Write for Justice – Creative Responses to the Hazara Conflict

Two attacks on the Hazara Shia community in Balochistan, Pakistan, have left over 200 people dead within three weeks. The method of protest that the families of the victims employed shook an entire nation: they refused to bury their dead until their community was promised protection. For several days and nights, men, women and children sat out in the January cold and rain on Alamdar Road in Quetta, guarding the bodies and denying themselves the basic dignity of a decent and timely burial for a loved one. In response, a staggering number of protestors came together to hold sit-ins all over Pakistan and the world, moved by the desperation of the Hazara Shias and demanding justice for them. The protests are ongoing as this post goes up.

We asked for your creative responses to the situation as it unfolds. Our understanding is that as writers we cannot be divorced from events around us, and that – cliched as it may sound – when horror confronts us, the most potent weapon we have is our words. So send us your words. All the entries cannot be published, but please know that we appreciate the intensity of feeling behind each and every person’s contribution. Know that you are being read.

Update: On March 3rd, a bombing in the primarily Shi’ite area of Abbas Town, Karachi, wiped out yet more lives and left double the number crippled and homeless. We have started receiving entries on this latest incident and will let the post evolve accordingly. To those of you who are participating, thank you.

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Parallel Cities

by Sadia Khatri

Karachi exists as two parallel cities. Same world, two cities. In both, lives are lost daily. But in one, the deaths become stories for people beyond the family and certain close friends: sometimes they are shown on TV, limb by limb, shot by graphic shot, bits of stories. And from there they travel to neighbours, well-wishers, to-be-murderers. Eventually they seep over into the other parallel city, whose people have so far strayed safe of similar wake-up calls. They get word of these deaths, glimpse bits of them on various screens, but never really understand or experience them, even while turning them into cautionary tales for their own neighbours, well-wishers and to-be murderers. They think they know numbness, but they are nowhere near yet. This realization comes only in the form of a forceful eviction into the first city, after a dear one gets shot by one injustice or the other. Meanwhile, the parallel city slowly grows and grows old, letting them in, making room for these people even as it has none. In its heart, it hopes it could seal its borders shut, so that only so much pain could exist without overflowing into the other city, without rendering its parallel city numb too.

***

The Circle of Death

by Farheen Zehra

 

Less than 48 hours ago, the now desolate and mangled apartment building in Abbas Town was teeming with people.

Who were these people?

Weren’t they, like most of us, glued to television sets on Sunday watching our team’s T20 match against South Africa? Maybe some friends had gathered to watch the match together at the neighbourhood restaurant that had just installed a television set.

Some of the women must have been in the kitchen, preparing the evening meal. Weren’t they, like many of us, asking their husbands or sons to get away from the television and get bread and eggs for Monday morning? A few of them must have been grumbling under their breath about the uniforms that still lay un-ironed on the ironing stand. Or maybe about the homework that still hadn’t been completed.

And the children – screaming, fighting, crying, laughing, playing, coloring, drawing, oblivious to the worries of the world. For some Monday was a new beginning in a new school. For others, there was a tough test the next day. Maybe a child had his or her birthday party the day before or the day after.

The call for prayers must be similar in Abbas Town and Clifton. Maybe the loudspeaker of their neighbourhood mosque was too loud. Did the boys leave the match and head for the mosque? Some of them may have used this as an excuse to get out of the house to have a smoke. Did a young boy call out to his friend who was heading towards the mosque to pray for the team?

Who were these people?

They were Shia, and Sunni, and maybe Christians and Hindus. Above everything, they were Pakistanis.

But that doesn’t seem to matter anymore, does it?

Abbas town

***

Quetta

by Razi Haider

 

ہیجڑوں کی تالیوں کی گونج , بیبسوں کاسے
اب کے رسن سے لٹکے ہیں جسم و دل کے لاشے
اس قتلگاہ مذہب میں کچھ سر سے کٹی حوریں
ناچے ہیں ایسے جیسے , کوہٹھے پے ہوں تماشے

 

The echoes of the clapping  eunuchs and the skulls of the  forsaken,

The corpses of the hearts and the souls hang.

On these religious gallows some headless  nymphs

dance as if there is a kerfuffle at the brothel.

 

***

Identity: Sunni, Shia, Pakistani

by Noorulain Noor

My grandmother, a Shia, migrated to Lahore from Amritsar in 1947. At a refugee camp in the newly created Pakistan, she met my grandfather, a Sunni man, broken after the death of his first wife. He married her against the wishes of his family and brought her to his ancestral home in Old City Lahore.

I would like to think that when my grandparents met, they did not ask each other whether they were Sunni or Shia. I would like to think that it simply did not matter. But it did. It mattered to the point that when my grandmother died after 15 years of marriage, my grandfather was forbidden from burying her in the family plot. Since my grandfather’s family was influential in the city, every graveyard in the immediate vicinity refused to accommodate a Shia immigrant’s dead body. Her children cried next to her corpse on a charpoy for hours until a kindly neighbor offered a burial spot in his cellar. And so a neighbor’s house became my grandmother’s final resting place.

My father was raised Sunni by my grandfather, but a son is always partial to what his mother teaches him. A few years ago he put up the Alam on the rooftop of his office building. A report of this recent development reached my husband, who asked me about it. His extended family began to wonder whether I was Shia. I found out that at one point, I was scrutinized by someone who will go unnamed while offering my prayer to glean more information about my religious inclination. The fact that my father wore black all the time and had displayed the Alam openly made some people in my family uneasy.

I decided to have a chat with my father about this. I was furious with him because of several other things that a father and daughter are bound to disagree on, and so I introduced this topic as a way to fuel the raging fire.

“So, are you going around as Shia now?” I barked.

“What? Where is this coming from?” He asked.

“Well, I am told you have the Alam at your office now.”

“I do. And what I practice is none of your damn business.”

He slammed the phone down. I deserved that and more. I cannot believe that I had the audacity to ask him this question just to hurt him, even though I have always identified myself as both Shia and Sunni because of my grandparents, technicalities and subdivisions and religious decrees be damned.

This is the extent to which sectarian discrimination is ingrained into the hearts and minds of Muslims in Pakistan. I am admitting my weakness in that moment. I am deeply, nay, horrifically ashamed of the question I asked my father and the way in which it came out – accusatory – as if he had committed a sin.

Today, I am proud of my heritage as I have always been. I am both Sunni and Shia. I am Muslim. I am human. For god’s sake we are all human. And I am afraid for my friends and family in Pakistan. I am afraid for my father who still has the Alam perched on his office building. I am afraid for my friends whose names identify them as Shias, easy targets for a fanatic’s bullet.

But I will not let my fear silence me. I am Shia and Sunni and Pakistani. And I am standing alongside the families of all those who were massacred. The demands of the nation are simple: The culprits must be punished; they must be brought to justice; sectarian violence must have serious consequences; Shia murders must be stopped. Now.

***

Target Profiles and Na-Maloom Afraad

by Fahad Naveed

 

I live in a world where physicality costs people their lives,

a world where the target’s profile is crystal clear,

eyes slightly smaller than mine, complexion slightly lighter

he may be spotted easily in a crowd.

I live in a world where the killer remains ‘na-maloom’,

he need not be physically present to kill,

he cannot be spotted, ’till he uses his bragging rights,

’till he takes ‘responsibility’ of the attack on the news

I live in this world only because my physicality allows me to

because my features do not match the target profile, just yet

***

My reflection

by Taha Kehar

I cannot see my reflection –
Bigotry has made me invincible.

I cannot see my reflection –
Fear has strengthened me.

I cannot see my reflection –
Hostility has given me control.

I cannot see my reflection –
Injustice has become a ray of hope.

I cannot see my reflection –
Defeat has taught me how to win.

(c) Ali Khurshid/Light House (via Humans of Karachi)

(c) Ali Khurshid/Light House (via Humans of Karachi)

***

A Cinquain

by Saima Abbas

Hazaras

Humble, sorrowful

Crying, pleading, peaceful

They cannot be ignored

Humans

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***

Fade

by Mariam Shoaib

I could turn up the volume on the news, but there are bills to pay. The television anchor repeats the alert as I grasp for the car keys.

News keeps  breaking, breaking new  records of  domestic terror and drone-aided calamities.  Quick glance – is it Peshawer, or Karachi?  If I wait any longer, the banks will close, and who can bear late charges in this economy?

I could slow down my car at the chowk, weaving around the men, women, children protesting, asking ‘what are you demanding today?’

But I have been in line for CNG for over 3 hrs, and  still need my job, so in the rear view mirror signboards and chants, like numerous Pakistani lives, fade away.

My voter’s registration application lies blank and menacing on the desk. I would turn it in, and vouch for democracy, but I am out the door…

… Tasbih in hand, tears cloud the path to my brother’s janazah.

Aaj Quetta jal raha hai – Today Quetta burns, again.

***

One thought on “Write for Justice – Creative Responses to the Hazara Conflict

  1. Pingback: On #Quetta #Genocide – Creative Responses to the Hazara Conflict | Desi Writers Lounge | Mariam,individually.

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