Women’s Action Forum, Karachi is deeply angered by the assassination of Farida Afridi by militants (ASWJ/Taliban) in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. As one of the founders of the NGO Sawera, Farida Afridi’s struggle was against illiteracy, cruelty and conservative anti-women practices. Her murder is meant to be a message for all Pakistani women who dare to fight against injustice and for their rights, to retreat and be silent. Those who defend and remain silent on cruel and illegal practices such as swara through jirgas are complicit in murders such as Farida Afridi’s. The state is a colluding actor when it remains paralysed in the face of such acts of cowardice and crime.
WAF demands that the judiciary take notice of Afridi’s murder. The government should act to prevent such anti-state and unconstitutional practices against women. WAF also calls upon all rights-based organisations to strongly condemn this killing. WAF honours Farida Afridi for her courageous work as a human-rights campaigner. We will not be silenced and nor will we stop our struggle for equal rights and security of life and liberty for women, minorities and the poor of Pakistan.
On behalf of WAF,
A progressive Pashtun’s voice for tribal women silenced
In Farida Afridi’s death, women from the tribal belt have lost a fierce fighter.
Farida, belonging to the Afridi subtribe Kokikhel, was targeted on Wednesday (4 July) morning at 6.30am when she left her house in Tehsil Jamrud Ghundi Kali for her office in Hayatabad. “She was cornered by motorcyclists who shot her and she died on the way to Jamrud hospital,” said witness Abid Ali. Farida was 25.
Along with her sister Noor Zia, Farida was committed to social change and economic emancipation for women from the platform of a welfare organisation called the Society for Appraisal and Women Empowerment in Rural Areas (SAWERA). Both women were among the founding members of the NGO and had a Masters degree in Gender Studies.
Due to tribal customs and traditions, women in the area remain mostly restricted and unable to achieve their true potential, but Farida broke all barriers and relentlessly worked for women’s development. “We have lost a great member of our team,” said Lal Jan, the technical advisor of the organisation.
To increase women’s involvement in the social and economic sphere, a few educated and aspiring women, including Farida who was still in school at that time, established SAWERA in 2004. The NGO works for the rights of women and children’s rights in the tribal belt.
Farida had three sisters and four brothers and she was the second eldest. She belonged to a poor family that had no personal enmity, Lal Jan said.
In an interview for The Express Tribune published in September 2011, Farida had said: “The government is oblivious to the general attitude of tribesmen towards women and the extent of inequality in our patriarchal society. This pushed us to start a struggle for their empowerment.”
The sisters faced tough resistance when they told their family about the path they had chosen for themselves. “We told our parents that we would work in accordance with our religious and cultural traditions, assuring them that we would never let the family honour suffer because of our line of work. Finally, they agreed,” Noor had said.
Syed Afzal Shinwari, project coordinator in Community Appraisal and Motivation Program (CAMP), said that SAWERA started small but is now an influential organisation. “Because of this brutal act, women in Fata will be discouraged to work and development will come to a halt,” he said.
“Both government and security agencies will be sleeping and people like Farida, Zartif Khan, Khan Habib Afridi and Mukarram Khan Atif will be mercilessly killed. We, the participants of civil society organisations in Peshawar, strongly condemn this tragic death and vow to raise our voice against this tyranny and brutality at the hands of anti-state elements who have been given a free hand to kill people from the civil society,” civil society group Strengthening Participatory Organisaion said in a statement.
The End Violence Against Women/Girl alliance in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Fata also condemned the murder.
Farida’s struggle and efforts towards the empowerment of tribal women will never be forgotten.