Friday, July 19, 2013

Baloch Women Taking More Prominent Role in Fight for Independence from Pakistan

Baloch women participate in Karachi Protest (Photo: Fahad Desmukh)Balochistan is one of the most underdeveloped regions in Pakistan, and has traditionally had a heavily male-dominated patriarchal society. Women have rarely had a role in public life. But things have been changing recently, as increasing numbers of women are taking up active and leading roles in the Baloch nationalist movement. One such women is Zarina Baloch. When her cousin was found murdered in February, it was a turning point in her life. Baloch’s cousin, Sangat Sana, was a young political activist who supported the idea of Balochistan’s secession from Pakistan. He had been missing for two years before his mutilated body was found.
“I was in Karachi when I heard the news that the mutilated body has been found in Turbat. I don’t have words. What can I do?” she says. “I heard there is a protest by BHRO the next day, so I have to join that protest and I joined. I even spoke to many news channels and told them that my brother has been killed. I got his mutilated body.” Zarina Baloch was a high school student then, and it was the first time she became politically active. Since then, attending protest rallies and sit-ins has become a part of her daily routine.She attended a recent protest rally in front of the Karachi Press Club, with other women, young and old. They’re all wearing traditional Balochi dresses with intricate colorful embroidery, and most of their faces are covered with veils. And at the back of the rally are a handful of men straggling along, and hardly as involved in the protest as the women. “Shame on the United Nation’s silence!” the protest leader chants. “Where are you UN?” This protest is about what is known in Pakistan as the “missing persons” issue.

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