Humanists International takes Gulalai Ismail case to Human Rights Council

UN experts have called for better protection of women human rights defenders. So why is Gulalai Ismail still being harassed in Pakistan?

  • post Type / General news
  • Date / 4 July 2019

Humanists International has taken the case of Gulalai Ismail to the United Nations Human Rights Council.

The move follows the issuing of an urgent call two weeks ago, that the authorities in Pakistan “must immediately drop these unfounded charges against Gulalai”.

Gulalai has been charged with “sedition” under terrorism laws in what is clearly a spurious accusation aimed at silencing an important voice for justice and human rights. According to confirmed reports, her family have faced repeated harassment and intimidation by the security forces in Pakistan.

Today’s statement delivered a short time ago in Geneva by Humanists International Director of Advocacy, Elizabeth O’Casey, follows below:

41st Session of the UN Human Rights Council (24th June – 12th July 2019)
General Debate Item 4
Elizabeth O’Casey

On the 15th May in Islamabad, 10-year old Farista was abducted and murdered. Her family have said they were originally ignored by police when they tried to report her missing.

It was a case that shocked many, including human rights and Pashtun rights defender Gulalai Ismail, so much so, she joined a rally and made a speech to protest the case and the police handling of it.

Pakistan’s response? To issue a First Information Report under anti-terrorism laws against her for seditious speech and invoking anti-state sentiments in Pashtuns.

Gulalai is now in hiding. Her family have faced repeated harassment and intimidation by the security forces.

Gulalai co-founded Aware Girls, an organization working to empower and educate women and girls on rights and leadership in Pakistan and challenge the culture of violence and oppression of women. She is Chair of the Seeds of Peace network which trains young people in human rights and political leadership and encourages tolerance between religions.

Last November, UN experts called for better protection of women human rights defenders who are often “at the forefront of challenging social and cultural norms that limit women’s human rights. They take stands that are necessary to progress but unpopular, taking on the most powerful and providing support for the most vulnerable.”1

This is Gulalai. She has dedicated her life to empowering the powerless, to educating those without privilege, to promoting the rights of those whose rights are denied.

We call on Pakistan, a member of this Council, to revoke the charges against Gulalai with urgency, to instead protect and cherish a citizen who speaks truth to power in defence of countless women and girls and who provides hope and courage in a world full of intimidation and injustice.

  1. https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=23943&LangID=E
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