Qandeel Baloch may not have been a name recognized by many outside Pakistan while she was still live. However, murdered by her brother on Friday night in a so-called honor killing, her life and death are fueling hot debate about the lack of women’s rights in the Muslim world. Her brave and tragic story has reached outside of Pakistan, touching people around the globe.
Qandeel was 26 at her death. The Inquisitr reported that Baloch was killed in her family home in Multan by a brother who felt her social media postings tarnished the family’s honor.
Arrested on Saturday, he has confessed and expresses no remorse.
Often saucy, some of her online behavior may have cut close to the line of acceptability in Western society, but in the Muslim world in which she lived, she ventured into very dangerous territory. According to Al Jazeera, Qandeel Baloch first came to the attention of the public in Pakistan when she appeared as a contestant on the Pakistani version of the reality television program Idol. After that, she launched a social media campaign in what appears to have been an attempt to raise awareness in Pakistan for women’s rights. She published videos in her native Pakistani and appeared on television.
The post above was accompanied by what could be called a mission statement.
“As a women we must stand up for ourselves..As a women we must stand up for each other…As a women we must stand up for justice. I believe I am a modern day feminist. I believe in equality. I need not to choose what type of women should be. I don’t think there is any need to label ourselves just for sake of society. I am just a women with free thoughts free mindset and I LOVE THE WAY I AM.”
As details of the life of Qandeel Baloch emerge, she can be seen as a woman who must be admired for her courage and determination. CNN explained that Qandeel Baloch is a pseudonym, adopted after she left the husband she had married at the age of 17.
In an exclusive interview she gave to Dawn, which was updated two days ago, Qandeel said her family had forced her to marry an older man she did not want. He was uneducated and abused her. Baloch had wanted to study. She left her husband after under two years of marriage, taking her baby boy with her. However, Qandeel was forced to return the child to her estranged husband, as children in Islam belong to the father. She managed to complete her matriculation and begin university studies, at the same time developing her social media career, hoping to provide support and hope for other young women stifled by the patriarchal society.
— inti (@intisarahmed_) July 16, 2016
The Pakistani online news site Dawn was often criticized for publishing material on Baloch.
“Hamna Zubair, the culture editor of Pakistani newspaper Dawn, told CNN that she had received much criticism for carrying pieces on Baloch. One commentator asked her if she would be ‘reporting from a brothel’ next.”
Even this relatively tame video, a rare one in English, is sufficient to ire conservative Pakistanis.
In February, the Pakistani film A Girl in the River was awarded an Oscar for Best Documentary Short Subject. That same month, two publications discussed honor killings, the first apparently coincidentally and the second in direct response to the film.
In the New York Post, renowned feminist Phyllis Chesler discussed the unwillingness of the academic researchers in the West to truly grapple with the phenomenon of honor killings. She claims that, while women are instructed by the Quran to behave modestly and to obey the men in their families, killing women who show defiance is not sanctioned.
“The origin of honor killings probably resides in shame-and-honor tribalism, not necessarily in a particular religion. I don’t understand why other scholars have not yet absorbed this point.”
Dawn reported on the reactions of Pakistan’s prime minister to the film after a private viewing.
“Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif recently watched A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness, Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy’s Oscar-nominated documentary about ‘honour’ killings. In a statement following the screening, he told Ms Chinoy and his audience that there is no ‘honour’ in murder.
“In the days since it has been announced that the government will move to plug holes in laws that currently allow killers (often family members) to go unpunished. Ms Chinoy has expressed the hope that her film would help put an end to honour killings in Pakistan.”
Now, only a few months later, the whole world is watching to see how Pakistan will deal with the brother who murdered Qandeel Baloch. And Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy wants to know as well.
The documentary Honor Diaries features well known feminists from Muslim society, such as Raheel Raza, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and Quanta A. Ahmed, who speak out against the horrors of a misogynist society and seek to raise awareness of the phenomenon. Now, Qandeel Baloch’s silenced voice must be added to the outcry.
[Photo by M. Jameel/AP Images]