Politics, The World

Qandeel Baloch did what no other Pakistani woman could

Let us honour her memory by recognizing she was a warrior who fought for herself when no one else did.

Qandeel Baloch was a force to be reckoned with and made her own way, living life on her terms after it had tried to break her.

She stood up and fought for herself.

As women, we are taught to be loving, to be kind, to be good. But no one ever teaches you to love yourself – definitely not in the rural areas of my country.

Ladies: choose yourself. Value yourself. Love yourself. Follow your dreams. And most importantly, fight for you, even if no one else will.

That’s what Qandeel did.

Despite living in a patriarchal society that forced her into a marriage with an older man who was cruel and tormented her: she broke free. She told her family that she didn’t want to live with him, but she was given no help by them. Even when her husband told her that she was beautiful, he wanted to destroy her. He wanted to take away what God had gifted her with, so no man would ever look at her.

In urban areas, domestic violence and domestic slavery are often justified with the “gilded cage” the husband keeps his wife in. Unluckiest still are the women who are from rural areas, because they don’t even get that. Qandeel had said in interviews that her husband attempted to throw acid on her.

Luckily, she survived those attempts.

This dehumanization is not new – we kill women every day. We kill them when we doubt their pain, their suffering, and we kill them when we question if he really did torture her.

Qandeel’s first crime? She refused to die.

She broke her chains and blazed her own way. The tongues wagging are not just wagging because of her “boldness” but because she wasn’t meant to make it out alive, and she sure as hell wasn’t supposed to become a force to be reckoned with.

She was murdered by her own brother. He drugged and then strangled her. This is not the first incident and sadly won’t be the last.

Blood is thicker than water, it is said. Sure must be when a woman is killed by her brother for talking on her cell phone. Or, as in Qandeel’s case, for bringing dishonor to the “Baloch name.”

Her second crime: her pseudonym used her husband’s name. Her countless selfies and videos were under the pseudonym Qandeel Baloch. She captioned one of her photos “#BreakingNews.” More than anything, though, Qandeel was intelligent enough to recognize what would make her go viral.

Repeatedly. And she celebrated herself in the process.

Her third crime: her risqué videos.

Of course, the men who watched them, guardians of their own guilt and shame, hide behind their “ghairat” (honor) and shake their heads at the dishonor she’s bringing the country. Her reputation, her character, lies not in her becoming an independent woman, but in the eyes of the males in her country. Those eyes that roam everywhere, that watch every inch of a woman’s body and then talk about how far women have fallen. Those eyes are weighing scales that are forever tipped in the favor of shrines built to protect and serve masculinity, their pride, and honor that gets wounded oh-so-easily.

Most recently, during Ramadan, she was invited to spend time with a mufti, who was trying to bring her to the “rightly guided path,” for she was beautiful but damned to hell. He generously offered to save her soul. Instead, she exposed him as a hypocrite. She talked about how he did not fast therefore breaking his carefully built image of piety. He smoked her cigarettes (she was extremely irritated by this fact) and drank her soft drink.

She outed him as a hypocrite and as a result of the talk show that did the rounds over and over he lost his seat on the moon sighting committee.

It’s a status symbol thing.

The members of that committee get to decide whether we celebrate Eid or not judging on whether the moon has been sighted (the Islamic month beings on new lunar month) and so the muftis drag out their speeches until it weighs as much as their bloated egos and a great deal of fuss is made over them as we the plebeians wait for them to just get on with it.

Perhaps the mufti should have thought of saving his own soul before he attempted to save hers.

Emotionally and psychologically abusing your wife, or even in Qandeel’s case, beating her and tearing into her psyche only to diminish her self-worth, does not disrupt the honor of the men in my society.

Her brother’s honor was not affected at all when his sister was tortured by her husband.

Qandeel’s brother did not find his ghairat to do something about the shame that her husband was bringing to the Baloch name by beating and torturing her. This would disturbingly seem to suggest that women in our society are born to tolerate abuse.

The reality is that this woman was on fire.

Let us honor her memory by recognizing she was a warrior who fought for herself. She stayed with her husband after she had a child but wanted to continue her education and she wanted to work. Her husband did not allow it, so she went to a woman’s shelter and divorced him.

She stood up to all her demons and killed all the dragons who breathed fire and sent hell her way. She completed her Bachelor’s on her own after the divorce and giving up her son to her husband.

Her interview in Dawn was heartbreaking to read because she said the media didn’t value what she was doing for women. She said women have told her that she had given them hope, but she isn’t being recognized as a symbol of emancipation for women.

Even after she was brutally murdered, we continue to kill her. By debating whether she was worthy of having her funeral read.

Murder is not a sin, apparently. We continue to kill her when I see women post on social media saying “she deserved to die.”

Women who berate her are forever trying to tip the scales in their favor, even if it means tearing down their sisters in the process. Comforting the misogynists with what they want to hear is more important than condemning murder.

More important than recognizing that when her own flesh and blood had forsaken her, she created a way out.

More important than recognizing Qandeel was brave not bitter; she wanted to leave the country with her parents because of the death threats she received. Her parents, who wouldn’t even save her from being tortured – Qandeel wanted to save them. She wanted to give them a better life as she was earning and capable of standing on her own two feet. She was fulfilling all her dreams of being an independent woman.

It’s more important to comfort misogynists than to celebrate how generous and forgiving she was. Like I said, those revered shrines must be kept intact.

We as women don’t get to be angry.

We don’t get to be upset or say how horrified we are at what happened.

Even now, on social media men, are claiming her gender had nothing to do with it.

Really bright misogynists, my countrymen are.

To eulogize her, I will use a statement which is a true testament to her character, the most powerful words that she spoke: “Why don’t they recognize that this girl fought?”

Well, I sure as hell recognize it. May you rest in peace, warrior.