This Popular Women’s Movement Won’t Stop Despite Death Threats

by AryanArtnews
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Karachi, Pakistan – It’s a rare sight. Hundreds of Pakistani feminists, transcending ethnic and class divisions, are celebrating and mourning together in the Pakistani metropolis of Karachi. Behind it is the setting sun over the iconic Quaid Mausoleum, a mausoleum built for the head of the founder of Pakistan, whose ethnic minorities dreamed of a safe and free country. They are all fascinated by the purple scrub women talking on stage.

“Look at my face because I’m not demanding anything wrong. I only demand wages, security and peace,” said Sarah Gil, Pakistan’s first transgender doctor. Declare to take off the surgical mask.

Transgender women face the most organized violence in Pakistan. Twenty transgender women were killed in the country last year, all of which remain unresolved.

The charged crowd responds by chanting Gil’s words to her all at once and in rhythm. They are the sea of ​​daily workers, Christian organizations, transgender organizations, climate activists, and women women and allies who have left schools, workplaces, or rickshaws and came to Aura To March. Gil’s words resonated with all of them.

Aurat or Women’s March is a rights movement centered on women and the most deprived and left-behind groups in Pakistan. It started organically five years ago on March 8th, International Women’s Day. Since then, every year, women gather in the country’s largest cities to sing, sing and dance to build a community that challenges patriarchal violence and oppression across genders, ethnicities, religions, professions and classes. ..

This year, hundreds of women and allies gathered nationwide to march in Multan, Lahore, Karachi, Hyderabad and Islamabad.

In a country where paralyzed violence against women and minorities is a hot topic every day, dozens of feminists dance for freedom, equality and justice, and rudely chanting their slogans.

Just two days before the march, a man in the Mianwali district of Pakistan deadly shot a one-week-old baby girl with cold blood four times because he wanted a son instead of a daughter. In February, Pakistani social media star Kandir Baroque’s brothers were acquitted in the name of “honor” in a 2016 murder case. In July 2021, wealthy social celebrity Zahir Jaffer led him after refusing to marry artist Noor Mukadam. He was sentenced to death last month.

The poster with Noor’s name was all the march. The violence she faced from despised and qualified men is something that all Pakistani women can be involved in.

Especially the organizer of the march. Each year, they are threatened with rape and murder from their online accounts, some anonymously and some not. There is also a brave fake promotion from YouTuber who portrays them as “vulgar” women in order to spread sexuality and immorality in the 200 million Islamic Republic.

Despite this negative barrage, the march organizers make the movement a comprehensive and festive sisterhood centered on the most oppressed women in the country, sharing joy, healing and resistance. Focuses on that.

“Living in fear is a daily routine for us, and it’s commonplace for us. Lahore-based Aura To March volunteer Sanajafuri told VICE World News.

In Karachi, Shaheen Gull, who grew up in a small village and is now studying performing arts in the city, rapped on stage. She said, “I’m a biker girl. I’m a fighter girl.” The crowd fussed when a student sang about the struggle of a woman who liked her face as she commute between her home and school. became. Then she read a poem about children facing sexual abuse in her house. And everyone listened darkly. Country folk singer later sang Sufi songs centuries ago, and women stood up to perform Damar Sufi ritual dances.

In Islamabad, women wrote their hopes for the future of feminists on a piece of cloth hung on a tree. Lahore hosted a live art memorial to honor the lives of 20 murdered transgender women. A fake bloody transgender procession held a sheet over her head, chanting, “She woke up, transwoman woke up,” while the crowd was bathing in rose petals.

“Aura To March provides us with a restful pause, where we can ultimately release our collective anxiety. 21-year-old Karachi-based Khaula Shahid said VICE World News. Told to.

In 2021, Pakistan’s Human Rights Ministry reported 16,153 cases of sexual violence against women, including workplace harassment, over the past four years. According to Human Rights Watch, an average of 1,000 women are killed each year in Pakistan. However, few crimes against women and sexual minorities have been reported.

That is why for many, marching is equal to survival. “I knew there were a lot of security threats this time around and many things could happen, but to be honest, every day is a security threat and I want to march more.” Said Jafri.

And the threat is serious. When marchers gather, religious right groups and misogyny media misbrand the march as a movement to spread immorality, rather than a free movement in which women exist and thrive, endangering the lives of organizers and participants.

In 2020, Islamabad marches were physically attacked by religious conservatives armed with batons and stones. Last year, videos and images of doctors trying to portray participants as having a blasphemous slogan appeared online.

In Pakistan, blasphemy charges the death penalty, and even mere accusations of blasphemy can lead to deadly mob violence. The disinformation campaign has led to numerous murder threats to the organizers, including an ominous warning by the Pakistani Taliban to “fix their path.” As a result, many organizers were forced to hide. Police have also charged blasphemy against the organizers of the Islamabad march. The court later dismissed the indictment.

This year was no exception. In February, religious hardliners from the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) party tried to stop the march under the threat of mob violence.

“We reported the threat to the district administration, but there was no reaction in this regard. In fact, they repeatedly emphasized their powerlessness in the face of right-wing groups,” headquartered in Islamabad. The organizers of the local branch of Aura To March, who puts it, told VICE World News about the conditions of anonymity for their security.

March 8th, March Day, Aurat March Islamabad’s Twitter page Police and district officials claimed to have continued to thwart the event by turning off the speaker’s microphone, threatening the driver, and preventing participants from arriving at the venue. The procession of Islamabad ended early.

While this was happening, religious and conservative groups held an opposition rally at the Islamabad Press Club called “Haya” or a humble march. Ummhassan, the principal of Jamia Hafsa Theological Seminary, reportedly said that the marches of Aurat deserve the same fate as Norumukadam.

In Lahore, marchers of religious groups hosting humble marches, located 200 meters from the aura rally, became more and more aggressive with the slogan of hatred aimed at the aurato marches. Hostile male reporters were seen harassing marches, and at least one at the rally opposed transgender women. The procession of Lahore also ended early due to the turmoil of the opposition. Some have been furious with art installations featuring cardboard clippings from past sensational, misrepresentative, and harassing YouTube journalists.

In one case, reporters repeatedly harassed transgender women and organizers using derogatory slurs during the march, suspecting the existence of transgender people at the event. Lahore’s march also ended early from combined pressure from police, the media, and unruly opposition.

In Karachi, the march was almost canceled because the city administration had a problem with the rainbow graffiti that appeared near the march venue. They claimed that the organizers set it up to promote vulgarity in the march.

“They said we created wall art that promotes” obscenity. ” Neither we nor our allies had anything to do with it. It didn’t look like a rainbow. The Karachi-based organizer told VICE World News and demanded anonymity for their safety. Similar backlash from authorities has hunted down the organizers of the city of Multan.

Despite all opposition and repulsion, the march was pushed forward and the crossing sisterhood and feminine spirit of solidarity prevailed.

The Islamabad march organizer told VICE World News, “I don’t want to stay reactionary, so I’m always doing firefighting, so I’ll organize it,” and demanded anonymity for their safety. “We want to see our own feminist utopia. We really want to move forward. We are something creative, sustainable and hopeful. I want to make. “

From the eve of Aura To March to the sunset of the day, Pakistani women feel safe and courageous with each other. The march has become a space for women to freely express their politics. They organize and celebrate rudely, centered around the most oppressed sisters each year, to counter the system of oppressing and weakening them all.

“We have been crying all year long. Today is the day we are going and we are still alive so we celebrate each other,” said Jaffli. “And we will celebrate as long as we live.”

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