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Pakistan

Activists condemn attack on women's march in Pakistan

Aurat March organizers slam 'right-wing fanaticism' after participants are pelted with bricks and stones

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Activists condemn attack on women's march in Pakistan

Vanguard Books editor Aima Khosa makes her point at the women’s march in Lahore on March 8. (Photo: Kamran Chaudhry)

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Rights activists have condemned an attack on a women’s march in Pakistani capital Islamabad that left several people injured.

Prayer programs and rallies were held on International Women’s Day on March 8 amid fierce opposition from Islamist groups. Thousands took to the streets nationwide to stage musical performances, streets theater and speeches. Women from Islamist parties and madrassas staged a Haya (modest) march to counter the main march.

In Islamabad, police separated participants of both marches with ropes, barbed wire and tent sheets.

Organizers of the Aurat Azadi (women’s freedom) March in Islamabad condemned the attack by hardliners from Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, Sunni Ittehad and Jamia Hafsa.

“Apart from pelting us with bricks and stones, they threw chili powder in the eyes of children. Our organizers showed these agitators the peace sign in response to their curses. These men decided to attack women and children who were protesting peacefully,” organizers tweeted.

“This is the true face of right-wing fanaticism in Pakistan, which hijacks the religious narrative to silence the voices of our most marginalized communities. This is not Islam; it's barbarism. Women can't even leave their houses without the threat of being attacked by such men.”

Police in Lahore had warned of a threat from radical groups including Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan militants.

High courts in Islamabad and Lahore had warned Aurat March organizers of using offensive slogans, especially “My body, my choice,” which sparked controversy and debate among social media users.

Nabila Feroz Bhatti, an executive body member of the Child Rights Movement Punjab, blamed mismanagement by the Islamabad administration for the violence.

“The participants of both marches gathered in front of the National Press Club. They should have been allotted different time slots. The so-called modest group crossed all limits of intolerance. We shall never opt for indoor gatherings,” the Catholic activist told UCA News.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan also condemned the attack by “miscreants” on Aurat March participants.

“The sheer strength in numbers and firm resolve of the participants ensured that the march carried on. We stand in solidarity with the marchers and reiterate our support for their demands,” the commission said in a statement.

Female activists from other cities also complained of mistreatment by district authorities. Aima Khosa, an editor for Vanguard Books, quit the women’s festival organized by Punjab’s government at Alhamra Art Centre for banning placards.

“This is a systematic attempt to derail our democratic rights. Many couldn’t attend the march in Lahore as two roads leading to the venue of the women’s march was blocked with containers,” she said.

For more pictures from the women's marches in Pakistan, click here

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