The killing of Qandeel Baloch had nothing to do with honor

Qandeel Baloch/FB

Qandeel Baloch/FB

I had never heard of Qandeel Baloch, a model and Internet celebrity known as Pakistan’s Kim Kardashian, until early this morning, when I read a Wall Street Journal story about her murder.

I haven’t been able to get her off my mind all day.

I was sickened and saddened by the headline in The Wall Street Journal that said she was the victim of an “honor killing.”

The 25-year-old model was allegedly strangled by her brother in her parents’ home because he didn’t like photos and videos she was posting on the Internet. I’ve looked through those photos on her Facebook page today, and I have seen much worse from American celebrities and even young girls, and on television, and in movies and magazines. And while some of her photos and videos were risqué, many more of them are what I would describe as high-fashion.

She had more than 700,000 likes on her official Facebook page and more than 40,000 followers on Twitter.

Horribly, there is a video of her dead body on another FB page about her. Photographers and others surround her body, shouting. And some of the comments on posts on that and her official page are so vulgar, awful and hateful, I can’t believe the administrators at FB have allowed them to stay there.

“Born to a poor family from the backwaters of Punjab, Ms. Baloch, whose real name was Fauzia Azeem, said she had run away from home to pursue her dream of becoming a star,” a story in The New York Times said. “She took to social media after unsuccessful efforts to enter the mainstream entertainment industry.

“Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has vowed to strengthen laws intended to prevent such killings, but critics say no concrete steps have been taken yet.”

In some cultures, many girls and women are killed when a relative decides she has brought dishonor to her family, and these cultures call their deaths honor killings.

“In most cases, the honor killings take place within the family,” Syeda Sughra Imam, a former senator from Punjab who has pushed for legislation against the practice, told The Times.

“The accused and the complainant are from the same family and they forgive each other,” Imam said in The Times. “No one is ever prosecuted.”

But honor is variously defined as “honesty, fairness, or integrity in one’s beliefs and actions;” “high respect, as for worth, merit, or rank;” and “high public esteem; fame; glory.”

Tell me what is respectful, honest or fair about this young woman’s murder.

“Her videos were not very different from thousands others shared by 20-something social media celebrities around the Internet – she pouted like a kitten into the camera, discussed her various hairstyles and shared cooing confessions from her bedroom about her celebrity crushes,” a CNN story said.

Qandeel considered herself an activist and often talked about fighting for women’s rights to do what they want with their minds and their bodies. She stood up for others who felt the same.

On July 12, she tweeted, “#MalalaDay Why? Because one female can make a difference,” referring to Malala Yousafzai, another Pakistani female and activist, who was 15 when she was shot in the head and neck by the Taliban. She was the youngest person to ever receive the Nobel Peace Prize, which she was awarded in 2014.

You can learn more about Qandeel in this BBC video.

In a post the day before Qandeel was killed, she wrote this on her FB page: “As a women we must stand up for ourselves…As a women we must stand up for each other…As a women we must stand up for justice. I believe I am a modern day feminist. I believe in equality. I need not to choose what type of women should be. I don’t think there is any need to label ourselves just for sake of society. I am just a women with free thoughts free mindset and I LOVE THE WAY I AM.”

Why isn’t this OK, for women to be who they are? Why are we blamed for what we were wearing or where we were when we’ve been raped? And why, in the year 2016, are women still abused, beaten, mutilated and murdered all around the world because, even in the United States, many still see us as second-class citizens or little more than property?

Just a little more than a week before Qandeel’s slaying, on July 6, she posted this: “Love me or hate me both are in my favour. If you love me I Will always be in your heart, if you hate me I’ll always be in ur mind.”

I am deeply sad about her death, and I can’t say how long it will be before she leaves my heart or my mind.


Police are supposed to protect, not kill, us

Photo image from Pixabay

Photo from Pixabay

Tell me you don’t feel even slightly panicked when you see red-and-blue flashing lights directed your way.

I know when I see them in my rearview mirror, I feel nervous. Was I speeding? Did I make some mistake? Is something wrong with my vehicle? Am I going to get a ticket? How much money that I don’t have to spare will this cost me?

Don’t you feel at least some of that?

It even takes me a few minutes to calm down when they fly past me, and I realize they didn’t even want me in the first place.

Now, imagine the police not only turn the lights on you, but they start screaming and ordering you around, and you don’t know why, at least at the beginning of the encounter. Police can do whatever they want. They have guns, and they can kill people, often without paying the same price the rest of us would have to pay if we did something similar.

I’m not going to get into race here. I’m trying to make a simpler point. People panic when they encounter police. And people do weird and sometimes what we think are unexplainable things when they panic. Are you completely rational when you panic?

I know a lot of good police officers. A good friend of mine who was a state trooper was even killed in the line of duty, hit by a sleepy tractor-trailer driver on an interstate while he tried to direct traffic around an accident. Officers are human, just like the rest of us. They have troubles and they make mistakes, just like the rest of us. I understand that. But far too many of them are shooting far too many of us these days.

Police are supposed to protect and serve us. But when you see them pulling out handguns and shooting a man in the back as he walks away or as he lies on the ground underneath them, not being any kind of threat at all, you have to wonder what some officers are doing and why.

The day two police officers killed Alton Sterling, a friend of mine posted something about it and said we should ask for investigations into such shootings and for the police to have some real accountability when they fire a gun for any reason. Someone then posted a hateful comment on her post, and added that when someone disobeys police, he or she should die.

I disagree. I get flustered when police ask for my license and registration. And I can’t imagine how much more flustered you would get if you didn’t have one or both after getting pulled over. Or an officer approached you on foot and you were intoxicated or you had previously had some run-in with an officer. Would you be so scared you might not respond to a command immediately? Would you struggle when they shoot a Taser at you or start hitting you? Would you be so afraid you might try to run or drive away?

Just this morning, a man who reportedly was complying with an officer by getting his driver’s license out of his pocket was shot and killed as he sat at the wheel of his car. Philando Castile was the 506th person shot and killed by police so far in 2016, The Washington Post said, citing its database that tracks such shootings. Of those victims, 123 were black, The Post said.

I was not at any of the police-involved shootings that have happened this year. So I admit I don’t know all the facts of any of those cases. But I know that even one person who shouldn’t have died at the hands of police but did is one too many.