Idealism didn't kill Sabeen, bullets did

Published April 25, 2015
Sabeen wouldn’t rest in peace. She had too much still to do, create, fight for. — Photo by Insiya Syed
Sabeen wouldn’t rest in peace. She had too much still to do, create, fight for. — Photo by Insiya Syed

It’s easy to be cynical. Being cynical means not having to do anything, and the lack of action creates its own self-fulfilling prophecy. The cynical person sees a protest march and thinks, “That won’t accomplish anything”. And, if it doesn’t, then their cynicism is rewarded.

But, maybe, all the march needed was that one extra person to truly work.

Sabeen Mahmud wasn’t cynical. She was sarcastic, angry, bold. But not cynical. She was the one who believed in direct action, in marching in streets, in carrying signs and organising vigils.

Sabeen created things. She created movements and she created avenues of protest. She had no time for cynicism, because Sabeen was fuelled by hope. And, it was that hope that killed her.

Actually, that’s not true.

It’s easy in these things to say, “We killed her with our apathy,” or, “Her idealism killed her”. But none of those things killed her. Hosting and promoting a talk on Balochistan didn’t even kill her. Giving Mama Qadeer space to speak didn’t kill her either, nor was she killed by her refusal to be cowed by censorship.

Also read: T2F hosts the Balochistan discussion that others shy away from

In the end, we know what killed her.

Five bullets, fired by a gunman, authorised by decision makers who have had so many others killed.

That’s what killed her.

She wasn’t the first to be killed by them, and she won’t be the last.

So don’t blame yourself, and don’t blame hope or idealism or courage or society or any of those other philosophical concepts. We need them.

The only ones to blame are her killers.

So what did they kill?

They killed Sabeen Mahmud. Sabeen who gave me my first job, back when she ran a web design company on Kh-e-Ittehad. Sabeen Mahmud who told me about her idea for a cafe that would be a safe space for creativity and expression, and I cynically told her it would never work.

Sabeen Mahmud who used to make me bring my daughter to comedy gigs so that she could play with her.

Sabeen Mahmud who used to idolise Steve Jobs and I used to goad her into arguments by mocking him, just because I knew we both liked arguing.

Sabeen Mahmud who said ‘no’ to tired and lazy cynicism, and set about creating avenues of hope.

Sabeen Mahmud who created a place where art hung on the walls and poets and writers and activists spoke the truth.

Sabeen Mahmud who knew this would eventually happen to her, but didn’t let that stop her, or even slow her down.

They killed Sabeen Mahmud, a restless, bold, courageous, fiery, idealistic force of nature that never stopped trying to do things better and make things greater.

Also read: Sabeen, the one who never backed down

It’s customary also, to say, “Rest in peace.” But that’s not Sabeen.

Sabeen wouldn’t rest in peace. She had too much still to do, create, fight for.

Peace is what Sabeen was striving towards, and was killed for doing so. Sabeen Mahmud was too restless to “rest in peace”.

I’m trying really hard to honour Sabeen’s life by fighting off the cynicism and stoking hope. But, right now, I just can’t stop crying.


Avoid Modi’s nationalist turf
Updated 19 Oct 2021

Avoid Modi’s nationalist turf

It remains the only party with a presence in every Indian state and makes it best equipped to effect the required radical change.
The lamp of guidance
Updated 19 Oct 2021

The lamp of guidance

Those seeking to learn from his example must follow the moral precepts he gave otherwise it is half-hearted devotion at most.


Opposition’s chance?
Updated 19 Oct 2021

Opposition’s chance?

What the opposition can do is take advantage of the cleavage between PTI and the establishment, perhaps widen it and leverage it.
19 Oct 2021

Evading tax laws

MERELY 2.5m or 35pc of the 7.2m total registered taxpayers or NTN holders have filed their returns for tax year ...
19 Oct 2021

KCR delays

AS political and bureaucratic stakeholders drag their feet over reviving the Karachi Circular Railway, residents of...
Financial troubles
Updated 18 Oct 2021

Financial troubles

Growing trade gap is fuelling the current account deficit and bringing the already meagre foreign exchange reserves under stress.
18 Oct 2021

Complaint portal

IN a ruling on Thursday, the Mingora bench of the Peshawar High Court held that the Prime Minister’s Performance...
18 Oct 2021

Capital’s master plan

IT is encouraging that on Thursday, the restructured commission formed by the federal cabinet to revise ...