I was going to write about Pakistani model and actress Qandeel Baloch, who was murdered by her brother in an “honor killing” just three days ago, but I didn’t know much about her, and, of course, honor killings are a dime a dozen in the misogynistic and faith-ridden culture of Pakistan. But then I read a truly touching and heartfelt tribute to her by Maajid Nawaz in The Daily Beast, “Murdered Pakistani Icon Quandeel Baloch had zero f***s left to give.” Do read it, as it’s immensely moving.
The facts are clear: Baloch was not just a model and actress, but was actively challenging Pakistani’s paternalistic culture by posting salacious pictures of herself on social media, explaining why she was doing it, and—her greatest “crime”—consorting with a Pakistani cleric during Ramadan, during which she flirted with him, sat on his lap, and had drinks with him. Smitten, the cleric. Mufti Abdul Qavi, reportedly asked her to marry him. (He was fired, of course, but nobody will kill him. It’s the woman who must be killed, for she’s the temptress.)For these and other “crimes,” Baloch was strangled by her brother, who first drugged her before smothering her. Reported to the police by Baloch’s father (a welcome act of “dishonor”), her brother has been arrested. He showed no remorse, saying that he was glad for what he did, and it was better to kill her than live with dishonor and have to kill himself. Here are a few more of the “crimes” that led to her murder:
On her final, July 4 post to her Facebook page, which has almost 800,000 fans, she wrote: “I am trying to change the typical orthodox mindset of people who don’t wanna come out of their shells of false beliefs and old practices. ”
The 26-year-old faced frequent misogynist abuse and death threats but continued to post.
Earlier this year, Baloch offered to strip if the Pakistani cricket team beat India.
She also posed for selfies with a high-profile Muslim cleric in an incident that saw him swiftly rebuked by the country’s religious affairs ministry.
Before her death Baloch spoke of worries about her safety and had appealed to the interior ministry to provide her with security for protection. No help was provided and the interior ministry has not commented on her death.
Here’s one of the incriminating photos of Baloch with the cleric:
Qandeel’s videos were not very different from the thousands of others shared by 20-something social media celebrities across the Internet. She pouted into the camera, discussed her hairstyles and shared cooing confessions about her celebrity crushes.
But in Pakistan, her flirty antics pushed the boundaries of what is acceptable.
On the list of 145 countries featured in the World Economic Forum’s 2015 Gender Gap Report, Pakistan is second to last with regards to gender disparity.According to the Independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, violence against women is rampant, with as many as 212 women being killed in the name of ‘honor’ in the first five months of 2016.
And a few emotional words from Nawaz, whose piece you must read:
I will focus on Qandeel herself, her courage, and what that courage should mean for the rest of us. So let us not just call Qandeel an aspiring Pakistani model or an aspiring actress. Let us not refer to Qandeel only as a Pakistani social media star, and let us not primarily define her as the Pakistani Kim Kardashian.
Qandeel Baloch, real name Fauzia Azeem, may have been many of those things, but she transcended every single one of them. For despite Kim Kardashian’s undoubtedly noble and widely lauded contribution to social justice in America, she does not risk her life daily merely by existing.
But by her mere presence Qandeel Baloch was a one-woman revolution against religiously and culturally justified misogyny. This in a society where the cost of speaking out can be lethal betrayal by those who are meant to love you the most: your own family. So most of all let us remember Qandeel Baloch as a fearless Pakistani women’s rights campaigner who had zero fucks left to give.
For it is only by having zero fucks left to give that a woman in today’s Pakistan can be brave enough to post sexually suggestive videos of herself. It is only by having zero fucks left to give that a woman in today’s Pakistan could promise to strip online if her country’s national cricket team won against India. It is only by having zero fucks left to give can a woman in today’s Pakistan pluck up the courage to summon a leading member of her country’s mullah mafia to a hotel room, only to film him turning to putty in her hands, mesmerized by her flirtation as he allowed her to sit in his lap while she donned his religious hat. Apparently, Mufti Abdul Qavi even proposed to her in that fateful hotel room encounter.
And about the odious practice of honor killing, which of course is reinforced by Islam as well as Hindusim:
The way Qandeel did this was to highlight the sheer hypocrisy present in a society that punishes sexuality while returning one of the highest gay porn searches in the world. Men disparagingly labeled her as “loose” while drooling all over her. Women muttered at her scandalousness while simultaneously envying her.
That Qandeel was immensely brave is self-evident. Even in his mourning, her father recognized this fact. But the purpose of such misnamed “honor” killings is enforcement. They are the last resort mechanism left to a society that fetishizes sex in the name of religion and culture, and as a result despises and most of all fears female expression. That millions of Pakistani girls—who saw in Qandeel a ray of hope—will now be intimidated into silence is beyond doubt.
Finally, some words that made me tear up:
My dear brothers, let us all have zero fucks left to give. In what world could it possibly be “honorable” to strangle your own sister to death with your bare hands, then boast about it? In which religion is the murder of your own sibling more “honorable” than love? We have to accept that our “honor” is not defined by our female relatives’ actions. Our “honor” can only be defined by our own behavior. So to those among us who agree with me, there is only one option left to take. Let us celebrate Qandeel, not be ashamed of her. Let us place Qandeel’s beautiful image on our T-shirts. Let us proudly post her pictures on our social media accounts. Let us show those who prefer to suffocate beauty that we are not scared. We are not scared of female emancipation, nor are we scared of those who enforce against it.
And when our brothers stop us to ask why we are doing so, let us cite the passage of the Quran in reply: “for what crime was she killed?”
. . . And finally, Qandeel Baloch, I say to you not rest in peace, for that would ascribe to your death a level of passivity that your life proves you would resent. No, to my sister Qandeel Baloch, you fearless Pakistani warrior who had zero fucks left to give, I say to you…may you rest in power.