I hesitated writing this blog post because I am afraid of the backlash I will receive for critiquing Pakistan, a country I was not raised in, but am culturally connected to because of my parents. But I realized that remaining silent on a socio-cultural issue that bothered me so deeply was the wrong thing to do. I need to talk about it and create a space for discussion for people like me and Qandeel, who are looked down upon by members of our community.
In the light of recent events taking place there, mainly the murder of Qandeel Baloch, I fear for my safety and the safety of Pakistanis who resist conventional societal norms. Qandeel was murdered by her brother in mid-July for ‘dishonoring the family’ with her bold (bold for Pakistan, at least) videos and social media posts. The issue of gender subordination in Pakistan is a huge one that needs to be dealt with, but it’s hard to spark a change in a country that’s run by oppressors that hold such archaic beliefs.
What saddens me more than anything is the reaction to the murder from Pakistanis in the GTA. One of my Facebook friends posted an article on her page. The reaction from her friends was one I did not expect; one from children who were born and raised in a country as progressive as Canada (in comparison to Pakistan). I saw comments like, “Watch her videos on her page and her recent music video and then u’ll know why!”; “I pity her family more. The insults and abuse they faced [are] because of her reckless actions.” I was in shock. These are comments from women defending the murder of an innocent life, who tried to liberate females in one small way from the oppressors that constantly engage in misogyny in Pakistan! It scares me that these women are being passed down values and beliefs that do not give women freedoms but rather take them away. Especially in a nation that does not value the lives of women. I know it’s hard for immigrants to unlearn the norms that they were raised in – it may be nearly impossible. I’ve seen it with my own parents. However, humanity isn’t something that you learn. Supporting the death of a human rights activist (yes, Qandeel was an activist – her existing and performing against social norms was a form of activism) is WRONG.
The ‘honor killing’ that was committed and the reactions like the ones I posted above also add to the negative picture the media has painted on Islam. Although I no longer follow the religion, I will continue to say that it is a peaceful religion; it’s the extremists that make it seem awful.
So, why won’t I go back to Pakistan again? It’s because if the country isn’t safe for a woman, it will be HELL for a gay man. Before the death of Qandeel I thought I might visit one last time, but that won’t be possible now. Literally anyone who is opposed to the views of the people leading the country and upholding outdated laws will be put on the chopping block. It’s sad. It’s such a beautiful country and I’ve had so many great memories there but I’m not going to put my life at risk. I applaud the people who are stuck in Pakistan and trying to make a change; I really hope that the future generations won’t have to face what the current ones are going through, especially the women and LGBTQ voices that are almost never heard from.
This is why this blog and my social media posts are so important to me. Qandeel rose to popularity because people, especially South Asian women, could relate to her and looked up to her as an inspiration. Her visibility as a woman bending social constructs was helping young women put their rights on the forefront of changes that need to be made in their respective cultures/societies. There are so few queer Desi voices that are open and unafraid to speak and it’s because of events like this one. Our voice and our presence is important. If that means I have to sacrifice going to my ancestral homeland to help liberate young queer youth, then I’m ok with that.