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.