Advocacy statements

Gulalai Ismail

  • Date / 2019
  • Location / Pakistan
  • Relevant Institution / UN Human Rights Council
  • UN Item / Item 4: Human rights situations that require the Council’s attention

 International Humanist and Ethical Union

41st Session of the UN Human Rights Council (24th June – 12th July 2019)

General Debate Item 4


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

Suggested academic reference

'Gulalai Ismail', Humanists International

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