Pakistan’s Women Heroes : Hina Jilani

Women who Named the Unnamed
Honor/Cherish the Continuity

Hina Jilani
lawyer/human rights defender/elder

Voice of Resistance and Courage
By Asma Sayed

I always had this feeling that if you see injustice,
you have to speak out against it; otherwise, you are not
in a position to complain
.’ – Hina Jilani

Hina Jilani is one of the most noteworthy and globally known activists in the field of human rights and women’s liberation. Born and raised in Pakistan, she has served in many roles and continues to fight for the upliftment of the marginalized and oppressed in Pakistan and elsewhere.

After completing her training as a lawyer in 1974, and after a number of years of legal practice, she was appointed as an Advocate to the High Court of Pakistan in 1981; that year, she also co-instituted Pakistan’s first all-women law firm. In 1986, she established the first legal aid centre in Lahore. Among one of Hina’s most notable achievements is the founding of Pakistan’s Human Rights Commission as well as the Women’s Action Forum in 1986. During her remarkable career in law, Hina especially focused on litigation related to human rights of women, children, minorities, and prisoners, groups that have historically been underrepresented. As well, she is the founder of Dastak, a housing facility for women at risk of being targets of honour killing. Dastak not only provides a safe place to live, but also helps women achieve education and financial independence.

Hina was appointed as an Advocate in the Supreme Court of Pakistan in 1992. She was the United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary General on Human Rights Defenders from 2000 to 2008; during this time, she presented numerous fact-finding reports to the Human Rights Council. She was also a member of the UN Fact-Finding Commission on Darfur in 2004 and on the Gaza conflict in 2009.

In 2007, she joined The Elders, ‘a group of independent global leaders working together for peace and human rights,’ which was founded by Nelson Mandela. The group works on six core programmes: ethical leadership and multilateral cooperation; conflict countries and regions; universal health coverage; climate change; refugees and migration; and access to justice. A member of the Eminent Jurists Panel on Terrorism, Counter-terrorism, and Human Rights, Hina has been affiliated with the United Nations Center for Human Rights, the Carter Center, and the UN Conference on Women. She has worked for numerous non-governmental organizations such as UNICEF and UNIFEM, and visited many countries on human rights missions: Angola, Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, Indonesia, Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Nigeria, Serbia, Thailand, and Turkey among others.

She has received multiple awards for her remarkable work; the highlights include: Human Rights Award by the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights (1999); Amnesty International’s the Ginetta Sagan Award for Women’s Rights (2000); the Millennium Peace Prize for Women (2001); the American Bar Association’s International Human Rights Lawyer Award (2008); and the Editor’s Award for Outstanding Achievement (2013). A versatile speaker, she has delivered talks at universities around the world.

Hina hails from a family of human rights activists. Her father, Malik Gulam Jilani, was a strong critic of Pakistan government. Her sister, Asma Jahangir, who passed away in 2018, has been known for her human rights activism. The family has been subjected to abuse by both government and non-government forces and been attacked multiple times; they have been kept under surveillance and received death threats. Hina, along with her family members, stood her ground and did not give up her fight for a better society.

Hina Jilani has dedicated her life to the uplifting of humanity. She is a voice of resistance and courage personified.
.
.
Asma Sayed teaches literary and film studies at Kwantlen Polytechnic University. She specializes in postcolonial South Asian literature and cinema. Her interdisciplinary research and social activism focus on marginalization of gendered and racialized people and violence against women as represented in literature, film, and media. Her publications include five books and numerous articles. She is the President of the Canadian Association of Commonwealth Literature and Language Studies.

.

Women Who Named the Unnamed
Pakistan’s & Local Women Heroes

Saturday, September 28, 2019
6 – 9 PM
Centre Stage
Surrey City Hall
13450 – 104 Avenue
Surrey, BC, Canada V3T 1V8
Phone: 604-591-4011

Buy your ticket online at this link:
tickets.surrey.ca
Tickets $25
Box Office : 604-501-5566

More information
Women-who-named-the-unnamed
In-gratitude-we-celebrate-our-women-heroes
View our objectives and goals.

We gratefully acknowledge
that we are on the unceded Coast Salish territories of
the Semiahmoo, Katzie, Kwikwetlem, Kwantlen,
Qayqayt, Tsawwassen, Musqueam,
Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations.

..

Pakistan’s Women Heroes : Asma Jahangir

Women who Named the Unnamed
Tribute to the Brilliance

Asma Jahangir (1952-2018)
lawyer/human rights activist/author

By Sameena Siddiqui

Who they are, they are bizarre! But them you can’t extinguish,
They are whole, they are part, mingled so, you can’t distinguish,
Determined! They want the flame of hope to ignite,
Determined! They want life to illuminate like light,
Who they are, they are bizarre! Them you can’t extinguish,
They are whole, they are part, mingled so, you cant distinguish

yeh jo bhi hain ajeeb hain mitai mit na payenge,
yeh kul bhi hain, yeh juz bhi hain, tumhe nazar na ayenge,
yeah zid pe hain ke roshni ka har chirag jal uthe,
yeh zid pe hain ke zindagi mein roshni beekher de,
yeh jo bhi hain ajeeb hai mitai mit na payenge,
yeh kul bhi hain yeh juz bhi hain tumhe nazar na ayenge

(Gauhar Raza, Urdu. Translation, Author)

On 11th Feb 2018, Pakistan lost a willful feminist who insisted on getting her way, becoming audible and laying bare the societal violence directed towards the vulnerable and the marginalized. Asma Jilani Jahangir was the leading Pakistani Human Rights activist, lawyer, feminist and a fearless critic of the military interference in civil society and dictatorial role in politics. She always spoke truth to power and fought for women, minority, and bonded labourers’ rights against religious extremism and state authoritarian injustice in Pakistan. Asma gained international recognition for being the conscience of democratic and progressive Pakistan in the decades when secular voices and civil liberties were constantly under threat.

Asma’s tryst with the authoritarian state began in the year 1971 when she filed a case against the government of the Punjab for the release of her father, Malik Ghulam Jilani, then a Member of the National Assembly who had been incarcerated for protesting against Pakistan’s Army action in East Pakistan, now Bangladesh. This was Asma’s first case, she won it, and it became a landmark that was followed by the interim Constitution of 1972 and by the permanent constitution of 1973. As well, Zulfikar Ali Bhtto, the President and Chief Martial law Administrator at the time, had no choice but to remove the Martial law because of the judicial pronouncements made in that case.

Then in 1983, military dictator General Mohammed Zia-ul-Haq enacted laws for the Islamization of Pakistan based on political motives. Haq’s desire to create an Islamic state where people of diverse ethnicity and pluralities live per Islamic principles was rooted in Pakistan’s genesis narratives. In 1979, he made several attempts to change the essential secular character of Pakistan’s legal system by implementing Islamic criminal law and established the Federal Shariat Court to monitor Pakistan’s adherence to it. Under such a system, women and minorities were subjected to violence, sexual abuse and blasphemy laws to control, punish and outcast those who defied the retrogressive norms and patriarchal oppression.

This was the decade when the Islamic revolution in Iran, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and emergence of Zia’s regime backed by US military forced a backward journey on women in the South Asian subcontinent. In that era of religious extremism, Asma Jahangir became the face of feminist protest against Zia-ul-Haq’s ordinances and fought on the streets against the weaponization of the seventh-century Islamic laws and tenets targeting women, queers and people belonging to minority groups. On the ground, despite several death threats and imprisonments, feminist poets, writers and lawyers joined hands to build a counter momentum to fight the tyranny, politicization of Islam, and institutional compliance with gendered discriminatory legislation.

Asma, her sister Hina Jilani, and other women leaders were determined to resist the moral regulation unleashed by the post-colonial state in the name of religion, and they came together with progressive men to form Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP, 1987)-an independent group, where they openly spoke about the failure of Pakistan’s state to protect women and minority rights as a systemic violation of international human rights. Women founded other organizations such as Women Action Forum (WAF), Punjab Women Lawyers Association (PWLA), AGHS Legal Aid Cell (ALAC). These organizations campaigned against the Hudood Ordinances (1979), provided free legal assistance to the lower caste/class women fleeing sexual violence, domestic abuse or custodial rights.

Interestingly, the regime that attempted to marginalize the women saw the genesis of the most vibrant women’ movement in Pakistan. Despite being seen as a threat to ‘national honour’, Asma Jahangir continued her lifelong work of fighting for legal rights for minorities and eradication of child labour. Later, she won several international awards and served as a United Nations rapporteur on Freedom of religion and was also a trustee at the International Crisis Group.

Today, Asma Jahangir left us with a feminist legacy that teaches us how to willfully refuse to be included in a system that is predicated on inequality and violence.


Sameena Siddiqui is a Ph.D. candidate at the Department of Art History, Visual Art and Theory (AHVA) at UBC. In her doctoral thesis, she is looking at the politics of intertextuality between print, photography, and cinema in the early 20th century India. She did her M.Phil from School of Arts & Aesthetics, JNU, Delhi and has presented her work in several international conferences and residencies.

.

.

Women Who Named the Unnamed
Pakistan’s & Local Women Heroes

Saturday, September 28, 2019
6 – 9 PM
Centre Stage
Surrey City Hall
13450 – 104 Avenue
Surrey, BC, Canada V3T 1V8
Phone: 604-591-4011

Buy your ticket online at this link:
tickets.surrey.ca
Tickets $25
Box Office : 604-501-5566

More information
Women-who-named-the-unnamed
In-gratitude-we-celebrate-our-women-heroes
View our objectives and goals.

We gratefully acknowledge
that we are on the unceded Coast Salish territories of
the Semiahmoo, Katzie, Kwikwetlem, Kwantlen,
Qayqayt, Tsawwassen, Musqueam,
Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations.

..