Heroism and Hatred

This post is a bit different, not least because it has nothing to do with precious metals, or money, or anything else in a similar vein that actually doesn't matter in any sense in the grand scheme of things.

But there's a story I want to tell, not least because it's unlikely to be told by anyone else. I have had to change the name and some minor details, but have done so only to protect the family and friends of the person concerned.

I first met Saima Khan a year ago. An utterly charming young woman, who lived in the tribal areas of Pakistan, Saima was (by external standards) a conservative Muslim and a proud Pashtun. Her life was her community and her family, and she often despaired in private conversation about the direction in which her country was headed. In public, however, she was inspirational. She was 5 feet tall and weighed no more than 90 pounds, but she had a knack of being able to fill a room with her presence, her intellect and her commitment to making a better life for those around her.

She wore the full veil, but embellished it with colourful clothes that reflected her vibrant and cheerful personality. As I'd only ever met her in the presence of men, the only part of her body that I ever saw were her beautiful enormous dark brown eyes and the expertly applied kohl that surrounded them. Even her ankles were self-consciously hidden each time her abaya threatened to rise more than an inch or so. When we had breakfast together she would demurely slide the food under her veil so as not to risk a glimpse of her face being stolen by the men in the room.

But Saima was no shrinking violet. She worked for an NGO, which she had founded herself, that was dedicated to improving the lives of women in the Pashtun belt. She worked tirelessly to educate women in her community about health resources available to them, education possibilities, and their rights under the Pakistani constitution. We'd argued about human rights, sustainable development, and Pashtun culture, and she always won. She was the living embodiment of that rarely obtained ideal of confidence without a trace of arrogance.

Sadly, the support of women's rights in the FATA, especially by another woman, is a dangerous cause. She was warned repeatedly by the TTP (Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan) that what she was doing was against Islam [comment: it wasn't] and against Pashtun culture [comment: it wasn't]. Eventually they learned of her plans to educate women in the tribal areas about voting in the elections next year: not voting for one particular party or another, but rather just the fact that they had the right to vote, in private, and for whomever they wished. This was the bridge too far for the TTP and they ordered a crack-down on all NGOs in Saima's tribal Agency.

Saima refused to yield. The last time I spoke to her, she was at pains to impress on me the fact that giving women in her community a voice was her life's work, and that it was for her god to decide how long that work should be allowed to continue, not a self-appointed representative of her god on earth. She fully understood the dangers, but chose not to follow many of her friends and colleagues, who had relocated to Islamabad in fear of their lives.

On Wednesday, whilst she was walking to work, a motorbike pulled up beside Saima and the male rider shot this tiny, energetic, creative, altruistic, daring 25-year old woman five times in the head.

On Wednesday, the world lost another entirely unknown hero, who I cannot even name accurately in this post in case her family face recriminations.

On Wednesday, a glimpse of hope was extinguished in a region that has already suffered so much fear and hatred and violence.

And, because I pathetically could not find the words to console her brother, I wanted to post this unreported event from a sea of unreported events, even though it has no obvious connection to the reasons people come to this site.

Please forgive me that whim.



Anonymous said...

Sorry to hear this, JdA, it's sometimes a sad world we live in. When I hear of things like this, I feel sad and then angry. Angry because evil shit like this often goes on in the name of a "god" while the goddess is often the one that suffers.

FWIW... If you were still locked in the cellar, I'd come visit you:) hehehe;)

Beer Holiday said...

Sad to hear, but an important story. I hope to find out more about what she aimed to achieve, and donate to the cause if possible.

Hope you are well.

mr pinnion said...

Sad story.

"it was for her god to decide how long that work should be allowed to continue"
Decision made.
God does indeed work in mysterious ways.


GM Jenkins said...

You know what's disturbing? I'm sure the killers are convinced they've done a really good deed.

Pure evil is actually quite rare (e.g. psychopathy). Terrible events like these are usually driven by conflicting interpretations of what's Good and Just.

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