Pakistani lawyer, Ayesha Gulalai Wazir, has accused male colleague and Pakistani politician, Imran Khan, of sending her inappropriate text messages on August 2nd. Since then, Wazir has been met with online abuse, and even death threats.
The messages, as Wazir accused, were objectionable – they told Wazir that women were not respected in Tehreek-e-Tnsaf, the political party of Khan. In response, the New York Times reports that the party has denied the existence of such messages.
Many social media followers responded with profane comments, intending to shame Wazir for what they have deemed an attack on Khan. In addition, to calling Wazir a “liar and an opportunist,” the users also tried to shame Wazir’s sister, Maria Toorpakai Wazir. The basis for those attacks lay in her sister’s sports attire – she was wearing shorts, when competing in international squash tournaments. This attire is considered inappropriate in traditional Muslim culture.
This case is a prime example of the growing hostility against women in various middle eastern countries, specifically in Pakistan. Pakistan is, according to the Atlantic, “one of the most dangerous” countries in the world for women.”
While online abuse for women is a global issue, women in Pakistan have much more to fear. “With its entrenched culture of discrimination and violence against women,” a New York Times article explained, “the threats are not idle.”
The Human Rights Commision of Pakistan reported that roughly 500 women in the country are killed yearly. Most of these killings are done by family members who believe that the women have dishonored their family names. The cause of these honor killings could be anything from denying a marriage arrangement to being too western on social media, or even just singing at a wedding.
The Digital Rights Foundation, a Pakistani internet advocacy group, conducted a survey of women at 17 different Pakistani universities. Their findings determined that 34 percent admitted to experiencing online harassment and abuse, which was defined as “cyberstalking, bullying, and the leaking and manipulation of personal information and pictures.”
Executive Director of the Digital Rights Foundation Nighat Dad said, “there is a culture of violence against women that already exists in the home, the workplace, in public places, and now it is increasingly manifesting itself in online spaces as well.”
As of now, Wazir has yet to release the accused messages to the public. She fears, according to a New York Times article, that releasing the messages could be seen as further action against Khan’s supporters, and does not want to entice any further attacks.
“Instead of responding to my accusations or proving that I am wrong, people are saying throw acid on me?” Wazir told the New York Times in a telephone interview, “I can’t believe they have fallen to this level, but it is just part of a larger culture encouraged by the society and political parties here.”
Marvi Sired, a Pakistani journalist, who has reported on many cases like these, said “women who are opinionated, who are professionals doing jobs traditionally done by men, who are entering politics and media, of course they are going to be in the line of fire on the internet. And when they fight back, the abuse just gets worse.”
Wazir said that she is willing to share the messages with a judge or an “investigating authority,” if she is assured that the messages will remain private and confidential.
Featured Image by J_O_I_D on Flickr
Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)
Sign Up For Our Newsletter