of the person who in that most unfortunate and helpless moment is cooperating with me to send out the message to the world for action.

I strongly believe that – Dignity, Responsibility and Consent are crucial factors during reporting humanitarian crises. As journalists, reporters we all have to know and in ways we do know when we need to switch off our recording mic, close the video or not push “click” despite holding a camera.

These are the ‘invisible lines’ that all reporters know of and only we have the power to make that choice in that time.

A dead child, Aylan Kurdi didn’t know and wasn’t asked on his consent to be photographed and then go on becoming the world most viral story. How come we treat children with this under valuation, why just because they are minors we choose what was chosen like for instance in this situation for Aylan Kurdi? Have we put into our minds the scenario, that here people are tweeting his photos and elsewhere his only live living family member: father’s world is a living hell.  How do these effect his grieving father who lost his wife and children in the sea? Is that being taken into account for at all?

Where is our collective responsibility as humanity right now? The Syrian conflict is escalating in constantly growing humanitarian crisis resulting into global repercussions both inside and outside of Syrian soil and the only way in which global media and audiences think they can help Syria is by circulating the pictures of departed little child like Aylan Kurdi.

Within the media profession there are mixed feelings about this sort of journalism, elsewhere editors of dailies who shared those images are blatantly say “if you were shocked by Aylan Kurdi’s picture, we did our job.” On other hand, many argue this is the heart of journalism to bring forth stories and images for global attention and response. In true volte faccia style, many of these were media outlets stoking anti immigrant sentiments just days before the death of Aylan Kurdi. And since then changed tunes to argue such pictures draw necessary attention towards assistance of human beings. Where is the accountability of such actions?

I agree that we all share a moral, ethical and legal duty to help refugees, but I will never agree to this current fiasco. To say I am angry and deeply saddened by this incident would be an understatement.

Where is the humanity in dealing with human rights crisis such as the death of Aylan Kurdi? No one puts their child at risk into a battered boat, to escape an unsafe land. Aylan Kurdi, a little traveler was on his way to a safe home, now resides among the Angels in the skies. It is outraging that he found no secure home on this earth and that no one was ready save him from that abrupt departure.

Today he makes news, tomorrow he will be forgotten. Today’s modern world is this fickle, this inhumane and this exploitative.

Little Aylan Kurdi – as you drowned into those sea waters, I was left helpless with my thought as how could humanity be so hateful? Dearest Aylan Kurdi, please rest in peace in your final resting place,  for this world truly failed you. 



Myth v. Reality: Excavating Shariah – Law of Evidence Part II

Law of Evidence graphic part II (1)

Written by Saadia Haq in collaboration with Theresa Corbin

August 1947, Pakistan was created for its citizens both men and women as a state where they would live free of discrimination and deprivation, as stated by the newly born constitution proposals of Article 25 and 34.  Its founding leaders strove for equality for both men and women in all spheres, but soon after this nation fell into the hands of corrupt politicians and dictators obsessed with a harsh view of Islam. On 12 February 1984, the Islamist General Zia Ul Haq in cahoots with certain foreign powers (referring nefarious Afghan jihad) took drastic measures to “Islamize” Pakistan by marginalizing its women through draconian discriminatory laws.

These Law of Evidence and Hudood Ordinance, derived of Sharia Laws prompted three hundred women rights activists to assemble in a street protest rally at Lahore where they marched to the High Court for presentation of a memorandum denouncing the proposed laws. As they walked towards the High Court, women protestors were cornered and stopped by 500 policemen. The protesters were baton charged and teargassed; this police violence directive came from the highest commands of the Islamic State of Pakistan. Despite the public brawl with police, beaten, dragged on roads, having their clothes torn and over 50 women activists arrested, they reached the High Court amid applause of progressive male lawyers. After this many national campaigns and street agitation from women have continued till today. Pakistani women’s resistance to the Zina Hudood Laws and the Law of Evidence has ever faltered, so much so, that February 12, 1984, became a symbol of women’s feminist resistance movement and is commemorated countrywide each year as Pakistan Women’s Day in the memory of the violent event.

Why do women oppose these laws so strongly? What gave birth to such a strong resistance despite the odds? The discriminatory laws are responsible for the continued low status of women in this patriarchal society, a society where women are deemed worthless only until ‘subject to their set uses’ prescribed by men.

Current Law of Evidence in Pakistan: Case One: Year 1983, sixteen-year old blind girl Safia Bibi raped by her landlord and his son at Sahiwal, Punjab province. A police case is registered against the culprits; case goes to Court where the ‘blind girl’ is asked to identify her rapists. Her failing to do so due to her complete blindness, Safia Bibi’s rape and the consequent pregnancy is judged as evidence of fornication (as if pregnancy can only result from consensual sex). Court sentenced Safia Bibi, the rape victim defendant, to a punishment of fifteen lashes, three years in a prison and a fine of 1,000 Pakistani ruppes. The Judge declared her sentence is light because of her disability and young age. 

This is a common day story for most Pakistani women seeking justice against rape; it exposes the oppressive gender-discriminatory alliance forged between the Zina Hudood Ordinance and the Law of Evidence in the guise of religion.  From my coauthor Theresa Corbin’s part you learned that on the testimony matter, Sharia Law says “That women in all other cases i.e. outside of business contracts there is no two women for one man deal.”  If Quran says that how come there are huge contradictions in Pakistan’s Law of Evidence under the Law of Evidence where the testimony of women not only the victim but also any woman — carries no legal weight.

The Zina Hudood Ordinance finds widespread support among the generally sexist male population of Pakistan, Afghanistan and in other communities because the law not only serves the purpose of terrorizing and subjugating women, but also resolves critical and controversial issues like proving rape in the court of law in men’s favor. Across the border, Afghanistan boasts of having a controversial “code of conduct” derived out of Sharia, written by the some 150 leading male Muslim clerics stating Men are fundamental and women are secondary.’ When Allah says in the Quran that men and women are equal in his eyes. In reality, women’s testimony has no value in Afghan system tribal or legal, a according to Afghan interpretation of Sharia – raped victim face imprisonment, corporal punishment or marriage to the rapist, in recent years many under age girls have been married off to their rapists, and some have committed suicide to end their misery.

Whereas the un-Islamic Law of Evidence, introduced into the Pakistani legal system is another measure for watertight male control; a raped woman can be imprisoned or subjected to corporeal punishment if unable to provide ‘adequate number of witnesses to the incident.’  The Law of Evidence states that she, the alleged victim of rape, cannot testify herself in court, further more the testimony of two women is admissible only as one reliable source; i.e., the testimony of a female is considered half that of a man’s in a Pakistani court of law.

The law also requires that an equivalent of four Muslim male witnesses of good character verify a woman’s claim to sexual penetration and consequent rape. The onus of providing proof of rape rests with the victim and failing to do so, her allegation of rape is in itself considered as confession of Zina (fornication or adultery) and the victim effectively implicates herself to be liable to maximum Tazir punishment. Furthermore, the woman can be categorized as the rapist herself since it is often assumed that she seduced the man.

A popular South Asian scholar Tariq Rehman, notes, “What happened under Zia-ul -Haq was that if a woman delivered it was considered proof enough, and she could be given the maximum punishment for adultery. This could mean, in a Kafkaesque reversal, that raped women could be punished, while rapists went scottfree. Moreover, as the evidence of women was not admissible, a rapist could rape a girl in a girl’s hostel and still not get the maximum punishment, while the girl stood guilty.”

This approach finds great acceptance and sanction in most Islamic countries, including Pakistan. Although men can/ have been also be charged with Zina, normally it has been recorded that with a simple denial they can go free because they can testify on their own behalf as opposed to women, and because they enjoy a higher status, both culturally within the patriarchal framework of the country.  However, there is no higher standing for a man in Islam. Period.

Case Two: 1994, village near Attock in Punjab Province where a cleric of local mosque Qari Muhammad Sharif martially raped and tortured his wife, Zainub Noor. Quoting victim here “I was beaten and dragged in the house for hours till late in the evening. Then he (Qari) took me to bed, tied my hands and legs with a rope, inserted two iron rods in my vagina and anus, attached two electric wires with each of the two iron rods and connected them with the switchboard. There was no electricity due to load shedding. The moment electricity was restored, he switched it on and played havoc with my body.”

Aftermath of the incident and consequent Court trial; astonishingly Zainub Noor survived but only to lead a miserable and abnormal life, the medical evidence authenticated by a Speedy Trail in Rawalpindi noted that she lost three body organs – vagina, anus and the urinary bladder. The societal outrage poured in, women rights groups went ballistic; Zainub Noor was flown to UK for reconstructive surgery. The Court opera ended with a minimum punishment to her cleric husband, under immense hue by media and human rights organizations.

Qari Muhammad Sharif, a barbarian walked away with minor penalization because of the favor he had thanks to the Law of Evidence. FYI: there is no separate law provision for marital rape in Pakistan because Islam here does not recognize a woman’s unwillingness to have sex with her husband. On the contrary, Islam makes it obligatory for a woman to be subservient to his sexual desires. (This is not true. No where in Quran does it say that a man has any right to force his wife to have sex. Some hadith, have been expanded upon and twisted to the point where men pretend this is true.)

The fact that Zainub Noor case happened when Pakistan had the distinction of being the only Muslim country to have been twice governed by an elected woman prime minister, Benazir Bhutto; it changed nothing for the situation of women’s rights. Good for nothing, Ms. Bhutto was too busy appeasing the gentlemen with the beards and Wahabi zealots to continue her reign of terror and corruption.

In June 2006 General Musharaf started the process to repeal the Hudood Ordinance by calling upon religious scholars to give recommendations for repeal matters. The CII (Council of Islamic Ideology) recommended Pakistan to rewrite Hudood Laws in accordance to Quran and Sunnah as well as incorporate to the Pakistan’s Penal and Criminal Procedure Codes. The Hudood Ordinance Repeal was one of the good things General Musharraf did for women’s plight. Things improved at many levels, yet women continue to become victims of rape, domestic violence and sexual harassment in public and workplaces. Due to the hostile environment and complicated legislations women continue to suffer violence as their testimony is half worthy of that of a man.

The message is clear; if you are an unfortunate Muslim woman, who got raped, please wait for Judgment Day, as you aren’t getting any justice on this planet. Remember, Mukhtara Mai, Aisha Ibrahim Duhulow and so on.  Most shameful realization is that all this goes in the 21st century in the name of a peaceful religion like Islam. May Allah The Most Merciful save us all from the follies of men and their wrong doings.


  1.  Legal Injustices: The Zina Hudood Ordinance of Pakistan and Its Implications for Women @2005.
  2. Protection of women rights through legal reforms in Pakistan by Naveeda Noreen & Prof. Dr. Razia Musarrat, Islamia University of Bahawalpur @2013.

The Myth v. Reality: Excavating Shariah is a new, featured serial collaboration focusing on Sharia Law interpretations that lead to serious human rights concerns within the Muslim communities. This is a joint initiative of two Muslimah writers- American, Muslim Convert Theresa Corbin of islamwich and Pakistani Feminist and women’s rights activist Saadia Haq of The Human Lens.

Due to the serious nature and risk of misrepresentation of the issues and points made, islamwich and The Human Lens hold exclusive copyrights for this work and it cannot be reproduced or edited. It can only be reblogged AS IS on social media sites with express permission from either of the publishing sources. Copyrights © 2015

Myth v. Reality: Excavating Shariah – Law of Evidence Part I

A writer from the East:

Myth v. Reality: Excavating Shariah – Law of Evidence Part I. Written by Theresa Corbin. Check out the story detailing issues of misinterpretation of Law of Evidence in Muslim countries.

The Myth v. Reality: Excavating Shariah’ is a new, featured serial collaboration focusing on Sharia Law interpretations that lead to serious human rights concerns within the Muslim communities. This is a joint initiative of two Muslimah writers- American, Muslim Convert Theresa Corbin of islamwich, and Pakistani, Feminist and women’s rights activist Saadia Haq of The Human Lens.
Due to the serious nature and risk of misrepresentation of the issues and points made, Islamwich and The Human Lens hold exclusive copyrights for this work and it cannot be reproduced or edited. It can only be reblogged AS IS on social media sites with express permission from either of the publishing sources.

Originally posted on islamwich:

presentingWritten by Theresa Corbin in collaboration with Saadia Haq

As a faith community, we are facing a serious crisis in human (and God given) rights violations. Many of those “in charge” are and have been misusing religious texts to cripple more than half of our population- women.

We are a global community and these issues have infected our lives on a global scale. Because of these issues, Saadia Haq and I are “Excavating Shariah” in an attempt to chip away at the fiqh interpretations (human understanding of the Shariah (Islamic) law) that have either intentionally or unintentionally ignored the female experience, oppressed women, or co-opted women’s religious dedication.

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Partition 1947|Remembering South Asian Women Partisans Part II

We continue on our journey to learn about the Partition 1947 | Remembering South Asian Women Partisans & Freedom Fighters, for those who missed, click part I. South Asian women in 1800 and early 1900s worked side by side with men to free us from the shackles of slavery into liberated nations.

7. Aruna Asaf Ali otherwise known as The Heroine of 1942 Movement and in later years, the Grand Lady of the Independence Movement is one of the most important figures. Of Bengali Brahmo origins she but married a Muslim despite opposition and joined him into cutthroat political movements to free India. She hoisted the Indian National Congress Flag at Gowalia Tank Maidan in 1942. A teacher, politician and newspaper publisher, she was sent to jail on grounds of being a vagrant. Her release came after a huge public agitation by both her female jailed political workers and the Indian public. For her life long struggle for India’s glory, she has been conferred Indian and international awards of the highest merit.

8. Bhima Bai Holkar was the princess of Indore Kingdom and defended her Kingdom from British conquest. At the Battle of Mahidpur, she led a brigade of 2,500 cavalry, sword and lance in hand, into the battle ground against the British troops that were four times more in number. It is believed that her act of taking the role of a soldier inspired Jhansi Queen and other Kingdoms into mutiny and battle against the British East India Company.

9. Nishat Un Nisa Begum was an active participant of the movement, she was the public relations officer for her husband and after he was jailed, she continued her services into the Pakistan Movement. She was known for taking charge of literary projects in Aligarh and managed a freedom movement magazine circulation in those tough times.

10. Mahrani Jindan Kaur otherwise known as the Rebel Queen was the last Queen of the Sikhs of Lahore, capital of the princely kingdom Punjab is remembered for her two wars against the British conquest. Despite making some strategic errors, she was responsible for being termed the greatest enemy of British to have ever lived in the 19 century, let alone just Indian or Sikh history. British held on the opinion that Mahrani Jindan was the greatest obstacle that faced their rule in India. They maligned her public image to the likes of “a seductress too rebellious to be controlled” whereas she refused to cooperate with them despite her imprisonment. Queen Jindan disguised as a servant and escaped her prison to head into Nepal from where she sent the British a letter where she taunted at their inability to stop her from using ‘magic’ to escape. Despite being separated from her son, the young ruler of her state she was able to reunite in later years.

11. Zulekha Begum the wife of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, an important figure in Pakistan Movement was a courageous lady who despite her husband’s jail and economic crisis continued to work for the liberation from British. After her husband got one year jail, she sent a letter to Mahatma Gandhi ji stating “My husband got one year imprisonment. This is less that our expectation because if it is the result of his devotion to the nation then he did not get justice; it is less for his eligibility. From today on I will take on the whole work of Bengal Khilafat Committee.’

12. Padma Naidu joined the Indian National Congress at the mere age of 20 and was jailed for her active participation in the Quit India Movement unrest against the British Raj. After independence, she was the Governor of West Bengal and associated in humanitarian work with the International Red Cross, she also remained the Chair of Indian Red Cross for an entire tenure working on assisting the aftermath of the 1971 war between Pakistan and India.

These names are drops into an ocean in terms of women participation into the freedom movement of subcontinent. The history of the freedom movement is incomplete without the mention of invaluable services of women like Asghari Begum who fought the British and after defeat was burnt alive, others like Habiba and Rahimi who were captured and hanged in public.

Historians continue compiling the data consisting of more than several thousand south asian women hailing from all parts of the sub continent, of all age groups, of all castes, religions and ethnicities that were killed into the battles for gaining freedom from colonial masters.

The services of these women, some mothers, others sisters, wives or daughters should not be forgotten for their acts of valor and bravery and their stand with the South Asian men in true history defining moments.

Let’s honor and salute the South Asian Women Partisans & Freedom Fighters for their invaluable services for the birth of two nations India and Pakistan, may their glory shine upon our futures.

Partition 1947 | Remembering South Asian Women Partisans & Freedom Fighters

There is no doubt that sub continent’s women suffered appalling human rights violations under the British Colonial period and its aftermath. And all sides are to blame for these horrifying crimes against women, in classical fashion the global stereotypical image of south asian women is usually like that of a glorified sexually repressed victim of her native culture. Those “poor-brown” women that are always in need of help from all sides and all Gods, needs to be debunked and I would gladly rain on the parade of countless with bringing to your attention to the realities that are deliberately forgotten or silenced.

During the period of early 1800s, British continued to rule over “Hindustan” like the Devils in disguise leading to a defiant rebellion in the air. The people of subcontinent were gathering to overthrow the colonialists; in 1857 the first freedom rebellion was fought against the British. The rebellion paved path for the partition 1947, in which women participated side by side along with men.

This is the story of South Asian Women Partisans & Freedom Fighters, and this our story because their blood continues to live on through us.

1. Rani Lakshmibai, The Queen of Maratha ruled State of Jhansi, is a name etched in history for her bravery. She was the first prominent women freedom fighter to participate in the first freedom rebellion of 1857 where British wanted to take over her princely state under the cover of “Doctrine of Lapse”. The British sent Sir Huge Rose with troops in the city of Jhansi in 1858 March, but the Queen announced to fight for freedom instead of the surrender. Jhansi Ki Rani led her people into fight but after defeat, she moved to another camp for continuing her battle and from Gwalior Fort she along with her son on her back and the cavalry fought bravely until their deaths.

2.Begum Hazrat Mahal  She was another queen of a princely state that rebelled against the British East India Company; she is known as the Begum of Awadh and played a major role in the rebellion of 1857. Her husband died during the rebellion, and she took charge of affairs until she and her supporters seized the control of Lucknow as an act of rebellion against British East India Company and declared her son, Bijris Qadra as the ruler of the state of Awadh. She besieged Sir Henry Lawrence and other officials in the residency where she shot dead Sir Henry Lawrence. Later Lucknow fell back into the hands of British and she was exiled to Calcutta.

3. Madam Bhikaiji Cama She belonged to Parsi community and was a philanthropist and an active social worker. During the epidemic of bubonic plague that hit Mumbai in 1896, she got infected with the disease while providing aid to the others and was sent to Britain for treatment. However that did not deter her struggle for Indian Independence from abroad. She also worked as a secretary to Dadabhai Naoroji and supported the founding of Indian Home Rule Society. On 22nd august 1907, she unfurled the Indian flag (Flag of Indian Independence) in Stuttgurt, Germany while attending the International Socialist Conference where she made Europeans aware of the humanitarian emergency aftermath of Indian famine and raised her voice for the human rights and equality in India. For her valuable services to the people of Hindustan, this active freedom fight was exiled in Europe until 1935.

4. Sarojini Naidu, Popularly known as “the nightingale of India” Sarojini Naidu contributed towards freedom struggle by joining politics during the wake of Partition of Bengal in 1905. She traveled to various places in India delivering lectures on social welfare, making women aware of the need of liberty and invoking women to participate in the freedom movement. In 1917 she helped to launch Women’s Indian association and has many first credits to her person – she was the first governor of the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh and second woman to become the president of Indian national Congress and the first Indian woman to become so.

5. Lady Azizan, was another freedom fighter, who was born in Lucknow in 1832. It is said that she lived with Umrav Jan in Sarangi Mahal. On June 4, 1857 when Nana Sahib called Hindus and Muslims to get united for the cause of freedom and join him, she left home to formally join the freedom movement and organized battalion of women. Since she was skilled into the art of war, she taught other women how to use them, defense techniques and battle field measures. According to certain historians she was also a spy who collected information about the British movements and passed them to the freedom fighters. When Azizan was captured and brought in front of British General Havelock, she offered her pardon if she confessed her crimes. Azizan refused to pander to colonial masters, rejected his proposal and became a martyr to live forever in our memories.

6.Sadat Bano Kichlew was a nationalist poetess and freedom fighter. She was the wife of Dr. Saifuddin Kichlew who took active participation in partisan movement. This lady was well versed in languages Urdu and Persian, which is used to compile patriotic poems to encourage the freedom fighters. During British Raj, it was rather impossible if not difficult to have freedom of speech and media, despite being a traditional Muslim woman she continued her important work. When her husband, Dr. Kichlew was arrested in 1920, she said, “I feel proud that he has been sent to prison for service to his nation. To give one’s life for this cause is as if one has gained thousand lives.” She also participated in civil disobedience movement and served ‘Swaraj Ashram’ founded by Dr. Kichlew as its chairperson.

These women of substance are the symbol of resistance to the British Raj over the subcontinent; they helped in making the British rulers to give up their “Jewel in the Crown” otherwise known to modern-day world as India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

This is a very incomplete list, however I will post the part 2 of this story shortly to redeem some justice to the amazing women of substance that worked side by side with men to free us from the shackles of slavery into liberated nations.

1947 Partition In Literature| Saluting South Asia’s Own Literary Geniuses

South Asian Partition resulted in a border between two countries, splitting a common culture and its diverse people- today governed by two sworn nuclear armed enemies yet ancient relatives. The socio-political events leading to the birth of both nations is evident in the ‘literary geniuses’ this vast land offered into the global cultural and arts scene.

I don’t recall the exact first time that I read a south asian writer’s work, but I remember sitting with my aunt during our favorite reading session as my (nana) grandfather read a chapter from The Train to Pakistan. Born into a migratory family, nobody needed to describe me the realities, neither did they realize of my awareness of the many untold stories and silences, as I grew older my love of reading continued to grow with me. I have read writers from India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal and Afghanistan with a tenacity of a newly born turtle making its first steps into the sea waters.

The more I read; the more I un-blinded myself of the society and my presence within it. It is funny that I ended up being a writer myself, when I had no such ambition during my childhood.

The most poignant realization is the fact of the partition on the artists born into that period. Most South Asian writers are relatively the underdogs, internationally because Europeans and foremost British wrote on Partition from ‘their point of view’ considered credible in international circles. But that is quite normal, as usually history gets written by victors yet partition produced some of the greatest works known to our world. Without any nepotism I recommend people to not overlook the valuable work that has been written by the South Asian writers of that period, among whom a great number that, were directly affected adversely due to the traumatic partition.

I invite you to join my world of reading, as we meet ‘The Ice Candy Man’ by Pakistani feminist writer Bapsi Sidva presenting the human rights violations and appalling conditions during partition of subcontinent. Sidva herself suffered the first hand trauma of partition and vividly depicts the exploitation and suppression of women at the hands of men. As a novelist she speaks about the power and skills of women, through her female characters who survived the worst time in 1947 in India. She writes what we still hesitate to discuss in today’s times;  the changing faces of men and how religious differences narrow down the realistic picture of Hindu Muslim clashes through the characterization of female protagonist Lenny. This matter of sexual violence against women and ‘honor’ has been thoroughly discussed by feminist poet Kishwar Naheed another historical witness to the Partition events.

Then off course the literary genius of Khushwant Singh’s real life experiences into the wonderful publication “Train to Pakistan” here Singh takes us into the life of a Sikh boy and a Muslim girl in love. An unknown little village Mano Majra a place where in our past Sikhs and Muslims lived together in peace for hundreds of years but monsoon of August 1947 changes that with the arrival of a “ghost train”, a silent incredible funeral train loaded with the dead bodies of thousands of migrating refugees on way to their new country, Pakistan. Train to Pakistan is a reminder that religious hate wins at the expense of human lives in an unforgettable manner.

Like Khushwant Singh, Manohar Malgonkar’s “A Bend in the Ganges’ is a masterpiece offering the theme of partition rioting with a background of Civil Disobedience Movement of Mahatma Gandhi to end in separation of the subcontinent. The book starts off with the important slogan ‘Boycott British Goods’ in the whole country on the call of Gandhi. The novel focuses on the transformation of three young men involved into the partition movement – Gian Talwar, Debi Dayal and Sahfi Usman and portrays the communal violence between Hindus and Muslims separated into opposite camps, learning to hate each other with a vengeance. This breaking into religious camps that would allow two free nations liberation caused Malgonkar to note ‘Every citizen was caught up in the holocaust. No one could remain aloof; no one could be trusted to be impartial.’

Partition is one of the darkest phases Indian subcontinent has witnessed; time hasn’t removed the volatility until now. Like Singh, Saadat Hassan Manto, Manohar Malgonkar makes it clear that on scores of massacres no side was less guilty than the other. The biggest irony is that violence of this magnitude wasn’t used against British rule to liberate India from colonial clutches, but used by India’s major religious groups – Hindus and Muslims to each other. If that is not all, Chaman Nahal‘s ‘Azadi’ is a simple and candid novel about the realities of India’s independence and her partition. People like the character in the novel, Lala Kanshi Ram had deeply and unconsciously unaware ‘slave mentality’, whose heart was full of pride to be part of an Empire supreme and unbeatable. Like Mangonkar, Nahal too argues upon the cruel way in which the English granted freedom to India was enough to break the confidence of masses in them. The country was butchered without proper measures being taken to safeguard people’s property, life or honor. Their lives were made tools and toys in the hands of ill luck and tragedy. What the people had known were noble feelings and high ideas – independence, equality and national pride. The result of all these noble feelings was rape, murder, death and separation. There was no connection between the effort and its result.

Indian born Pakistani writer Saadat Hassan Manto life and work, in particular ‘The Pity of Partition’ and ‘Molted Dawn’ serve as prisms to capture the human dimension of sectarian violence in the final decades and immediate aftermath from British Raj.  The famous long story by Manto … Toba Tek Singh, where he looks at those ostracized from the society like the ‘mentally ill.’ Post independence, around 1949 Pakistan and Indian governments resolved to exchange the inmates of their ‘mad houses.’ Among those released was a man – Toba Tek Singh upon whose name is city in Pakistan’s Punjab province. Toba arrives at the border where he climbs up a tree to yell that he does not want to go to Pakistan or India. In a world where irrationality rules, Manto lets his ‘crazy’ protagonists voice the only rational thoughts possible in such a brutal reality. Saadat Hassan Manto himself was shattered by his reality, drowning his pain into alcohol, died at the mere age of 43.

Today 68 years passed after the partition leaving the two nations trying to heal the wounds left behind by this incision to once-whole body of India. Many still search for an identity, a history left behind beyond an impenetrable boundary. Both countries started off with ruined economics and without an established, experienced system of government.

We lost many of our most dynamic leaders, like the revered Mahatma Gandhi, Mohammad Ali Jinnah and Allama Iqbal. Nuclear armed Pakistan and India have been to war more than twice since partition and are still deadlocked over the Kashmir issue possession. We are still letting hate win with aggressive divisions and border politics, whereas our artists continue churning out masterpieces giving voice to the bitter brothers and saddened sisters divided by these border lines.

Partition 1947 – The Voices Across The Bitter Borders

0,,16501803_303,00One of the greatest tragedies of the Indo-Pakistan relationship has significant roots into the people’s polarization during British controlled India. There is not enough ink to bleed for writing on the damage partition has done to our people. While the British held on to subcontinent called otherwise in history as “Jewel in the Crown” they only let it go until there was no choice left.

As a south asian and Muhajir Pakistani who has her origins on other side of the border-India; despite taking deep pride in my country and its independence my emotions don’t over shed the negatives of subcontinent separation and how it happened. The violent way we were divided continues to overshadow both our nations’ future and that of its people. Permit me to say that millions still grieve, we could separate but minus the violence. Inside this great land; the Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims, Jains, Christians etc continue to suffer in some way or other due to our bitter legacy.

Today, 68 years post independence what do south asian people think about this partition. This is a story bringing real life accounts and sentiments of people.

“The heartland for support for Pakistan Movement lay in Uttar Pardesh, which was not included within Pakistan. I cannot believe how my parents were driven out of UP to migrate towards Sindh where I was born. My childhood memories include my mother hiding herself in a teary state in the kitchen or pantry upon receiving some news from her homeland. During her life, she never realized that I knew how she hid her pain, but her pain lives in me.” – Hyderabad, Pakistan

Muslims came back to the Haveli but this time they did not wait for the night and attacked it, but couldn’t enter it still. Then they sent a representative to talk to the Sikhs holed up in the haveli. Sant Gulab Singh refused to accept their conditions that the Sikhs should disarm themselves hence the fight continued for 2 more days. Finally on the last day, Muslims made it clear they would bomb the whole structure if the Sikhs didn’t come out.  After the Sikhs came out, they got surrounded by the large crowd of Muslims. The Sikhs arrived at the sarovar of the local Gurdwara Sahib. The Muslim Pathaans armed with latest weapons surrounded the Sikhs sitting around the sarovar. The Sikhs were chanting “Satnam Siri Vaheguru”. By then about 10,000 Muslims came and had a dozen barbers lined up to cut the hair of Sikhs. The children cried for food and milk, as the young and old were helpless to do anything. The whole scene was a scene from hell.  – Jaipur, India  

“Dekhiye janab, yaa to Hindustan ko Pakistan mein milaa do, nahin to Pakistan ko Hindustan mein mila do. Is batwaare ne bahut nuksaan kiya hai. Waqt agya hai hum sab ko sabaq hasil karlena chahye.”  (Look, either merge India into Pakistan or merge Pakistan into India, this partition has caused us all great long-lasting damage. It’s high time we all need to learn from our mistakes). – Lahore, Pakistan

Hindu caste prejudices are self-explanatory as to why India messed up so badly in Kashmir (its only Muslim-majority state), despite receiving significant support from Kashmiri Muslims in the early days of Indian rule. So basically my people continue to suffer this tug of war between two egoistic countries hell-bent on not letting go of the partition saga? Come to Indian controlled Kashmir to see for real the pitiful lives we live. – Srinagar, India

I don’t have any memory of those sad days being 6 months old when my parents along with my 2 elder brothers were forced to leave our home and hearth from near Rawalpindi. But today am 66 years old and still haunted by the description I overheard of how the train left Rawalpindi for Amritar was stopped at a station called Lala Musa. The driver absconded with the engine leaving the angry mob to unleash on my brethren. Three nights passed with no food nor water. Thankfully a small number of armed army men THE Gurkhas kept the day and night vigil and saved us from the mob’s fury. Till this date I am unable to fathom what was our fault? – West Bengal, India 

“So what choice had we left when they came to drive us out of our homes and burn the buildings, desecrated the graveyard of my seven generations right in front of our eyes. That night was our hell and 67 years have not wiped my mental trauma.  As we fled towards Pakistan amidst the chanting slogans growing louder and louder, I still remember the Hindus repeatedly chanted “Musalmanon ke do hi sthan, Pakistan ya qabristan” (Only two places for Muslims: Pakistan or graveyard). This partition tore my family apart and broke us, completely. –  Karachi, Pakistan

There is still hope for us, there is still an opportunity for us to tend those wounds that we ended up giving ourselves and there is always a tomorrow. I have chosen my road and what about you?

1947 Partition|The Legacy of Fatima Jinnah, Mother of the Nation

The “Mother of the Nation” (Maadar E Millat), “The Lady of Pakistan”(Khatoon E Pakistan) are given titles to one of the finest Pakistani women who lived in history. Yes, I am speaking of Fatima Jinnah, the younger sister of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan and an active political figure in the movement for independence from the British Rule.

She was a leading, founding and instrumental figure in the Pakistan movement and the primary organizer of the All India Muslim Women Students Federation. Fatima Jinnah like her brother dedicated her whole life to the cause of Pakistan’s birth and its nation building. The Father of Nation Quaid E Azam was always accompanied by Fatima Jinnah, at each public appearance he made before and after partition. It is said that this siblings legacy, in particular of Fatima Jinnah’s unwavering support is the key to his success. When the All India Muslim League was being organized, she was taken on as a member of the Working Committee of the Bombay Provincial Muslim League, and worked in that capacity until 1947.  Paying tribute to her sister, the Quaid once said, “My sister was like a bright ray of light and hope whenever I came back home and met her. Anxieties would have been much greater and my health much worse, but for the restraint imposed by her.”


By profession she was a dental surgeon, biographer and stateswoman. After the untimely demise of Quaid E Azam, Fatima Jinnah despite her personal loss continued struggling for the betterment of the newly born country. She played a significant role in the settlement of Muhajirs in the new state of Pakistan. In those years, she focused on her literary projects, “Brother” is the name of the biography she wrote on the life of Quaid E Azam, but was held from publishing for many untold reasons. By the time it was published, pages from the book’s manuscript had vanished.

“If there was another leader in Pakistan today like Quaid and Fatima Jinnah Pakistan would be a heaven on earth. I had the good fortune to meet Miss Jinnah in February, 1959 when she very kindly attended a N.E.D. College sports function in Karachi. I found her to be a delightful personality with a lovely smile and full of positive encouragements for the young people.  How can one forget those moments when you are congratulated and asked to serve Pakistan well, now that is real leadership.”  A Pakistani engineer A.K accounts.

Late 1960s was an era when dictators and religious zealots had gained power over political scene in Pakistan yet this noble, gracious and courageous lady did not hesitate to take on a military dictator in her later years. She returned to forefront of political life when she ran for the presidency of Pakistan as a candidate for the Combined Opposition Party of Pakistan (COPP). This had her opponent Ayub Khan furious whose dictatorship was in full swing.

He labeled her being pro-Indian and pro-American and accused her of an being an enemy of Pakistan.“They call her the Mother of the Nation,” sniffed Pakistan’s President Mohammed Ayub Khan. “Then she should at least behave like a mother.” What upset Ayub was that Fatima Jinnah looked so good in pants. The more she upbraided Ayub, the louder Pakistanis cheered the frail figure in her shalwar (baggy white silk trousers). By last week, with Pakistan’s first presidential election only a fortnight away, opposition to Ayub had reached a pitch unequaled in his six years of autocratic rule.”

Fatima Jinnah responded by proclaiming him to be a dictator. She started her rallies where it is said nearly 250,000 people turned out to see her in Dhaka, and a million lined the 293 mile route from there to Chittagong. Her train, called the Freedom Special, was 22 hours delayed to arrival because south Asian men hailed by  crowds at each station pulled the emergency cord and begged her to speak impromptu. It is said people waited hours on foot to catch a glimpse of Fatima Jinnah. Her greatest advantages were her legacy as a politically active founding member of the nation and being the Quaid’s sister who had detached herself from the political conflicts that had plagued Pakistan after its Founder’s death. But the sight of this dynamic lady moving in the streets of big cities, rural towns and on train stops of a Muslim majority country was both moving and unique. The crowds hailed her as their leader and called her the rightful heir of Quaid; the chantings of Mother of The Nation were heard far and wide. Her campaign generated tremendous public enthusiasm. She drew enormous crowds in all cities of East and West Pakistan In her rallies Jinnah argued that, by coming to terms with India on the Indus Water dispute, Ayub had surrendered control of the rivers to India. Fatima Jinnah lost the election but it was a narrow win for Ayub Khan attained by vote rigging. More over, it’s believed that had the elections been held via direct ballot, Fatima Jinnah would have won. The Electoral College consisted of only 80,000 Basic Democrats, who were easily manipulated. These have been the findings of historians, investigative media reports and this election did not conform to international standards.

Interestingly Fatima Jinnah defeated Ayub Khan in two of Pakistan’s largest cities, Karachi (Pakistan) and Dhaka (now Bangladesh). During the election campaign, Ayub Khan gathered support of “those Muslim Ulema who were of the view that Islam does not permit a woman to be the head of an Islamic state.” This sort of propaganda against a woman leader of her stature was uncalled for, but very commonly used resort by patriarchal and insecure men throughout history.


Despite the fact that she lost the election, the importance of this election lay in the fact that a woman was contesting the highest political office of the country. The orthodox religious political parties, including the Jamaat-i-Islami led by Maulana Maududi, which earlier had repeatedly declared that a woman could not hold the highest office of a Muslim country also had modified their stance to support her Presidency candidature.

Through her life’s example and her battles with power hungry men, Fatima Jinnah laid the foundation for the women of Pakistan to aspire and follow into her footsteps.

There are three things common between this iconic lady and myself.

We both have been born in the city of Karachi.

We both aren’t scared to speak our mind.

We both believe sincerely in working for the glory of Pakistan.

Pakistan Zindabad!

And Pakistan Is Born, 14 August 1947


The Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation, popularly called Radio Pakistan came into being as Pakistan Broadcasting Service on 14 August 1947 when Pakistan emerged on the world map as a new country.

The independence of Pakistan was announced through Radio Pakistan on Aug 13, 1947 at 11:59 pm in Urdu, followed by a similar announcement in English, Pushto and other languages. The Pakistani radio presenter Mustafa Ali Hamdani (1909–1980) made the Urdu announcement in the following words:

!السلام علیکم
پاکستان براڈ کاسٹنگ سروس۔ ہم لاہور سے بول رہے ہیں۔ تیرہ اور چودہ اگست، سنہ سینتالیس عیسوی کی درمیانی رات۔ بارہ بجے ہیں۔ طلوع صبح آزادی۔

The English translation of this announcement is as follows:


Pakistan Broadcasting Service. We are speaking from Lahore. The night between the thirteen and fourteen of August, year forty-seven. It is twelve o’clock. Dawn of Freedom.

Once again, as the midnight strikes, lets unite and work hard for the glory of Pakistan and say together Pakistan Zindabad, Long Live Pakistan! 


The Shameful Chronicles of 1947 Partition

During August month, annually The Human Lens brings articles and stories related to the birth of Pakistan and India in the pursuit to raise awareness and commemorate ‘one of the bloodiest genocides’ of modern-day times. For those who didn’t yet come to know this, my relation with the Partition is very personal as my forefathers were part of Partisans in “Pakistan Movement.” In today’s post I bring you three events of and around the British India partition that highlight the monstrous colonialism our forefathers suffered.

The Amritsar Massacre

On April 13, 1919, scores of nonviolent protesters defied the British government order and demonstrated against British rule in Amritsar, India. People from all walks of life descended on the walled Jallianwala Gardens in hopes to make themselves heard. Around afternoon, the British troops blocked the Jallianwala Gardens exits to open fire on the unarmed protestors and continued firing until they ran out of ammunition. The troops killed between 300 – 1000 protestors, while some 1200 were injured. A stampede occurred as remaining protestors ran for their lives, over 100 women and children searching for safety got drowned into the Garden well, a current day memoriam known as “Well of Martyrs.” Those left succumbed to rifle shots.

The then General Dyer quoted that blocking of the garden exits was necessary for “was not to disperse the meeting but to punish the Indians for disobedience.” As the news made its way London, the colonial Parliament was so shocked it recalled the commanding officer who ordered the massacre. The evil nefarious British public labeled him a hero and raised £26,000 (around $900,000 in today’s money) for what they deemed “the man who saved India.” A mindless human slaughter died peacefully thoroughly convinced right to the end that his actions were morally justifiable.

The shooting was followed by the proclamation of martial law in Punjab that included public floggings and other cruel humiliations. The subcontinent’s people’s outrage grew as news of the shooting and subsequent British actions spread throughout the vast land. On that day Sir Rabindranath Tagore, Begali writer/painter and Partition partisan renounced his Knighthood and wrote a repudiation letter to the ViceroyLord Chelmsford, stating “The time has come when badges of honor make our shame glaring in the incongruous context of humiliation, and I for my part, wish to stand, shorn, of all special distinctions, by the side of those of my countrymen who, for their so-called insignificance, are liable to suffer degradation not fit for human beings.”

The Infamous Luncheon

As a servant of the British Empire in 1947, Cyril Radcliffe has the distinction of killing more people with the stroke of a pen than anyone else in history. With almost zero time to prepare himself, Radcliffe was tasked with drawing the border between India and newly created Pakistan that would split the subcontinent forever along religious lines. It was a tricky task, one that had the potential to cause massive displacement and ethnic violence even if handled carefully. Radcliffe was asked to make some of the most-important decisions during the course of a single lunch where he was excluded and abrupt changes were made by Viceroy Mountbatten in favor of India. These facts are still debatable and continue inspiring many historian researches.

So Cyril Radcliffe arrives in India on July 8, 1947 to work on a new map for South Asia with borders of India and Pakistan as requested by both Nehru and Jinnah, but Viceroy Mountbatten stunned everyone by declaring the independence earlier.  Finally the official borders were haphazardly announced two days after India’s Independence. From my interviews with some surviving leaders from Pakistan Movement I am told that this was in reality a deliberate sabotage by the British Empire.

Cyril Radcliffe’s India and Pakistan borders made no ethnic or geographical sense. Terrified of being caught on the wrong side, polarized Hindus, Sikhs in modern Pakistan and Muslims in modern India upped sticks and ran. As a result 30 million polarized people desperately escaped one country or the other, a situation that quickly spiraled into mind-numbing violence. The British sailed home watching the result of their evil handwork in form of one of the great human tragedies of the twentieth century. An entrée on the bloody Partition 1947 is discussed in last year’s post, feel free to review.

The Ludhiana born Pakistani literary genius Saadat Hassan Manto, recipient of Pakistan’s highest military gallantry award Nishan E Haider (The Mark of the Lion) witnessed the horrifying partition that left a deep mark on his literary work. Manto’s most extraordinary feature is that for all his feelings as a south Asian who migrated from India to Pakistan, he never judges. But for his head on profound work that take on monarchs, dictators and zealots, he was tried for obscenity six times; thrice before 1947 in British India (apparently freedom of speech is a right reserved for colonizers and not the colonized) and thrice after independence in 1947 in Pakistan (freedom of speech tricky factor in Islamic State of Pakistan), but never convicted. The tragedy of Partition, he wrote, was not that there were now two countries instead of one but the realization that “human beings in both countries were slaves, slaves of bigotry . . . slaves of religious passions, slaves of animal instincts and barbarity.” “Despite trying,” he wrote, “I could not separate India from Pakistan, and Pakistan from India.” Who, he asked, owned the literature that had been written in undivided India? Although he faced criticism and censorship, he wrote obsessively about the sexual violence that accompanied Partition. “When I think of the recovered women, I think only of their bloated bellies—what will happen to those bellies?” he asked. Would the children so conceived “belong to Pakistan or Hindustan?”

The Bengal Famine

In 1943, a deadly famine swept across the Bengal region of British India killing several million lives, a preventable tragedy entirely. European historians incline the British had their hands full with WWII, therefore could not do much. But in 2010, author Madhusree Mukerjee book “Churchill’s Secret War” came out with proofs that Britain’s greatest wartime leaders Sir Winston Churchill engineered a deliberate lack of famine relief. According to the book, Churchill refused to divert supplies away from already well-supplied British troops, saying the war effort wouldn’t allow it. This in itself wouldn’t be too damning, but at the same time he allegedly blocked American and Canadian ships from delivering aid to India either. Nor would he allow the Indians to help themselves: the colonial government forbade the country from using its own ships or currency reserves to help the starving masses. Meanwhile, London raised the price of grain with hugely inflated purchases, making it unaffordable for the dying and destitute. Most chilling, when the government of Delhi telegrammed to tell him people were dying, Winston Churchill allegedly only replied to ask why Mahatma Gandhi hadn’t died yet. This man-made famine and the contrast between the plight of starving Indians and well-fed British officers dining in the city’s many colonial clubs will never be forgotten by South Asians.

Today, India and Pakistan remain crippled by the narratives built around memories of the crimes of Partition. On the other hand,  the world stays duped on the South Asian history written by the “colonizers” that at best are criminals.

Note: The Human Lens initiative of online series “South Asian Partition 1947” continues throughout this month. The second part of this topic series will be published soon for readers. Copyrights @2015

Guide For Men On Becoming ‘Allies’ To Muslim Women Feminists

Last week’s post debated the continuous problems that Muslim women and feminists face in the name of solidarity and alliance support. Those who missed it can click here now. Such problems aren’t new to the world of feminism, most feminists be it brown, black, trans, white etc continue to struggle with comparable problems due to diverse societal understandings of what it means to be a “male ally.”

I cannot speak for non-Muslim women, in-fact I refuse to do it as obviously I am not white myself therefore I wont arrogant presume on what white women’s struggles are like. On the other hand, I try best to listen/ aware myself of these different struggles that are totally opposite to mine and finally I try not to be a jerk about it! Having said that. Today I speak on behalf of myself and Muslim women in particular those women of color feminists who identity with Islam as their religion. Its been a while I had been thinking on doing a story on the issue and last week’s post resulted in an interesting reaction from someone I know on a personal basis. This person asked me “how can men become allies with Muslim women and feminists.”

Now that made me sit back and think, remarkably this person’s been very supportive of my work on gender. women rights issues, problems in Pakistan and often brings attention to new events /valuable research work to further strengthen my case. In my eyes, this person is an ally and supporter even if he isn’t aware of this or doesn’t view it that way. Over the years, my personal struggle into feminism has come at a great price, Muslim or otherwise despite the immense opposition I have always had support from male allies, both within my community and outside in the west.

Now coming to the matter of how can men become allies with Muslim women and feminists. First thing first, there isn’t any rule book or set way to follow that men need to follow to become male allies or something silly like that. Here are some features of how allies of Muslim women and feminists  look like:

1. Men who embrace gender differences with dignity 

What? Good allies are those cool men who aren’t afraid nor insensitive enough to embrace the differences within genders. Such cool men are confident and secure in their masculinity and do not consider respecting women as equals in power yet different as a stain on their so-called male pride. Moreover their masculinity doesn’t suffer from anxieties despite societal pressures that place greater value on  pride where usually  male pride is taught and accepted as a ‘manly thing.’ Its only when male pride makes men rash and obstinate, there are problems. But awesome allies are all about ditching the pride thinge in order to move forward.

2. Men who build authentic partnerships with Muslim and women of color feminists

Good allies know that women are more than capable of handling ourselves despite odds. Be it war, earthquake, societal or legal discrimination, women of color have always found coping strategies and struggled on. Now good male allies would be those who wouldn’t hinder women of color’s skills and most importantly valuable points of view that are known to them best. To cut it short – a man, brown, white or whatever cannot know what its like to be a women of color or Muslim women and feminist. Yet good male allies are those wonderful men that acknowledge that there are things that he/them do not see and attribute their new learning into action by following these examples. All in all good male allies consider women as equal partners in all work they do jointly or otherwise.

3. Trust building, adequate space and acceptance of  cultural diversity 

Some years ago, I worked on a feminist project funded by USAID. During initial discussions on project outcomes, many young feminists showed reluctance to be in a room full of men that were foreign. Instead of usual crap, my male colleagues responsible for coordinating the project sat down in a meeting I called to raise these issues, they listened carefully as I explained that despite having a group of really dynamically strong women of color feminists, most weren’t feeling secure in presence of foreign men because most women of color/feminists live lives with the awareness of western men’s hostility and invalidation based on our race and gender. Secondly only a handful including myself had worked in close proximity with men on such sensitive issues hence we had another cultural barrier.

These cool dudes (may God bless them always) took my feedback seriously and assured that they had complete trust in my capabilities of getting the work done. This secure space resulted in finalizing the project outcomes deliverables in less time that allocated for brainstorming activities and the coordinators continued referring me to share what they could do or do not to help the project run smoothly.

4. Walking the talk works in mutual interests 

We all make mistakes, irrespective of our genders. In the quest of solidarity with feminists, male allies can and do mistakes. Most important is to understand that behind most such mistakes lies sincere interest for working on issues of Muslim women. Good men allies are those who stay humble enough to admit their wrongdoings and actively try to right these wrongs. Apologizing is step one, then doing something constructive even as simple as asking “how can things be put right” and actively working on like a team for getting it done are all signs of a good male ally.

5. The Learning Curve; Understanding that there isn’t any fixed rule on becoming the perfect male ally

In conclusion, as I said before there isn’t a guidebook for men to follow in order to be a perfect male ally. No comparisons, no competitions but a simple acknowledgement that Muslim women and feminists are coming from a place different from men. And male allies only know where they come from. This helps men to approach equality from a uniquely authentic and dis-empowered position from where they can help to achieve the changes required for the women’s empowerment. Most Muslim women living in Islamic countries or within Muslim communities are struggling with issues of power and male domination. And when male allies view things ‘through their eyes’ by putting themselves in those positions, we can hope to achieve a lot together.

I feel the feminism cause in particular Muslim feminists could do well with more strong male allies more now than ever. As a Muslim feminist, on my and on behalf of others I am deeply grateful to all the allies who stand by me and other Muslim feminists, because they understand that feminism is extremely diverse to be lumped into just one preset definition. To all those who are sincerely interested in ‘our diverse and different voices’ and accept us as equals having the right to speak for ourselves.

Thanks to the scores of male allies who stand by as we the Muslim women feminists use our ‘agency’ to state our ‘narrative’ without overshadowing us, regardless of how radical or different it is to what they imagined, perceived or are led to believe.


Feminism Debate| Fatima Bhutto Versus International Thinker Richard Dawkins

If you are wondering why exactly we are divulging into this very feminist debate match at The Human Lens, please know that this issue has again helped me to write on some ignored issues that comes under the concept of “OTHERNESS.” Now, Richard Dawkins needs neither introduction nor narrative, the prominent thinker started another of his messy debates on twitter of all places (seriously I need to address twitter activism another time) by his tweet stating “Islam needs a feminist revolution. It will be hard. What can we do to help?”

Disclaimer: Before we get further, let me be clear that this post has nothing to do with atheism or Mr. Dawkins being an atheist,  I strongly follow the policy, each or his or her own. Ok, so we are good.

So this “Oh Muslimah” saga is not new to Dawkins, many challenged him for what they see as his patronizing tone; Hind Makki a well known Muslim feminist and blogger, opines that Muslim women have been through this before.

After Dawkin tweeted his unsolicited advice to a religion of 1.6 billion+ it provoked many heated responses on twitter and otherwise. While Dawkins critique on religions is nothing new, his harsher stance on Islam and Islam’s women has been debated by both Muslim and non Muslim audiences.

Muslim women and especially those involved in the cause of religious Feminism are full of  mixed yet strong reactions. So once again, here’s another white man in position of privilege,  Richard Dawkins with his dismissal of the immensely valuable work that Muslim feminists and rights advocates are doing in Muslim countries and with Muslim communities.

Does Dawkins live in some Utopia where he is unable to see the real life examples of Fatima Mernissi, Aminda Wadood, Fouzia Saeed and countless others? Or like many others in his fellow race, he doesn’t think these women really qualify as feminists? Now this kind of nonsense makes the blood of most Muslim feminists boil, while others like me control the rage and take to write a post to highlight how such events are basically depicting the existing racial prejudices within feminism.

Now, Pakistani writer and poet, of international acclaim Fatima Bhutto had some serious responses to Dawkins when in her no-nonsense attitude she informed that such advice was neither appreciated nor required by Muslim women.  Bhutto went on explaining what else irked Muslim women/ feminists was the fact that yet again here’s another man trying to explain to women how to best live their lives. Within feminism, the theme mansplaining has time and again been debated. However in this case, some male writers and theorists have argued that Bhutto’s response was lacking and juvenile. Seriously?

Then there were some who said that muslim feminists are man haters like all other feminists every where else in the world. Seriously please explore reading skills and find a nearby library resource center that will help in getting rid of the inanity that feminists, Muslim or otherwise hate men.

So Bhutto made it crystal clear that Dawkins kind of response was not required. And that Muslim woman can decide for themselves what works for them and what doesn’t. So what exactly is the problem in that? So basically are we saying that Bhutto a women of color and her confident assertion doesn’t suit certain groups of people? These are the very people who think her’s was a shut down.

It never hurts to have allies, that’s true but it hurts a lot to have allies with savior syndromes that are seeking to “Save The Muslim Women” with their Islam needs a feminist revolution. It will be hard. What can we do to help mentality?

Time and again I am frustrated to see people’s inability in understanding littler things such as  Muslim women and Muslim feminists too should be afforded both dignity and equality. And certainly not this we will save you all poor victims approach, please.

And Mr. Richard Dawkins, Islam’s feminist revolution is happening right here, right now and at the right time in global history. And you know what, myself included, millions of Muslim women, feminists and allies  are part of it despite your apparent blindness. You are most welcome to come to Indonesia, Pakistan, Sudan etc to witness this in person.

There Are A Thousand Ways To Go Home


I sat near the window watching how the rain spattered against the glass, while taking sips from my hot milk tea and suddenly a thought struck me hard. OMG, its 2015  and its half gone despite many upheavals that continue to shake my life up.

Problems and Pakistanis go hand in hand and most of us are the living proof of it but being Pakistani means much more then that. Just recently someone very important in my life asked me “What does Pakistan mean to you?”  which was followed by “Why do you love Pakistan?.”

So this is my answer and this is what Pakistan means to me.

  • Pakistan is where I can hike into the Margalla Hill, Islamabad only to fall in love with the most adorable little kittens playing without a care in the world. Munna thank you for capturing that moment in time.
  • Pakistan is the land of Sufis and Sufi devotees who despite Taliban terror attacks continue to flock at the thousands of Sufi shrines, mausoleums and Dargahs which dot our landscape. Recently I went by foot to pay my regards to the patron Saint of Karachi; Abdullah Shah Ghazi Shrine. Visiting this Dargah is a powerful and spiritually moving experience, personally. That is also true for millions of other locals, despite the Islamic history, where Sufis and Islamists mullahs, dedicated to enforcing Koranic laws, have clashed. Mullahs demand obedience; Sufis tend to stress compassion and tolerance.
  • Pakistan is when your own sibling searches endlessly to find bakery preparing “street food” off course spicy samosas and pakoras for a gluten intolerant person like me. And Pakistan is also when he succeeds and comes home with the “foodies loot” that are shared over a cup of doodh pati tea :)
  • Pakistan is where after many failures you do see the result of your hard work and endless labor turning into a positive reality that may be insignificant for outsiders, but is something only a Pakistani can understand. In 2010, I worked on media literacy project in Pakistan, the first of its kind where a local NGO collaborated with the country wide media departments of universities.  Needless to say I lived and breathed while working on this exciting project. Additionally I produced/presented radio shows with participating campus radio stations on media literacy themes.At Islamia University, Bhawalpur, the radio shows received a lot of positive feedback and journalism students participated in various mock practices on script writing and story narrative. Today this campus radio has earned a reputation for maintaining media code of ethics and sensible programming techniques as opposed to the usual sensationalism heard on airwaves.

To be honest there are so so many more things that come to mind, but I will end with saying that there is nothing such as home and there is no home that is like Pakistan for me.


There are a thousand ways to kneel and kiss the ground; there are a thousand ways to go home again – Rumi 

Eid Fever Part I| American Consulate Celebrates Eid With Pakistanis

KARACHI: During Ramazan 2015, the employees of the US Consulate General reveled in the first ever iftar dinner with their local friends in true Pakistani style. The participating team were interviewed by local media to shared this experience and have said that they really enjoyed the fervor of sharing and caring and learned many interesting things related to the blessed month of Ramazan.

After their first iftar with Pakistani friends, they also received many more such invitations by Karachities. Overwhelmed and humbled, the US Consulate spent the first day of Eid with another Pakistani family and that experience was beyond magical according to them.

They loved celebrating Eid with our friends, exchanging gifts, and enjoying traditional Pakistan Eid snacks. The team wishes fellow Pakistanis a wonderful Eid in the country’s national language Urdu with words  “Aap sab ko bohat bohat Eid Mubarak!”


Mehndi (heena) is an important part of Eid festivities and ladies of the US Consulate General Karachi adapted to the tradition with great enthusiasm. Many wore shalwar kameez in colorful patterns, some also glass bangles (local choorian) and applied heena. It was fascinating to see the female staff — who had never held a henna cone — attempting to tattoo each others’ hands with traditional designs using mehendi.

During a Pakistani Eid, food items both sweet and salty are a major looking forward to treat and the staffers enjoyed the various Eid delicacies with the host family over an informal table meet. The consulate members enjoyed the typical sheer khurma– a traditional Eid dessert.


Eid time is special for children because gift sharing and a starring attraction of small monetary token is given to all little and young ones, get we call it Eidi in Urdu.  Apart sweets, little ones are anxiously waiting for these two and US Consulate members made two little girls very happy by indulging into the tradition!

Upon receiving Eidi, children are supposed to say ‘Adaab’ which is literally the traditional and universal South Asian  greeting (derived from Islamic etiquette) and it means  respect and conveys thank you. The little girl who recieved the Eidi envelope did the Adaab, catch this fun here. 


In the season of sharing and caring, its wonderful to note how people from across the world can be joined through the simple yet beautiful occasion of Eid!

Things White Girls Say To South Asian ‘Brown’ Girls (Indian/Pakistani/Bangladeshi so on)

Few days ago I wrote the post, “Things White Men Say to South Asian Women” and it received quite interesting feedback, but some got offended and couldn’t find the humor. Anyways today I am bringing part II of the story, now this video has been produced for all brown and South Asian folks, whether you’re Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Kashmiri, Sri Lankan, Nepalese, from the Maldives, or part of the greater diaspora, or share an ethnic ancestry with any of the above.

This is a collaboration of two very talented South Asians, Sameer Asad Gardezi, an award-winning Pakistani American Muslim screenwriter and television writer and the super insanely talented American actress and writer/ comedian Kosha Patel very well-known for Miss India America, The Indian and the Samurai and off course this hilarious video Shit White Girls Say… To Brown Girls that went viral. 

Truly this one is for anyone and everyone who wants to have a good laugh amidst the real lifetime awkwardness. Please check it out and share you thoughts?

P.S: South Asian women bloggers and my comrades in action, what are you thoughts on this… Hajra Khan, Meersha, Akriti Mattu, Haqsaima, Parul Thakur,  SameenEmphadiateDhriti Chhabra…. :) :)

Things White Men Say to South Asian Women

Truthfully speaking this post may be a big hard for people to digest as the title suggests, but having said that I would like to clarify that such attitudes are not representative of all “white man” but there are countless of white men that engage into such behavior the moment they come into interaction with South Asian women. In an effort to get to know, date or.. well just for the heck of it, a one night stand, these following questions and comments are sent our way.

1. You’re too cute to be Pakistan (apply Indian/Bangladeshi etc for rest of S. Asian nations) 

Woah, did I hear you right. Is that supposed to be a compliment from where you come from? Let me make it clear that such a phrase is not a compliment when you are surprised that I look good despite my ethnicity. And yes I do come from a region with extremely beautiful and confident women who wouldn’t look twice at men with juvenile tendencies.

2. Your English is so good. Really being South Asian how can you speak it so well?

Secretly we laugh every-time this statement comes out of exalted white mouths. Remember colonialism? It was when white imperialists took most part of the world including the Indian subcontinent profiting on our land and institutionalizing religious hatred resulting into Pakistan, India and Bangladesh. And that is why my English is so good, because colonial power equations still prevail and oh yes, you could redeem some points my apologizing for the imperial wars on my forefathers.

3. For an exotic woman (refers to my natural bronze complexion), you sure are intelligent! 

Scenario I. S. Asian woman: Cringes badly. White man: Expects her falling gratefully on his feet. Recently I was part of a humanitarian delegation meeting with an EU country mission. Believe it or not, after ten minutes into the discussion, this phrase was told to my face by His Excellency, The Ambassador of that country. On other occasions of my visits in Europe I get to hear stuff similar from white men and find silent ‘non acknowledgment best.’

4. Have your parents arranged your wedding? 

Even if they had or hadn’t, I think my marital status is NONE of your business. While I am aware of the arranged marriage issues within the community, allow me to reassure you that not every south asian woman is like the victim you saw in some first world production of arranged marriages.

5. I am a fan of curry.

Good for you and the first world companies selling un-original products. But here in South Asia there doesn’t exist anything “called curry” it’s just a made up concept by white people who have reduced few million recipes in the lands of spices to just one foul-smelling yellow powder.

6. Pakistani weddings (insert India or other S. Asian states) are colorful, but full of antique traditions and elephants. How do you cope?

Facepalming, despite not having visited any country in South Asia, nor knowing its languages and nor married to any local girl (thanks all the Lords for that) you think all that. And what’s this Hollywood obsession with Elephants, get over it.

7. Rape capital Lahore, it’s really bad for women right?

Yea, yea. Except for the 1 in 3 American women who face domestic violence and the 400,000 women in Britain who face sexual assault every year. Women across the world raped and beaten is more to do with patriarchy then your convenient idea of the “savage south asian man” and the saving brown women from their native men mindset. This useless display of sympathy by buying into the typical stereotype won’t get you anywhere with me. Period.

8. I bet I could show you a good time, it no secret that your local men aren’t endowed. 

How come such first hand knowledge of south Asian male private parts came. Finally a good time comes as he walks away chanting Jai Ho, Jai Ho, from Hollywood’s patronizing, colonial and ultimately sham statement on social justice movie -Slum Dog Millionaire.

This list was possible after my countless interactions with many South Asian women I know here in my country and abroad. What do you think, what are you thoughts, comments anyone?


A Very Blessed Eid Mubarak To All



The Human Lens Wishes a Very Blessed Eid Ul Fitr Mubarak to all its global audiences, may Allah’s blessings be with you today, tomorrow, and always, ameen. face-smile.png

Happy Holidays!

Serving Western Style Democracy by Bombs & Invasions of Sovereign Nations


“The West always brags that its own democracy is a ‘universal value’ and denies there is any other form of democracy.” 

The western style of democracy by aggressive military assistance as bombs and ballots have helped decades long violence and turmoil in countries like Afghanistan, Egypt, Iraq and recent African conflicts.

The reality is that; imperial style of Western democracy did not suit the whole world but sovereign countries are forced to bow down the USA, NATO etc. And frankly people need to get over the idea that the third world is in need of lessons from the west on what democracy.

The cold harsh message is clear: no one has the right of self-defense against such terrorist attacks. The US and allies are arrogant terrorist states by right which can do what ever they wish in any X, Y, X country. And this is the unchallengeable doctrine.

Take the example of Libya, where such state sponsored terrorism was legitimized by the NATO invasion and occupation for a forced “rebirth” of the country. We saw a somewhat similar repeat to Iraq and Afghanistan, but the result was equally devastating for those who have a conscience. Those sitting in west continue to term the military intervention as a “universal success for democracy” but nothing can change the fact that this was a colonial crusade by white nations. Yes, the pretext was protection of civilians in Libya, but the delivery was far more killing as this is a warning to the Arab world and Africa.

Today Libya is overrun by militias,  the chaos has already spilled into other countries and a regional civil war is brewing. But all those hailing such interventions are silent on the outcome of this war where an entire nation was forcefully destabilized, destroyed and the Libyan people driven into abysmal poverty.

I fear, Libya will surely continue its descent into mayhem whereas responsible for these consequences of their war continue to enjoy absolute diplomatic immunity and are already gathering for another military action not far from Libya.

Allah Al-Mighty save us from such saviors and their horrifying definitions of democracy that rob millions of innocent people of their dignity, national freedom and self-determination.

West Papua Indigenous People|06 July 1998- Recalling The Biak Massacre


On 6 July 1998, took place a horrifying incident that I wish to remind us all after 17 years. In Indonesia’s conflict zone, West Papuans were demonstrating for independence on the island of Biak. And they were attacked in a coordinated mechanism by the Indonesian military and police. The Biak Massacre is widely known in anecdotal terms in West Papua as being a really severe event but it’s not acknowledged officially at all – certainly not by the Indonesian government.

“The West Papuans in Biak were asserting their right to self-determination after more than three decades of Indonesian military occupation of West Papua. The slaughter began with a dawn raid on a peaceful encampment by the town’s water tower as many of the protesters slept or prayed. After the shooting stopped, the dead, dying, and wounded were loaded onto trucks and driven to the nearby naval base. Surviving Papuans were tortured and then loaded aboard Indonesian naval vessels and dumped into the ocean. Women were raped aboard the ships. Many of the victims had their hands bound or were stabbed before being thrown into the sea. Bodies of the victims washed up on Biak’s shores during the following weeks.”

ASEAN human rights advocate and Executive Director of North South Initiative, Malaysian based Ngo, Adrian Pereira said, “The Biak Incident represents one of the many gross violation of human rights in West Papua. It is only right that Jokowi allow international NGOs to enter West Papua to conduct fact findings and people’s tribunals on such violation to ensure the state supported perpetrators are taken to task.” 

No government of Indonesia has acknowledged the massacre or held the perpetrators accountable. The government continues to discourage investigation of this and other human rights crimes in West Papua by limiting access to the territory by foreign journalists, independent researchers, as well as UN and other international officials.

Watch the video testimony of Mr.Octavianus Mote, human rights advocate, journalist from the West Papua’s Me tribe. At the time of the incident, he was the bureau chief of Kompas daily in Papua and West Papua. Eyewitness of the facts occurred in Biak, he played a role of mediator between the Indonesian Government and the 100 Papuan leaders.

Fleeing an assassination attempt, he now lives in the United States where he was granted asylum and continues his important work for West Papua independence.

Justice delayed is justice denied, 17 years passed on and there is no real closure on the Biak incident. The Human Lens is actively campaigning with ASEAN lobby for bringing readers the on-ground stories from West Papua. Moreover,  we feel that the chilling silence of the international community on these violations is equally disturbing as without a limelight on West Papua, the violations are bound to continue.



Orang Asli| Voices of Malaysia’s Aboriginal People Reaching Masses

Two Sides of Every Story

Two Sides of Every Story@Shaq Koyok

The artist Shaq Koyok was born in Kampung Pulau Kempas in Banting, Selangor. He started painting with oil pastels at five years old, using his talent as a way to express his feelings about everything that happened around him, weaving a tapestry of sensitive human emotions and events in his life and most importantly the “rights of indigenous people in Malaysia.” 

As he turned 13, Koyok started drawing portraits and since then has worked with many mediums. Today, this young artist armed with an honors degree in fine arts from MARA, he has produced works reflecting his growing concern about the Orang Asli people in Malaysia. In his own words, Koyok says “My activism activities remain the most important to me. I shed light on issues affecting my community.” 

With growing developmental projects in Malaysia, vast amounts of the rain-forest that once covered Peninsular Malaysia have been cut or burnt down for commercial purposes. The risk to environment, land and indigenous people continues to grow as Malaysia partners with first world countries in the race to become more advanced and rich.

In this scenario, native tribes like Orang Asli are concerned about their coming future. They are listed into the world’s indigenous people, the term Orang Asli means “natural people” or “aboriginal people” in Malay, is a generic Malaysian term used for people indigenous to Peninsular Malaysia. Officially, there are 18 Orang Asli tribes and today they comprise only 0.5% of the total population in Malaysia with a total number approximately is somewhere around 148,000.

Malaysia track record, as well as international community support for assistance to Orang Asli has been historically unsatisfactory and needs to be criticized. An artist like Shaq Koyok is testament to the growing concerns of the remaining Orang Asli who sit precariously between Mother Nature and business, and whose voices are deliberately suppressed by those sitting in power. The artist’s love for nature and cultural preservation comes from his roots, and Mother Earth that is depicted in his artistic masterpieces.


Shaq also collaborates with North South Initiative, Malaysia run NGO by using its office space as a gallery which simultaneously gives visitors and collaborators a glimpse into Shaq’s creative world. 

Shaq Koyok despite living in an urbanized setting has a deep love for nature and cultural preservation coming from his roots, and is depicted in his talent to his raise awareness. More over he is disturbed by the plight faced by his people today — from the loss of land to the destruction of the surrounding, natural habitat.

He says, “Art allows me to express what I cannot put into words. Orang Asli communities face many problems with modernity; they’ve been slow to embrace it. I feel it’s my responsibility to spread the message, and tell their side of the story. I hope the world can see what’s happening, as there’s a story behind every painting.”

Confessions of Palm Oil@Shaq Koyok

Confessions of Palm Oil@Shaq Koyok

The above painting called “In Confessions Of Palm Oil,” Shaq Koyok depicts how the planting of the crop has deprived the Orang Asli community of fertile soil for their agriculture. Shaq’s primary inspiration for his artwork is his own people – the Orang Asli and he fights through art to see the change he wants for indigenous peoples here.

In today’s world, the voices of the little known tribe Orang Asli and issues haven’t been given attention because the community is too small. But Shaq’s work is a strong voice for the change necessary for the preservation of one of the last remaining native people in the world.




The Written Vs. Not Written Stuff: Death by Stoning a draconian law in Islamic Ummah Part II

The collaborative series, Part II authored by Papatia Feauxzar

“And whoever among you cannot [find] the means to marry free, believing women, then [he may marry] from those whom your right hands possess of believing slave girls. And Allah is most knowing about your faith. You [believers] are of one another. So marry them with the permission of their people and give them their due compensation according to what is acceptable. [They should be] chaste, neither [of] those who commit unlawful intercourse randomly nor those who take [secret] lovers. But once they are sheltered in marriage, if they should commit adultery, then for them is half the punishment for free [unmarried] women. This [allowance] is for him among you who fears sin, but to be patient is better for you. And Allah is Forgiving and Merciful” 4:25

We weren’t present when Quranic verses were being revealed. But what we’re present for and witnesses to, is today’s barbaric acts committed against ‘sinners’ and innocents lives by stoning.

We are all sinners to some degree. Moreover, many innocent lives are also wasted by stoning due to evil people plots against their innocent souls. Some people would lie and accuse their spouses of adultery because they have a candidate lined up. It could also be out of vengeance or pure jealousy. Human nature just never fails to err or disappoint gravely.

“And Allah wants to lighten for you [your difficulties]; and mankind was created weak.” 4:28

Whatever happens to the message of peace, love, mercy, forgiveness, etc. that the Quran preaches? Every page of the Quran is indeed a testament of goodness, science, and the existence of Allah. We should take note of that.

There is a reason ‘concrete’ stoning verses didn’t make it to the Quran. I say concrete because their occurrence is still disputed. So let’s say, stoning verses were revealed. I want to believe that it was with the qadr of Allah that they didn’t become official in the holy book. Make no mistake, the Quran is very powerful and nobody can alter it without unleashing the wrath of Allah on himself. He and his angels protect the divine revelation. Before our beloved prophet sallalahu aleihi wa salam, many messengers were sent. Their messages were nullified and priority was given to the Quran.

And even during the revelation, many verses were revealed and later on abrogated. This is the known case of the consumption of alcohol. Yes, at one time Muslims were allowed to drink alcohol. But because some of the Muslims at that time were negligent with their prayers, they were forbidden to drink as a final order. They were warned several times before drinking was banned altogether for our Ummah.

Du coq à l’âne, I want to apply this reasoning to stoning, maybe it was allowed to stone people in the early days but the practice lost its backbone because the authenticity of the punishment doesn’t stand anymore. I think Allah is testing us and the smart one will prevail. Forgiving is divine and we should act accordingly. He gave us a brain for a reason so that we may use it and come to sane and non-blaspheming conclusions. Therefore, stoning doesn’t have its place in Islam. In fact, no verse in the Quran supports it.

We can teach a lesson to the offender by inflicting on them the number of lashes prescribed but it comes to if you can honestly prove that the defendant did something wrong. Muslims, please fear Allah when you accuse someone of an illegal part because you’ll be judged upon your words. Take this seriously and be merciful on your brothers and sisters in Islam by not starting false rumors, see part I.  “The [unmarried] woman or [unmarried] man found guilty of sexual intercourse – lash each one of them with a hundred lashes, and do not be taken by pity for them in the religion of Allah, if you should believe in Allah and the Last Day. And let a group of the believers witness their punishment.”24:2

Wouldn’t anybody wish for forgiveness if they had sinned? Why do we quench the blood thirst of our naf by taking pleasure in the death of another being? We should know that stoning fosters hatred, anger, depression, sadness, sinister feelings that any believer in his right mind should recognize as not healthy for the soul! On this note, Allahu alim. Allaha ghafurun rahimun.

Note: The Written vs. NOT Written Stuff is joint online initiative of two Muslimah writers, Saadia Haq and Papatia Feauxzar. We will be pleased to hear your feedback, here at wordpress or through email which ever medium works for you.  

Copyrights @2015

The Written Vs. Not Written Stuff: Death by Stoning a draconian law in Islamic Ummah Part I

The collaborative series, Part I authored by Saadia Haq

On 11 July 2013, Arifa Bibi, a young mother of two, was sentenced by a tribal court in Dera Ghazi Khan, Punjab Province to be stoned to death. The local a tribal court, known as “panchayat” in Urdu found Arifa Bibi guilty of a grave crime demanding such a harsh penalization.

Her crime: possession of a mobile phone. 

No wait seriously? Yes, the tribal court opined that a married woman in possession of a mobile phone was the greatest sign of her “adulterous nature” that needed to be nipped into the bud, immediately.

So came that fateful day, when Arifa Bibi was taken to a spot, worthy of this punishment. And so arrived the most virtuous brigade; her blood relations including an uncle, cousins and others to hurl stones and bricks until she succumbed. Later, they buried her body anonymously without any proper funeral.

The police registered a case against the culprits and members of the tribal court, but justice is yet to be served. Such news is not unique to the Islamic State of Pakistan or Islam itself.

According to the research “MAPPING STONING IN MUSLIM CONTEXTS” the use of stoning is legal or practiced in at least 15 countries or regions. It has spread in either theory or practice, or both, in countries as diverse as Afghanistan, Indonesia (Province of Aceh), Iran, Iraq, Malaysia, Mauritania, Nigeria (12 northern states), Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, UAE and Yemen. The research also highlighted that data gathering of cases of stoning in the Muslim world proved to be a huge challenge and the pervasiveness of such accounts was beyond the research team’s expectations.

On a global scale, women rights campaigners fear this barbaric form of execution may be on the rise within Muslim communities.  The connection of stoning with Islam and Muslim communities is covered well in the upcoming part II by my coauthor Papatia Feauxzar.

It is interesting to note that while women get stoned in the backyard, most Muslim scholars are still arguing the semantics on whether Quran prescribes stoning and why so through Sharia.  In the various schools of Islamic jurisprudence including Shafii, Hanbali, Hanafi and Shia schools the proof required to convict an adulterer is so stringent that the smallest doubt or lack of evidence should prevent a stoning sentence from taking effect.

Although several countries have codified laws on stoning, the punishment remains a point of disagreement between Islamic scholars. Execution by stoning is still carried out in various parts of the Muslim world (either by state or non-state actors) as a punishment for zina (adultery and fornication).  The legal punishment of stoning was revived with political Islam during the late 20th and early 21st centuries. However, stoning also occurs in contexts where there is no legal precedent for the practice. For example, in Iran, zina “crimes” and punishments are outlined in the Penal Code; in Afghanistan, on the other hand, stoning occurs extra-judiciously – it is more of a “cultural” or “traditional” punishment that members of the community implement themselves. Although there are few documented instances of stoning, this form of punishment is still a serious threat to both women and men living in Muslim contexts.

Other notable examples include African countries including Nigeria and Sudan where non-state actors practice stoning under the guise of being culturally authentic.

The Case of Pakistan: Legal Background of Stoning

For example in Pakistan, Shari’a law in Pakistan was implemented shortly after Genral Zia ul-Haq came into power in 1979 (Ordinance No. VII of 1979) and began to Islamize the legal system. Through this legal conversion, hudood offences were included in the law, which prescribed hadd sentences for certain offences. Zina was among these hudood crimes. Under these laws, for a married Muslim (Muhsan) the punishment of death by stoning was introduced for cases of zina and rape.

In 2006, the Pakistani parliament passed the Protection of Women (Criminal Laws Amendment) Act62, which amended the Zina Ordinance of 1979 and removed rape from its ambit. One can only be charged with zina if four adult male Muslims witness the act and testify this before the court. The punishment of stoning for a married Muslim offender has been retained in law; however, to date, no such punishment has been carried out within the legal system.

However, women continue to be stoned inside the country, the pervasiveness of the crime is noted most in Punjab, followed by North West and Balochistan by non state factors including tribal system and patriarchal customs. Most noticeable is the fact that, on a larger part more women get killed by stoning as compared to men. However, there are notable cases like a Pakistani army officer being stoned for having an alleged affair with a girl.

Being a Muslim alone, it is hard to cope with the disheartening reality that most Muslim communities living inside Islamic countries or in the west also approve of this gory form of punishment. Most people seek refugee behind the straight-laced and rigid interpretation of Allah’s message and the Quran.

Yet it is the same Quran that speaks of forgiveness, humanity and compassion. And my understanding of Islam has made my belief strong in Allah The Most Merciful. In writing this series, both Papatia and I have spent several weeks laboring the whole issue. During my research one very interesting reference caught my attention, a fatwa by s recipient of the award “One of The 500 Most Influential Muslims in the World”, Sheikh Ahmad Kutty, a senior lecturer and Islamic scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, who states,

“It is not true or correct to say that those who have been guilty of adultery can only be forgiven by Allah if they submit themselves to be stoned to death. The Qur’an and the Sunnah are replete with texts that make it abundantly clear that adulterers can be fully forgiven provided they repent and change and amend their evil ways. There is no doubt adultery has been described by Allah as a most heinous sin and despicable way; therefore, the faithful are not only ordered to shun it altogether but also told not even to “go near it”. This means they are to stay away from all circumstances, incentives, and associations that may lead to adultery. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “No one commits adultery while doing so remaining a believer.”

Moreover, Allah tells us in the Quran that severe punishment in the Hereafter is awaiting those who commit adultery. Nevertheless Allah teaches us in the Qur’an that His mercy is limitless.”

In conclusion, I must say that I agree with Papatia who will highlight in part II her argument that forgiveness is divine and Allah expects us to use our minds sanely and wisely. Stoning as a form of punishment contradicts the very spirit of Islam, contradicts the Holy Quran, and is against Allah’s will; therefore it is a profound humiliation to human life that was granted to us by our Creator Allah the Almighty.

Stay tuned to The Human Lens for  part II of this series is coming soon!

Research “MAPPING STONING IN MUSLIM CONTEXTS” and The Dawn, Pakistan.

Note: The Written vs. NOT Written Stuff is joint online initiative of two Muslimah writers, Saadia Haq and Papatia Feauxzar. Copyrights @2015


Pakistan Emergency|1000 Dead in Deadly Heatwave While Govt Mulls On Action Plan

This year the unforgiving heat has spared no one at all, in the city of Karachi and across Sindh Province. An emergency has finally been declared after 1000 people died this week due to heat wave and electricity shortage issues.

While Pakistan and the southern city of Karachi is used to baking in the hear around this time of the year, just before the monsoon rains arrive as welcome relief, however this year heat wave has been particularly brutal. It all began last Friday, exactly the first Ramadan in Pakistan. Th temperatures reached 44.8 degrees Celsius (112.64 degrees Fahrenheit) — the highest-recorded temperature in the country in the last 15 years.

Further more, as the heat wave continued, the Government of Pakistan continued with its ongoing electricity shortage – daily electricity outage for 10-12 and in other places 16 hours in others. All those promises by GoP that load-shedding of power will be relaxed during month of Ramadan remained promises.

It is heart breaking to just live in this situation where either people are in mourning for their dead or caring for the heat stroked lying in critical conditions in various hospices.  Many of those who died were fasting. And finally our Central Ruet-e-Hilal Committee Chairman Mufti Munibur Rehman issued a fatwa on Wednesday stating it was permissible to break one’s fast under extraordinary circumstances, such as the heat wave affecting parts of Pakistan.

Scores of people stopped fasting but rather trying to help others already affected in the situation. And in a sense, despite not fasting Pakistanis are following the basic principle of Ramadan. As this month is all about solidarity and helping each other.  People have taken to hosing each other down with water to avoid collapsing from heat strokes and state of emergency is in full force in hospitals struggling to cope with the 3,000 people affected by heat stroke and dehydration.

Speaking to The Human Lens on the occasion, a very concerned sister in faith Papatia Feauxzar said that “Allah, this is very sad. May Allah make things better for your nation, amiin. I’m truly disheartened :/. May the victims become shahid that will enter paradise without any issues, amiin.” 

The heat wave has once again exposed Pakistan’s fledgling civilian government’s failure to fund social services, making for a glaring contrast to the military, which often takes the lead in responding to natural disasters. The major chunk of this nuclear armed nation’s annual budget goes to the military, which as ruled Pakistan for half its history.

Public services in the 190 million nation is starved of resources because almost all its wealthy evade taxes. The politicians are enjoying their blame game in the parliament for this recent crisis while the theater of death continues.



Pakistan| National Protests Against Yemen War Fiasco


Since the war in Yemen has broke out, thanks to Saudi Arabia led coalition and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government is once-again under strict public criticism for supporting The Kingdom in its aggression against Yemen. Since March this year, local populations, leading politicians and anti war activists have taken to the streets and online campaigns to strongly condemn  the Saudi invasion of Yemen and the Pakistani government’s support towards it.


Most Pakistani anti war activists demand that Nawaz-administration should step back from joining Saudi invasion of Yemen which incidentally happened because the Saudi Government paid the Nawaz administration 1.5 billion dollars last year that the government insists, was a gift from the Kingdom.

There is no such thing as a gift from the House of Saud and This Kingdom. So far, the pressure is building and while Pakistan is supporting the aggression it has so far refrained from joining the airstrikes. Many inside the government and opposition feel that Pakistan should play a lead role in bringing peace instead of joining the Saudi invasion of Yemen.

Why Pakistanis are against War in Yemen?

While many see the crisis in Yemen as a proxy battle between the two Muslim sects camps of Sunni and Shia led respectively by Saudi Arabia and Iran, the people in Pakistan have already seen the glimpses of this war, although in an entirely different form, for nearly three decades.

The Pakistan-based religious schools, which are allegedly substantially funded by Saudi Arabia and several other oil-rich Arab states for promotion of Wahabi Salafi agenda, have been churning out Islamic terrorists and providing sanctuary to similar local and foreign fugitives. Today’s Pakistan is collapsing beyond a hopeful future and in addition Shia persecution is increasing in the country. Pakistan finds itself into a seriously sandwiched position between Arabians and Persian conflicts and has been eradicating its own Persian heritage under the patronage of “The Kingdom.”

Pakistan’s civil society joined the recently held public protests and have criticized strongly the formation of partnership into this new war, that is NOT our war, and all while at home millions of Pakistanis are perishing in the hideous war of terror.

National Civil Society’s official statement said that, “We are already cleaning the mess created in 1970’s. It’s been four decades and another century and it doesn’t seem to end. We have already lost thousands and thousands of Pakistanis because of policies of the few. We are a much informed and politically engaged nation now and we will not let our government fight other’s wars. We will not let our forces to get dragged in the self-created mess of Middle East. PM Nawaz Sharif don’t try to pay back to Saudi Arabia at the expense of 180 million people. “


Karachi: Local Protesters Demand To stop War In Yemen

What Pakistanis think of the on-going war in Yemen?

A commentator at Tribune Pakistan said that first Pakistan should defend Pakistan’s territorial integrity, they cannot even ensure the safety of children in schools and here they are going to defend a county larger than Pakistan itself. 

Another social media user said Pakistan should work for unity of Muslim countries nor to indulge in such sectarian crises. We have already paid a lot for others war- US NATO war on Afghanistan. We should work now for our own country reforms.

Amina*, university going student told me “Why does no one consider that Yemen is one of the poorest countries in the world with over half the population living below the poverty line and in need of food? Yemen poses no harm to anyone least for all Pakistan, whom Yemen deeply respects and looks up to. Pakistan should consider the humanitarian angle of the war. Also none of the war coalition countries would ever defend Pakistan. Never. These Arabs hate us,  Yemeni people dont deserve to be terminated just because Sunnis and Shias are putting up a show of who is more powerful.  Can we stop being so juvenile?”

Speaking on the controversy of Middle Eastern bloc on pressurizing Government of Pakistan to join this war prompted this reaction from a local beautician who works in a well-known saloon. In her words, “Pakistan does not need dictation from Saudis and UAE. Pakistan still lone survivor from terrorism which was initiated by Saudia years ago. Time to focus on fixing our own mess.”

The public opinion is Pakistan points to several important factors including the fact that this is not our war and that a crumbling Yemen doesn’t deserve to become the latest battle ground for the vested interests of super powers.


Say No To War, Anywhere. Stand with Yemen, Stand with Humanity.

Justifying International Invasions and Target Killings For Protection of Muslim Women

In the post 9/11 scenario, a consolidated effort on part of western countries was made for the justification of rampant target killings, drone strikes and foreign invasions.  This justification duped the world into thinking that such acts were made to shield Muslim women from violence. In 2001, I learned of a press conference by the US President George W. Bush where he spoke at length about the “might” of America and NATO Allies in getting rid of terrorist organizations like Al- Qaeeda, TTP and other gory leaders like Osama Bin Laden and so forth.

We are all testament to what exactly followed in Afghanistan and Pakistan after Mr.Bush boasted countless victories in the nefarious “war on terror.” Mr. Bush narrated two very stirring tales on this occasion. In his own words, he said that “I was struck by this: that in many cities, when Christian and Jewish women learn that Muslim women — women of cover — were afraid of going out of their homes alone, that they went shopping with them, that they showed true friendship and support — an act that shows the world the true nature of America.”

Further he added that “The story I talked about earlier was one that really touched my heart, about women of cover fearing to leave their homes. And there was such an outpouring of compassion for people within our own country, a recognition that the Islamic faith should stand side by side, hand to hand with the Jewish faith and the Christian faith in our great land. It is such a wonderful example.” This saving of Muslim women syndrome received backing by western women allies, one such, Ms. Laura Bush as a principal justification for the Afghanistan War.

This brings me to the second story from Mr. Bush’s press conference where quoting word to word, “Ultimately, one of the best weapons, one of the truest weapons that we have against terrorism is to show the world the true strength of character and kindness of the American people. Americans are united in this fight against terrorism. We’re also united in our concern for the innocent people of Afghanistan.”

Since then there is no gong back to this deliberate conflict that has advanced into South Asia and Middle East on the proposed pretext. But the reality is quite the opposite to what the west wants us to think and believe in. The disastrous effects of Afghan Invasion and West supported war on terror inside Pakistan has accumulated the greatest numbers of war victims to be: women.

If you don’t believe me a Muslim writer on this, please read up available data on the war strategies including target killings and American strikes on civilian populations. Reports have surfaced detailing how Muslim women themselves are killed devastatingly. Though their deaths have been largely ignored by the Western media and denied by the U.S. government, the wealth of data on drone strikes is clear: “targeted” killings murder scores of civilians, including many women and children.

Moreover, the rising deaths of Muslim men in the war on terror is basically affecting Muslim women, because those men are fathers, husbands, brothers and sons and most important bread winners for their families. Their deaths lead to broken families that are disadvantaged by further by economic crisis. Western agenda to wipe out SAVAGE Muslim men is resulting into millions of widows that so presumed compassionate Americans don’t give a shit about, or care.

And finally, drones exact a toll on Muslim women’s communities simply by the very presence of the vehicles. In many regions of Northwest Pakistan, drones constantly circle villages, giving rise to an atmosphere of intense fear. Sites for drone attacks have included mosques, civilians’ houses and funerals and the secondary drone strike strategy have instilled so much fear into people that villagers are scared to go out and help neighbors bombed by a drone.

In my recent conversations with westerners I have failed to understand how they continue to think that they can save Muslim women by killing Muslim men. I find their western commentary assuming that the War on Terror has been a good thing for us Muslim women very inhumane and degrading. It also gives me an eye-opening peep inside the minds of people who think such barbarity is necessary for their misguided rescue mission of Muslim women on a global scale.

As a Muslim feminist, I also find it very interesting to note that Feminist organizations throughout the U.S. that had been working on a campaign against the Talibans abuse of women rights have been deliberately silent on the toll of Muslim women issues that have cropped up during the war on terror in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Like Ms. Laura Bush, another proclaimed American feminist of Eve Ensler wrote a skit into her play, Vagina Monologues, called “Under the Burka” which decried the oppression, heat and isolation of the veil.  The concern Ensler showed for the plight of Afghani women is admirable and supportable but it was performed at a time when the U.S. government is using rhetoric of “saving by bombing.” I mean seriously?

As the western world goes about “NOT” listening at all to Muslim Women, by taking away our agency deliberately, people like myself will keep writing such stuff in order to be a thorny reminder protest against this continued need to invade and plunder our lands on pretext of saving us.

Don’t justify your wars, your thirst and lust for power on our backs.  YOU with your bombs and your drones won’t save us.

Believe it or not, its only we who has the power to save and liberate ourselves.  And frankly you are in the way.

The Iron Lady of Manipur Irom Sharmila Chanu’s Struggle Against State Persecution

The Human Lens is currently showcasing the  conflict issues in North East India and in this regard we have spoken with Dr. Anjuman Ara Begum, and the last post focused on the problems of widows and orphaned children as a result of the conflict exodus. While the State goes about its business of persecuting communities, there are many conscious personalities struggling for human rights restoration.

Today we are continuing our conversation with Dr. Anjuman Ara Begum about one very important person-  Irom Sharmila Chanu.

Haq: Who is Irom? Why is she known as the Iron Lady of Manipur? What is her struggle about?

Dr. Anjuman Ara Begum says that Irom Sharmila personifies struggle to protect civil and human rights. She embodies an independent  unmatched tireless selfless movement for the noble cause in India.  Her struggle started in November, 2000, when ten people were killed when a paramilitary force opened fire at a bus-stop near Malom in Manipur. The troops of 8th Assam Rifles were deployed in Malom to counter the ‘insurgent’ attack in the area. Most of the victims were students and women that were terminated during the firing spree of a  brutal combat operation. A witness to this horrifying incident, then 20- year Irom was shocked at the anarchical state act, she decided to begin a fast unto death demanding the repeal of the Act responsible for such brutality on the part of the state – the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958. According to Amnesty International, Irom Sharmila is declared a Prisoner of conscience, and “is being held solely for a peaceful expression of her beliefs.”

Thus began the fight of Irom Sharmila Chanu, the Iron Lady from Manipur whose fast has completed 15 years this year.


Haq: What was the government reaction to the protest?

Dr. Anjuman Ara Begum: Though Sharmila began her marathon fast in protest, the investigation into the Malom massacre has still not yet been completed in these 15 years. Following a directive of the Gauhati High Court, Imphal Bench, in 2004 and 2005, the District and Session’s Judge is conducting an inquiry into the incident.

On January 7, 2010, a team of the court led by Th Surbala, the District and Session’s Judge, Manipur East, conducted a spot inquiry at Malom and investigation is on into the facts and circumstances leading to the firing incidents.

Haq: What has happened to The Iron Lady since her fast protest?

Dr. Anjuman Ara Begum: Since November 2, 2000, Sharmila has been arrested under section 309 of IPC which punishes attempted suicide by a one-year imprisonment. She is released every year to be arrested again. A compartment in the Jawaharlal Nehru Hospital has become her virtual nest, where the activist, poetess in Sharmila pens her verses. She has clarified her resolve to continue fasting  until the repeal of the Act.

Haq: A fasting protest lasting over a decade is a profound reality, how has been the reaction of the family and people?

Dr. Anjuman Ara Begum: During a telephonic interview, her brother Singhajit shared his memories of his sister’s childhood. He said, ‘Up to 10 years she was somewhat different from other children A pure vegetarian, she trained in yoga after completing 10 grade. She has few close friends and was a solitude seeking person, who spent time listening radio, reading and wirting poems etc. In short she was different.  In October 2000, retired Justice Suresh from Bombay lead a commission and inquired about the Armed Forces Special Powers Act. Sharmila attended it as an individual activist. It was completed on 25th October, 2000. The Malom massacre took place on November 2. Ten people were killed near the airport in Malom. Sharmila began her fast after hearing the sound of the massacre on that Thursday. She informed some of her friends about her fast and then went to our mother to seek her permission for the fast. A mother being a mother gave her blessings and supported her daughter’s mission.

On 5th, she went to the Malom Massacre site and sat there continuing her fast. In the early morning on 6th November, she was arrested and taken into police custody. On November 11, 2000, Irom’s brother visited the Sajowa jail and told her that we would fight together but she should give up her fasting. She replied, ‘Please come to encourage me and don’t come to discourage me’. At that moment, I promised her that I will be with her in her struggle. After returning from the jail, I resigned my job as an agriculture officer in a leading NGO where I was drawing a handsome salary to devote myself for Sharmila’s struggle and since then I am with her.’

When asked about the reaction of the state agencies when Sharmila decided to fast, Singhajit informed that the family members were threatened by the state agencies and were urged to sign in a letter for handing over Sharmila to the family. ‘But we believe that since Sharmila started her fast she is no more my sister, rather she is the sister of whole Manipur. We cannot sign in any paper asking to hand her over to our family’ he said.

Singhajit was emotional to answer his mother’s reaction over the whole incident. He said, ‘Our mother said that she feels happy when she gets the news about Sharmila’s achievement. But she feels sad whenever she remembers about her daughter. She passes several nights in tears. She believes that she will die after Sharmila’s death for that is something she wishes for.

Haq: Has the Iron Lady of Manipur met her mother she started her fast?

Dr. Anjuman Ara Begum: Since Sharmila started her fast, the mother and daughter have never met as a personal meeting such as this may discourage Sharmila from continuing her struggle. Until and unless the mission is accomplished, the mother and daughter will never meet. Irom herself says that “The day AFSPA is repealed I will eat rice from my mother’s hand.”

Haq: Having refused food and water for more than 500 weeks, the Iron Lady of Manipur is declared as “the world’s longest hunger striker”. She was also voted as the most iconic woman during 2014’s Women’s Day and other laurels. But within India she continues to face the charge of attempted suicide. What legal battles await her?

Dr. Anjuman Ara Begum: Irom Sharmila has been regularly released and re-arrested every year since her hunger strike began under IPC section 309. The law declares that a person who “attempts to commit suicide … shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year [or with fine, or with both. The most recent development in that the Judge in Delhi hearing the case is allowing Sharmila to take the stand and speak in her own defense on 11 August 2015.

Check out Dr. Anjuman’s exclusive at

The Human Lens thanks Dr. Anjuman Ara Begum for her continued collaboration in making possible this series. Through this series, it is hoped that people far and wide with learn and support the struggle of the Iron Lady of Manipur for the complete repeal of the AFSPA by the Indian Government.

Gun Widows of Manipur| North East India’s Realities Untold

Last week, we spoke with an Indian Human Rights Activist and lawyer scholar, Dr. Anjuman Ara Begum on the situation of conflict in North East India, for those who missed it, please see my post here.  Today we are bringing the second part of the series, Dr. Anjuman has written a eye opening story at on northeast India, particularly in Manipur, everyday newspapers carry reports of either ‘suspected militants’ killed in encounter or cross-firing or ‘civilians killed by unknown youths’. Civilian population is sandwiched between the clashes everyday by either state actors or non-state actors. Needless to say that extortions, threats, kidnapping and killings are ‘normal’ phenomenon now.

She feels the local society is heavily militarized and  “might of the gun” is seen as solution to all problems. Most killings of ‘suspected militants’ are never investigated to ascertain the circumstances leading to their death. There are allegations that youths are kidnapped by the state forces and killed later on in ‘encounters’. Such deaths bring immense suffering on women and destroy households.


Manipur is one of eight states that make up India’s Northeast territories. Tethered to mainland India by the narrow Siliguri Corridor, only between 21 to 40 kilometers wide, the Northeast region was not part of historical India. Manipur was an independent kingdom able to trace its history to 33 A.D., and it shared closer linguistic and cultural ties with its neighbors to the east.  Even after it was conquered by the British in the nineteenth century, Manipur remained a separate administrative unit with its own king and legal system. However, after a series of political maneuverings, in 1949, India forcibly annexed Manipur.

When Manipuri groups attempted to dispute the legality of the annexation agreement, India responded by using brute military force to counter any aspirations for independence.  Declaring Manipur and much of the Northeast a “disturbed area,” the government used the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) — initially a colonial ordinance used by the British to suppress Indian calls for self-rule — to suppress Manipuri desires for the same.  The initial liberation struggle to restore Manipur’s sovereign independence and the massive, and disproportionate, counterinsurgency measures by the Indian government resulted in a state of armed conflict that lasted decades.

The insurgency was at its height in the 1980s and 90s, but has since been effectively quashed.  For all intents and purposes, the people of Manipur are integrated into the Indian political system.  But even though much of Manipur’s insurgency has been brought under control, Delhi continues to maintain Manipur’s status as a troubled territory, and the Indian army remains in the state.  Overt racism by the predominantly Hindi-speaking speaking security forces goes unchecked.  Thousands of Manipuri people have been murdered.  Yet more have been disappeared while in state custody.  Rapes of Manipuri women by Indian security forces have been all too common.

In 2011, Dutch international development organization Cordaid along with four local partners have published a harrowing eye opener book, “We, widows of the Gun” where five young widows from Manipur (Northeast India) tell their stories for the first time. They call themselves the gun widows. The fates of these women are by no means unusual and countless  women in Manipur can tell a similar story. They remain silent out of fear of state violence and persecution. Over the past five decades there have been many hundreds of extrajudicial executions in Manipur, and many hundreds of Manipuri have been tortured and killed by rebels.

After the shock of losing their husbands the real fight of these widows only begins: the fight for their children’s future, the fight against the stigma that comes with being the widow of a suspected terrorist. The fight  against impunity, corruption, extortion, crippling inflation and strangling black markets. In short, the struggle to live life in dignity – as a woman, a mother, a widow and as a citizen.

Some of these widows have launched legal proceedings to prove their husbands’ innocence. They charge the state, army or police with gross human rights violations and are fighting back, please check the download link to read more on the struggles faced by these women in conflict.

Manipur can only rise when the world sees what is happening in this closed off militarized state and human rights sentiments demand that the world pays immediate attention towards this conflict.  And to make sure that happens, Dr. Anjuman Ara Begum continues to strive bringing forward the untold realities from North East India.


1. Cordaid, Women in Governance Manipur, the Gun Victims Survivors Association, Human Rights Alert, the Extrajudicial Execution Victims Families Manipur

2. Year of publication:2011Authors:Cordaid , Women in Governance Manipur, the Gun Victims Survivors Association, Human Rights Alert, the Extrajudicial Execution Victims Families Manipur





Obliterating The Taboo-Muslim Women & Sexuality Part II

Being a Pakistani Muslim feminist, I have no problems is discussing Muslim women and their sexuality, yet realistically speaking I am obstructed in doing so by standards and stereotypes that have set for “Muslim women.” My co-author for this series, the spirited British Pakistani Muslimah, Hajra Khan has covered the matters of being a practicing Muslim women in the west very well in part I, highly recommended for readers.

At length, she demystifies how western standards affect the Muslim women living in Europe and elsewhere white world where ludicrous groups like FEMEN decide to become dictatorial mouthpiece for the Muslim women. Previously I have written on this matter too and I like to call this the “Saving Muslim Women Syndrome” that 99 out of 100 westerners suffer from. Be it in their geographical setting or a so-called third world country like Pakistan, for instance take an example of myself. A while ago I gave a women rights and media reporting presentation to a group of foreign diplomats working in Islamabad; most of them were shocked out their core to face a confident Muslim woman in sneakers and jeans without any artifice of makeup so preferred by European professionals working in diplomatic and humanitarian sector. And let’s be frank, probably they expected a lady in hijab and oriental eye make, whereas I see no point in “I am high maintenance” when I work in human rights sector and a lot with grass-roots activism.

Having worked for more then 15 years with non-white colleagues, I have come to experience anger, disgust, resignation, humor and irony is their subtle and not so subtle expectations of how my sexuality should be as a Muslim woman. It’s a bizarre experience to hear western people tell me how oppressed I am for internally I know they have literally no idea what they are talking about. On the other hand, living inside a Muslim country and being a practicing Muslim woman is not a bed of roses either. I am not a hijab wearer myself; although I respect and support Muslimah sisters who actively choose it o express their Muslim women identities. But having said that I don’t agree and support hardliner religious bigots and their oppressive campaigns stating… better to wear hijab, it saves you from being raped.”

Believe it or not I have attended such public sermons events with mixed yet segregated audiences listen on as the revered cleric tells them things like… In Islam, women earn Allah’s grace by obeying their husbands, hence the messages is clear MEN RULE, women obey.

Moving forward to more disturbing analogies where clerics teach…. Women are fitna (chaos) therefore they need to be covered so the men aren’t distracted. Clearly men are ardent so their gaze on an unveiled woman is no different then a naked woman, therefore hijab is a must for all Muslim women.

It seems there is no end “to the list of dos” we have to follow as women of faith since that fateful apple theater in Heaven. Before Islam, Judaism and Christianity fueled the same war on women of faith and their bodies…with teachings like… Do you know that you are each an Eve? You are the Devil’s gateway. And so on and so forth.

Millions of Muslim sisters in Pakistan and the Muslim world continue to live under man-made laws that oppress their lives and their bodies in adverse ways. What are some of these ways? The control and violation of women’s sexuality can take forms like early/ forced marriages, honor crimes, stoning for adultery, guardianship, zina laws, marital rape and family concerns.

I will specifically remind readers that I have written on Pakistan’s Mukhtara Mai, Moroccan Amina Filali, Reyhaneh Jabbari, all these women are Islam’s greatest victims falling to man-made interpretations of zina (rape) that led their lives into complete mayhem. What are Zina Laws and how come they control sexuality in Muslim societies?

In this regard, I came across the work of Dr. Ziba Mir-Hosseini, an Iranian legal anthropologist specializing in Islamic law, gender and development; in her publication “In Control and Sexuality:The Revival of Zina Laws in Muslim Contexts” she has focused on how Zina Laws are part of a broader legal scheme for controlling sexuality in Muslim societies. The research narrates, cases from five Muslim countries including Nigeria, Iran, Indonesia, Pakistan and Turkey.

Through case examination of these countries laws and their legal frame-work on rape, it has been illuminating to note that an important aspect of resistance to the (re)criminalization of zina is to make it obvious that such a legislative development does not occur in isolation – i.e. that there is a significant incidence of gender-discriminatory laws (whether or not religiously justified) in the respective legal system, all of which are demonstrably used to control women’s sexuality. Hence, the revival, often marketed as a ‘moral reform’ par excellence, is exposed as continuation (and an opportunistic ‘upgrade’) of an established legal mechanism constructed to provide its ‘managers’ with exceptional power over the general populace and, in particular, over women. Even in societies where zina is not explicitly criminalized by law, but instead regulated and ‘punished’ extra judicially, an analysis of the domestic legal system discloses that such social malpractice continues to be effectively condoned or even encouraged by certain laws for a considerably long time. This was the case in Turkey until recent criminal justice reforms.

Many Muslim feminists and reformers have time and again critiqued the legal frame-work on zina matters and how it deliberately allows men to hold power over women. Others have written extensively about how male notions of female sexuality lead to the creation of gender biased laws prevalent in modern day Muslim countries. Feminist scholars such as Fatima Mernissi and Amina Wadud point out that this male fear of ‘uncontrolled women’ stems from the time of the newly formed Muslim community, when men feared that the Prophet Muhammad was encouraging a women’s rebellion (nushuz) by stopping violence against women (Mernissi (1996). How is that for a reality check? 

There is also a deep notion of taboo and stigma over discussing sexuality in most Muslim societies; it is quite common to see Muslim brothers young and old speaking on sexuality at public forums and penning literary publications. However the same societies don’t accept so easily Muslim women writers or speakers on the topic of sexuality. Still there is hope because many young Muslimah sisters have gone and broken the stereotypes and created alternative spaces for themselves to be heard both collectively and individually.

It is also interesting to note the stark difference between past and present day Islam, in the past, Quran and early Muslim scholars dealt with topics of sex and sexuality with an openness and positively. Where as today, in the back streets of hustling bustling city like Karachi, there are dawas and dars (religious lectures) promoting the need for male control of women’s sexuality, prohibiting birth control as western agendas and so on.

Lets face it, Muslim societies are highly patriarchal and have misused the religion throughout history to exert control over Muslim women sexualities. Last week, in a shalwar kameez (national dress) along with a chador I was riding in a public bus for office,soon a perverted took upon himself to touch my back twice. I and another young girl politely informed him against repeating it – while the bus passengers openly gaped and some angry ones told us in clear words how shameless and honor less we were to protest for it and be rude to a man. A man, oh really a man. Opps.. really I am sorry in my world men ARENT Gods and aren’t getting any Godly status either.


Pakistan| Rampant Discrimination Against My Mohajir Identity


A seasoned writer, Vikhar Ahmed Sayeed in his publication says that “The Mohajirs of Pakistan were the Muslims who migrated to Pakistan after Partition of British India. They were going not as refugees but as citizens of a promised homeland – a country for Muslims where they would not face political or religious discrimination. How then did the Mohajirs of Pakistan, four decades later, find themselves moved from the core to the periphery, marginalized and divided by ethnic conflict?.”

The long standing ethnic discrimination institutionalized against the ethnicity of Mohajirs is not a news to most in Pakistanis. Usual Pakistanis think Mohajirs are represented by the political party MQM, which is no way less violent and corrupt than other national level political parties. But Mohajirs themselves are heavily divided on the MQM factor  and do not consider the Altaf Hussain/ MQM as their representative, a fact known to most.

Politics aside, let me narrate a recent incident to you which is illuminating and outrageous.

Unlike the country’s other major ethnic groups, Mohajirs are not treated as “people of the soil” because their roots  lie in areas that are outside of what today is Pakistan. Yes, their roots are in India. OH, dear India. So its quite common for fellow Pakistanis to ridicule and mock Mohajirs by calling them Makkar (Betrayer), Panahgeer (Refugee), Bhaiyya (slang for ganster), Matarwa (looser), Hindustora (coming from Hindus which  frankly this I find very cheap and racist) etc.

Recently, a senior senator of ruling party PML-N(off course Punjabi ethnicity), Salim Zia, senator on a live TV show called Mohajirs  foreigners and Kalay Kalootay people (black colored people) and all this happened on 16 April, 2015. Its not just him, there are other leaders who also openly share their hatred against Mohajirs.

In all my life, I have listened to this sort of nonsense despite being born inside the borders of a country, called Pakistan. At school I was the “Bhoke Nangey Mohajir zaat”( hungry, naked refugee race) and my fair complexioned class-fellows would tell me that I should quit school  because later on my role would be of a domestic servant in their homes and other interesting slave like roles.

When I was young, it used to annoy me how everyone around me had a problem with Indian origin Pakistani Muslims identifying with their ethnic and cultural identity. Whereas, Punjabis, Pathans, Baloch and Sindhis can make jokes, brag about and display arrogance in general when it comes to their ethnic background, but the second an Urdu speaking Indian origin Muslim would says or do anything showing pride in his/her identity, they would start questioning why and proceed to humiliate the person into silence.

The second dilemma is that most ethnicities have been flourishing and their cultural traditions have been preserved, but there is strong resistance on Mohajir ethnicity people to preserve their culture. It all comes under the so-called “complete integration into becoming a true Pakistani nonsense.” The community despite having shaky start has been integrating into the more rural and feudal culture of Pakistan but stands out due to its more urbanized literate backgrounds.

It took a personal journey into Pakistan’s daily life for me to become more attached towards my identity as a Mohajir.

Things didn’t change much despite my growing up into an adult, even today my Mohajir identity comes under fire anywhere any time, thanks to my darling fellow Pakistanis. I have written about another interesting issue faced by Mohajir women over here, check it out.  Today’s Pakistan has become an intolerant and oppressive state for most of its citizens, a country where ethnic and religious minorities suffer the most due to the ineffectual governance. Be it Balochis, Hazaras, or Mohajirs there is a strong sense of being let down, by most.

There are times, when I feel like I’m labelled as an outsider on account of being Urdu speaking or having Indian origin elders who gave up everything to migrated 1947 in Pakistan to start a new life as its new citizens. Yet the label continues till today and there are hundreds, if not thousands who would try patting my back  and inform me that all this nonsense exists only inside my paranoid head.

No, it isn’t. Do not think my blood doesn’t boil when I hear people telling me what proof I have that my grand parents were married, what proof I have of my ancestral tree, who knows from “whom and where” my parents were born and usually the commentary ends with Mohajirs are Indian dogs.

Frankly I have no problems with dogs themselves and my world doesn’t end if a dog jumps over and licks me either. For the record, I also do not have any problems with India or fellow Indians. But its very telling to note that most Pakistanis use such phrases to insult Mohajirs hailing community.

Now many offended citizens of Pakistan will come forward to comment that this is a useless rant, by Mohajirs who aren’t as patriotic as they are. Let it be said on record, that I nor Mohajirs need no lessons in patriotism or nationalism from others.

And on a final note,  dear country men and women, do me a favor and please refer to me as a Pakistanis and not Mohajir or Urdu speaking. Thank you. 


Genocide|Myanmar’s Killing Fields of Rohingya Muslims and Tribal Peoples


The ethno-religious violence in Burma between the Buddhist majority and other groups, such as the Rohinga Muslims, has existed for many decades if not centuries. Yet the world continues to watch in silence as Rohingyas are butcherred and sliced by the radical militant Buddist monks. Over the last few weeks, there have been an increase in ethnic cleansing in the Rakhine state on the country’s west coast.

Thousands of desperate and terror struck Rohingya people are stuck in the sea waters because hardly any Asian country is willing to receive them. The plight of Rohingya boat migrants is the most bizarre example of a growing migration crisis confronting Asia: An estimated 6,000 to 20,000 migrants are right now at sea, fleeing ethnic persecution in Myanmar and abject poverty in Bangladesh, while the countries are pointing fingers at one another and declining to take humanitarian responsibilities towards human lives that are at stake.


As most governments continue indulging in the usual game of “look busy-do nothing” many regional human rights activists are condemning their governments stance on Rohingya boat migrant treatment. Many local activists are busy in mobilising the call for humanitarian assistance to Rohingya boat people. We contacted Malay human rights defender, Adrian Pereira, who has been very critical of the ASEAN states closed door policy towards the Rohingya.

He feels that ASEAN member countries need to jointly address this refugees issue before it becomes disastrous and out of hand, putting the effectively stateless Rohingya people at greater risks.

The Asia division of Human Rights Watch states that the three countries Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand involved should stop “this cruel game of human ping pong”. Many of the refugees had been at sea for weeks or even months, and are running out of food and water.

Elsewhere, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi continues to feel that she does not know whether the Rohingya Muslims qualify for becoming citizens of Myanmar and has been very politically motivated. In a genocide silence is complicity and Myanmar government’s on going persecution of the Rohingya has reached a level so untenable that the vulnerable community are faced with two cold blooded options, to remain and die, or else flee.

While thousands of desperate Rohingyas are at sea risk of peril, a pro-democractic Aung San Suu Kyi is mum on the treatment of minorities. One wonders where is her famous ‘moral authority’ as Muslim Rohingya homes are razed to the ground?

ASEAN Socialism Forum 2015: Reform or Revolution


KUALA LUMPUR: Asean has been around for nearly 50 years but is not working to bring its people together, claimed a group of speakers at a socialist forum. “Asean was founded in 1967 and has a combined population of 625 million, and GDP of more than US$2.5 trillion (RM10.69 trillion). It is important and that’s why the big brothers like the US and China are in town to keep an eye on things,” said Adrian Pereira, director of the North South Initiative.

Sonny Melencio of the Party of the Laboring Masses of the Philippines said that in the 1980s Asean moved from a political grouping into an economic institution. “Its activities are more and more being controlled by big business interests,” he said, citing the representation of conglomerates in Asean business councils.

They were speaking at Socialism 2015: Reform or Revolution, the 11th annual forum organised by Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) held at the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall.

“Lately the talk is of integrating the economies of developing countries like Myanmar and Cambodia, but what this means is neo-liberal globalisation. These countries are being asked to open their economies to the big multi-national corporations,” said Melencio.

“The interests of working people all over Asean are being subverted. Laborers are employed on contracts, often as migrant workers. This means no strong unions and good working conditions, and more profits for the corporates,” Melencio claimed. He said that the situation is that of exclusive growth, not inclusive growth.

Janarthani Arumugam of the Pesticide action network – Asia Pacific works with farmers’ organisations and helps women get involved in the political process. She believes that when economies slow down, it is the common people who suffer.

“It is translated into taxation, the privatization of essential services, the re-orientation of economies into export orientated production.”

“We are facing a situation of corporate capture, with competition for control between the panda and the eagle,” Janarthani said in reference to China and the US. Another element is that Asean has leaders who are willing to surrender its natural resources cheaply.

“Asean is going to be a huge factory with cheap labor and no workers rights. It is very attractive to corporations but does not benefit the local people. If one country tries to improve conditions and offer a decent minimum wage, the corporations can simply move to another.”


  • Author: Martin Vengadesan
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