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What it means to be a woman in Karachi

Published Jan 15, 2013 02:57am


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IT has been two years since I have been to Pakistan. There is a longing to go back; it is as if the smell of rain, pakoras and chai beckon me to my motherland. Yet, I undergo a feeling of intense fear every time the thought of going back recurs.

Growing up in a posh area of the city of Karachi as a girl was a bittersweet experience. On the one side, I was expected to be the glamorous hip girl going to parties in Defence, and, on the other, I was the frightened girl dodging bullets as I made my way to my grandmother’s house in Gulshan-i-Iqbal. Looking back at it now, it seems as if I lived two entirely different lives. I remember the striking contrast between the environment inside homes and outside on the streets.

Today, violence is blaring in the faces of moderate Karachiites. It is still hard to imagine: how did it get so bad? It seems while we were living our perfect lives, with our one-dish parties and fine dining at restaurants, the world outside was gradually changing. Deaths were taking place in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region, and there was a war going on in Swat. But Karachiites were not affected by it.

However, the deaths have come closer. They are no longer detached from us; they are happening to people within our community; people we actually know. The recent killing of Shahzeb Khan seems to have jolted the youths of Karachi who now realise that it can happen to any of us.

We hear of five to 10 targeted deaths every week on an average in Karachi. Violence seems to be going out of hand. In addition to the already-present fear, Interior Minister Rahman Malik says that attacks would be carried out in Karachi during Jumma prayers and bans the use of mobile phones, thrusting us back into the seventh century. How can an ordinary civilian survive without a mobile phone in Karachi? It is beyond my comprehension.

There seems to be no end to the troubles.

A girl was recently gang-raped and dumped naked on the sidewalk in Delhi. Hundreds of sexual assaults and rape cases in Karachi go unreported every month. Let’s be honest: I have had my bottom groped at least six times when I was in Karachi, and this was all before I turned 14 while living in Defence. I cannot imagine what girls living in other localities of Karachi have to go through every day.

The Taliban have started targeting specific women that it deems harmful to its beliefs and preaching. Recently six women volunteers were murdered in cold blood by the Taliban in different cities of the country. The attack on Malala Yousufzai highlights the tactics that the Taliban are now employing: the targeting of young female activists. Young women who dare to raise their voices have become a threat to them, and the only way they can keep blocking any sort of change from taking place is to eliminate these specific women activists.

Yes, I am scared to return. I do not know what my fate will be when I return to volunteer for an NGO in Karachi this summer. I do not know how many more assaults I will experience, or how many power outages I will have to sit through. I do not know how many bullets I will dodge and how many more men I will hate. I do know one thing though: growing up in Karachi has taught me to be stronger than titanium. “What does not kill you only makes you stronger.”

Karachiites are people filled with courage and patriotism. I know deep down there is hope for Karachi and Pakistan because its people are committed, patriotic and do not give up easily. The pride and the stories of struggle during Pakistan’s independence in 1947 and earlier by our ancestors are too strong in our hearts to give up on Pakistan that easily and allow the world to call it a failed state.

I believe in staying safe, but I also believe in fate and I know death will come when it has to come. At least I would have done my share to change the world just that little bit when it does come. As Malala said, “No, I am not afraid of anyone.”

RABEYA JAWAID Middlebury, Vermont, USA


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Comments (15) Closed

Vivek Raj Jan 15, 2013 07:01am
I am from India and really I need to admire your courage who is saying spade as spade. What I have learn't from my experience of 45 years of adult hood is, no person is bad from birth, but the surrounding which makes the human spoil. We in India turned hostile to the government on many issues, some of the corrupt people did try to engage us in infighting, but we did learn some of our lessons from our own mistakes and forced our leaders to bend a bit. I agree there is a long road for us to correct, but hatred and revenge is not the solution. I do not know much about the religion(s), but what i know is no religion teaches hatred and killing for not following a specific religion, As a human we need to respect others if we expect others to respect us. Unfortunately some of the leaders Pakistan only learned and groomed hatred towards other religion and today that ghost has grown so much it is not even able to be controlled by its master. As we say, it is better to love more and hate as one day hate will eat one self. I hear you and wish you one day you walk freely in your mother land without any fear.
Basit Jan 15, 2013 06:18am
I admire your courage, people like you should be running the country rather than "professional", corrupted and inept polticians. May God give you the strength. Wish you luck, trust me you would need it!
s.m.urooj. Jan 15, 2013 11:14am
way to go Rabea! u need more then just luck to be that daring and optimistic against the evils... i assure you every support i can provide you which will help you not only to think positive but even feel safe aswell even if i had to protect you personally against all odds !
khanm Jan 15, 2013 12:43pm
compairing the characteristic of two different nations, one is prograssive and other one is going to stone age. The attempt is good but futile.
suleman Jan 15, 2013 12:36pm
Shame on us for not be being so bold enough
Krish Chennai Jan 15, 2013 04:22pm
Mr Vivek Raj, that's not a complete statement by have to say, unless we all get together for common solutions, there never will be better future for those who follow us in the sub-continent, to live and prosper in it.
Murad Jan 16, 2013 11:24am
May I ask you what you are doing when you know the truth. Still you are following the ugly path. Hate will only increase the hate and will take everyone around us to destruction.
MSH Jan 15, 2013 05:33pm
Pakistan needs brave souls like you. Only young people like you can bring about the required changes with your determination, your commitment and your courage. May God Bless you and keep you safe.
Abdul-Razak Edhy Jan 15, 2013 06:17pm
'We hear of five to 10 targeted deaths every week on an average in Karachi'. My appology to correct the statistics. In 2012 there were more than 2000 targetted killing on record in Karachi. It works out to about 40 per week.
Cyrus Howell Jan 15, 2013 08:01pm
Mostly you are seeing gang turf wars.
Cyrus Howell Jan 15, 2013 08:08pm
As Malala said, ?No, I am not afraid of anyone.? She was wrong.
Ahmer Jan 15, 2013 09:05pm
Sorry Sister but who does not know this ugly truth?
Raza Murad Jan 16, 2013 11:29am
Krish, Currently we are busy to clean our own house as there are many issues at home, if you have time and energy please go and help them
Nimmi Jan 15, 2013 10:17pm
Did you really address the topic.."... to be a woman in Karachi.".?? I did not find the answer to your topic. I do find generalization (Karachiites are people filled with courage and patriotism" ) but nothing that addresses the concern in the title. Your thoughts would be appreaciated.
stuti Jan 16, 2013 03:32am
In its present state Pakistan stands no chance of emerging as a modern nation. There appears to be only one solution - de create Pakistan and re create it. Any takers.