RIP Ayesha Haroon: Clear-sighted courage, grace and laughter

Ayesha Haroon at a friend's wedding some 20 years ago in Lahore

Ayesha Haroon at a friend’s wedding some 20 years ago in Lahore

My obituary of Ayesha Haroon, published in The News on Feb 4, 2013. As one of our friends pointed out, this is the third woman from our lot in The Frontier Post we’ve lost within a year – Maria Del Nevo, Cass Balchin and now, Ayesha.

RIP Ayesha Haroon: Clear-sighted courage, grace and laughter

By Beena Sarwar

Ayesha Haroon, the lively, gutsy former editor of The News Lahore, fought a brave fight for over four years with bone-marrow cancer, succumbing to it on Saturday night in New York. She was just 46. News of her demise has been met with grief and shock by her many friends and colleagues as well as those who only knew her through her clear-headed, courageous columns. Continue reading

Pakistan’s first ever Oscar: saving face – or losing it?

“To all the women in Pakistan who are working for change, don't give up on your dreams. This is for you” - Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy accepting her Oscar. Reuters photo

A slightly edited version of this article was published by Common Ground News on March 6, 2012

Pakistan’s first ever Oscar: saving face – or losing it?

by Beena Sarwar

BOSTON – Pakistan’s online community erupted in virtual cheers as Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy received an Academy Award for co-directing the Best Documentary (Short Subject), recently at the Hollywood broadcast live by television stations worldwide. A tweet by Pakistani blogger Anthony Permal summed up the feelings of many of his compatriots: “A woman from #Pakistan, who made a film about women, won an Oscar. In your face, world.” Continue reading

“We want to attend universities, not funerals” – Young Women of Balochistan

HRCP activist lit candles on Dec 10, Human Rights Day, that they dedicated to Balochistan. But the killings and disappearances continue - as the photos on the wall testify. Photo: Reuters

Below please see a letter from Young Women of Balochistan, forwarded by a friend who received it via email on Dec 10, 2011, Human Rights Day – a day commemorated around the country and dedicated to the people of Balochistan by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (See this report by Rabia Ali). Ironically and tragically, that very day, a young Baloch human rights activist, 35-year old Faisal Mengal, was gunned down in Karachi (details in this report). As Rabia Ali reports, from July 2010 to November 2011, around 300 dead bodies were found — some even of 14-year-olds, according to Tahir Hussain, Vice Chairperson of the HRCP’s Balochistan chapter. Those killed include two HRCP activists, while the number of people missing range from 5,000 to 6,000.  Read on for this brief appeal by the Young Women of Balochistan… Continue reading

Hundreds of Saudis urge King Abdullah to free Manal, let women drive

From "Saudis Debate Ban on Women Drivers", NYT, May 7, 2009

More than 500 Saudi citizens, providing their full names and occupation have signed this petition to the Saudi King. I got the text of their letter, below, from the facebook group Al Huriyah Li Manal Al Sharif-Khitab Li Al Malik (Freedom For Manal Al Sharif – People’s Petition to the King) formed in support of Manal Masoud and women’s right to drive in Saudi Arabia. Most posts to the group are in Arabic (thanks Rahaf for the translation). This has been festering since the first Gulf War. See report of an earlier campaignSaudis Debate Ban on Women Drivers, by Robert Mackey, NYT, May 9, 2007
: Continue reading

Women rock the boat

Pakistani women demand their rights. Photo: courtesy Nasir Mansoor, LPP

WOMEN’S DAY RALLY IN KARACHI: Thousands of working class women, many of them home based women workers, with red flags in their hands marched on roads of Karachi, chanting slogans against ‘mullahism’, religious extremism and for their democratic rights. The march started from Karachi Press Club and culminated at the Arts Council of Pakistan where a seminar was held in the open air theatre followed by songs, theatre and documentaries. They demanded: *End all discriminatory laws against women and minorities *End religious fundamentalism *Recognize home based women workers as workers in law, extend social security cover to them *Equal opportunity to women in all fields of life

Also see: Dedicated to Pyari Pakistanis: Happy Women’s Day, y’all! a delightful sum up of the situation of Pakistani women, with statistics and action points, by blogger and cartoonist Mehreen Kasana. Check it out 🙂

Karachi rally speakers and demands: Continue reading

Egypt police then and now – remembering May 25, 2005

Egypt is the second biggest recipient of American aid and military hardware, long used by the Mubarak regime to brutalise the people. The Egyptian police are even more brutal than in Pakistan. Watching the situation now on Al Jazeera livestream, when the police have been forced to retreat before the might of the people, I remembered the time some years back when they humiliated and stripped women protestors in public – I posted a message out to my yahoogroup back in May 2005 Eyewitness testimonies: Molestation of Democracy in Egypt. Around the world people observed solidarity with the protestors in Egypt, responding to a call to wear black on Jun 1, 2005. I later wrote this article, posted to my yahoogroup as Personal Political: Women, public space, Cairo and Lahore – copied below. Imagine if there had been twitter and facebook then… Continue reading

DEVELOPMENT-SOUTH ASIA: Women’s Peace Offensive

Analysis by Beena Sarwar

A collective aspiration for peace brings together women from India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Photo:Roshan Sirran

A collective aspiration for peace brings together women from India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Photo:Roshan Sirran

KABUL, Oct 18 (IPS) – ‘Give peace a chance’ may just be another cliché for many, but for women who have suffered the ravages of war, endless strife and other forms of conflict, joining hands to find meaningful solutions to their collective aspiration lends it a whole new meaning.

Within the South Asian region, Pakistan, India and Afghanistan have for decades been torn by internal and external conflicts that have cried out for, but have not quite found, a lasting resolution.

“We waited for a long time to see what the men would do for peace,” Zahira Khattak, a member of the think-tank formed by Pakistan’s Awami National Party (ANP), told IPS.

Continue reading

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