Qandeel Baloch was a 26-year-old model from Pakistan. She shot to fame with her selfies, controversial videos, and risqué photos. According to reports, she was set to appear in the Indian reality TV show ‘Bigg Boss.’ It didn’t take long for her to become the woman everyone loved to hate. A quick look at her Facebook profile reveals vile and vulgar comments from Pakistani men and women, calling her ‘she-male,’ ‘shameless,’ ‘cheap,’ ‘slut,’ among other things; as well as giving her death threats. While she was mocked and made fun of, she was also everyone’s guilty pleasure—hence the popularity.
Qandeel, an ambitious young woman, called herself a ‘one woman army’ and a feminist. She voiced her hatred for Pakistan’s patriarchal society and expressed her belief in the freedom of women to do as they please. No stranger to media scrutiny and scandals—in the week leading to her death—her ex-husband surfaced out of the blue claiming they had a son. She admitted that she was forced into marriage at the age of 17 and escaped the marriage a year and a half later. She said her husband was violent and abusive, constantly threatened to throw acid at her face and refused to let her study or get a job. Responding to a question on why she hid her marriage, she said:
“What do you think will happen in a forced marriage? With an uneducated man, an animal. What would I say, that I am already married? Why would I say it? I never accepted him as my husband in my heart or mind.”
After escaping the marriage, she had to return her son to her husband because she was broke. Later on, she went on to complete her matriculation and privately got a Bachelor’s degree. In an interview, she revealed that she was making enough money to support an entire household. While she finally fulfilled her dream of becoming what she wanted, reaching for more—believing the sky's the limit—she also wrote to Pakistan’s Interior Ministry asking for protection as she was receiving death threats. Her requests were ignored.
She was also being threatened by her brother and urged to stop posting photos on the internet. While visiting her family in her hometown of Multan, she had an argument with her brother who strangled her to death late on Friday night.
Her Facebook posts from her last day are quite powerful and resonant going on to show the power of a small-town girl who became a force in her own right:
“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.
“No Matter how many times i will be pushed down under,,But I m Fighter I will Bounce back..#Qandeel #Baloch is "One Women Army".. inspiration to those ladies who are treated badly and dominated by the society..I will Keep On Achieving and I know You will Keep On Hating..DAMN but Who Cares.”
Meanwhile the Pakistani people are divided between calling her murder something she had coming, something she was asking for and deserved—and even celebrating her honor killing; while a small number of other people condemn it. On the other hand, her honor killing has drawn criticism from some prominent figures in Pakistan; including politicians, activists, writers, actors, filmmakers, and singers.
Sharmila Faruqi, a prominent politician, tweeted:
“She didn't conform to the norm, outspoken & unapologetic, silenced 4 ever. Shocked & saddened at #QandeelBaloch's murder.
“And as has been proved today, if you're a woman in Pakistan, ambition can get you killed.”
Sharmeen Obaid, a filmmaker who won an Academy Award this year for her film on honor killings, tweeted:
“#QandeelBaloch killed in an #honorkilling- how many women have to die before we pass the Anti Honor Killing Bill?”
Ali Zafar, a popular Pakistani singer, tweeted:
“If women started killing us to protect their honour, a lot of us would be dead!”
Kamila Shamsie, Pakistani novelist, tweeted:
“If you look like this and talk like this it can get you killed. Another bleak day for Pakistan and its ‘honour”
Photo Credits: Dawn.com