Don’t snuff out the lights

The horrific murder of a journalism student lynched on a university campus in Mardan on April 13 after being accused of ‘blasphemy’, 2017 has revived the urgency of coming together on a joint platform with a minimum common agenda to uphold humanitarian values. Nothing will bring back Mashal Khan, a poet, self-declared humanist and “voice of the voiceless”, but we can at least try to ensure that no other mother loses her Mashal (light) to such barbaric ignorance and orchestrated violence.

We drafted this statement a few months after the massacre of schoolchildren in Peshawar, signed by over a hundred activists, teachers, lawyers and other professionals as well as students in March 2015: Pakistanis against terrorism: Minimum common agenda against violence in the name of religion – below. Does it need to be amended or updated?  Continue reading

The importance of representation: “Put us in the news!”

Morse School students use ribbons to express their support for immigrant families.

I wrote this piece after a discussion with fourth and fifth graders at a public school in Cambridge MA; slightly different versions published in the Cambridge Chronicle and The News on Sunday. The students’ desire to be “in the news” reflects what I believe is one of journalism’s key roles – to ensure that the voices of the under-represented get heard. The selfie-culture sweeping the world isn’t just about narcissism. It speaks to the human need to be affirmed and remembered. I was here. See me. Hear me. 

PERSONAL POLITICAL

By Beena Sarwar

“Did you see our ribbons? They are for immigrant families,” says Emma, one of half a dozen 9 and 10-year olds I’m talking to about journalism on a bitterly cold weekend in March.

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Reflections on fascism, autocracy, media and the democratic political process

fullsizeoutput_153PRINCETON BLOG: Something I wrote for my class blog at Princeton University where I taught a journalism seminar this past semester, based on a lecture soon after the US Presidential elections, by Egyptian journalist Yasmine El-Rashidi, a fellow visiting Ferris Professor of Journalism with the University’s Council of Humanities

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Movies to watch out for: Rahm (Mercy) and Forbidden Steps

Sharing details of two very relevant films by Pakistanis whose work I’ve seen and liked:  Rahm (Mercy), the movie, in London and Glasgow this Friday

Rahm

…And upcoming, seeking support: Forbidden Steps – a feature film that aims to humanize a faith and a people that have long been misrepresented; writer/director Iram Parveen Bilal’s earlier work includes Josh based on Karachi’s Khana Ghar, and The PHD Movie.

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A Battle for the Soul of Pakistan

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Sehwan: Women and children in the courtyard. Photo: Beena Sarwar

Wrote this in one go about the suicide attack at Sehwan Sharif that claimed over 80 lives. Sick at heart but not giving up. Thanks to friends around the world, especially in India for their messages of solidarity, to the Wire for publishing it so fast and editor Siddharth Varadarajan for the photos used with the Wire piece. We had gone to Sehwan together, along with Nandini Sundar and Aslam Khwaja. Extracts from my article:

I wonder if the bangle sellers outside the shrine are alive. I still have some chunky glass bangles I bought, bargaining more for the sake of it than to save money.

Did the woman bouncing a little girl on her shoulders, chanting and dancing to an inner beat before the drums sounded, go back last Thursday? Did they survive the blast?  Continue reading

Online course developed by late Dr Ruqaiya Hasan kicks off in Pakistan

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Ruqaiya Hasan, Hong Kong, Feb 2015. Photo by Lexie Don

Thrilled and excited to share this news from my mother, Zakia Sarwar, founder member of the Society of Pakistan English Language Teachers (SPELT), about the online course for teachers’ professional deveopment that was her sister, my khala ammi Dr Ruqaiya Hasan’s dream

PRESS RELEASE: 11 February 2017

Professional development online course for teachers in Pakistan kicks off

Project posthumously takes forward globally renowned linguist Dr Ruqaiya Hasan’s dream and intellectual legacy

KARACHI: The posthumous launch of an online course for Pakistani teachers designed by the internationally renowned linguist Dr Ruqaiya Hasan kicks off February 11, 2017, taught by Dr. Carmel Cloran, Dr. Hasan’s colleague and co-researcher from Macquarie University, Sydney Australia. Continue reading

Women’s Action Forum letter to the Chief Justice, Supreme Court of Pakistan

recover-activistsReproducing below the letter sent by the Women’s Action Forum letter to the Chief Justice, Supreme Court of Pakistan about the “disappeared” activists and the deliberate and sustained campaign against them in the media and on social media. This campaign, with its accusations of blasphemy and treason being leveled against the missing activists and those campaigning for their safe recovery poses a danger to those missing, their families and the human rights campaigners.

WAF urges that the state, its institutions and agencies be held responsible for the recovery of the missing bloggers/activists and inform what the investigation has yielded, and that the federation be held answerable for non-compliance of SC orders on the issue of enforced disappearances.

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