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Qandeel Baloch, Pakistani Internet Star, Murdered in ‘Honor Killing,’ was Brave Feminist

Qandeel Baloch

Qandeel Baloch was killed by her brother for being an outspoken feminist.

Qandeel Baloch did not deserve to die.

An outspoken social media star and self-proclaimed feminist, Qandeel Baloch did not fit well into a patriarchal society. With increasingly sexual and political antics, as well as outspoken feminist statements, she was both loved and hated in her home country of Pakistan.

Just this week, it pushed her brother to the edge of his fragile, toxic masculinity. Waseem Azeem took personal offense to her outspoken criticism of Pakistani society and its treatment of women, as well as her social media antics and suggestive music video, projecting his own insecurities about it as bringing shame to their family.

Instead of responding as most family members would — with harsh words and the silent treatment — he chose to drug Baloch and strangle her to death in order to “restore” his family’s honor. Sadly, in doing so, he silenced an important emerging voice in the Pakistani feminist movement and cast a shadow over his family forever.

Qandeel Baloch: a feminist for millennial Pakistan

Baloch lived by her own rules in a society whose traditional rules are very strict — and easily broken. She became infamous when she vowed to perform a striptease if Pakistan beat arch-nemesis India in a cricket match. The suggestion of a striptease caused a huge uproar in the media.

Baloch’s videos were not that different from those produced by many twentysomethings living in a digital age: they discussed celeb gossip, beauty tips and other inane things. Baloch first got her start when she decided to audition for Pakistani Idol back in 2013. She soon became one of the top 10 most searched people in Pakistan, leading her quickly to viral fame. In a television interview with Mubashir Luqman, she cited Sunny Leone, Rakhi Sawant and Poonam Pandey as her biggest influences and people that she looked up to.

Related: 5 Kick-ass Muslim Feminists You Need to Know

She was often lauded as the “Kim Kardashian of Pakistan” by international media because of her style and the content of her social media posts. However, those posts had become increasingly political recently, emphasizing her belief in herself and feminist ideals. Friends and allies of Baloch have stated she had tearfully voiced concern for her safety as recently as last week.

 

Recently, Baloch released a video that involved her “twerking” and dancing suggestively in a video for Pakistani artist Aryan Khan. Between the music video and a playfully irreverent selfie session with religious cleric Mufti Abdul Qavi, the young viral celeb had caused quite a stir. As a result, the senior clergyman was suspended from his post. The nation was up in arms over the incident and the music video. After her murder, Qavi said her death “should be a lesson for all those who point fingers at someone’s honor.”

Baloch’s increasing safety concerns

In the past few weeks, Baloch’s birthname and identity were doxxed. Qandeel Baloch was merely a stage name she used to protect her privacy, especially since she had become such an agent provocateur in her country. Baloch had been married to an older, abusive man when she was seventeen, forced to have his son and fled from him as quickly as she could, with no support from her family. This is part of what fueled her feminist fire and her fight for the rights of other women.

Her ex-husband had recently spoken to the media, revealing even further intimate details of their marriage. Feeling frightened for her life, Baloch told The Express Tribune that police had not responded to her pleas for safety. Taking ownership of her life and safety, she had decided to move abroad with her parents after the Eid al-Fitr holiday. This conversation occurred on July 14. She was killed July 15.

CNN reports on her brother, who cites his motive as returning pride and honor to his family, earning himself a place in heaven. “I am proud of what I did. I drugged her first, then I killed her,” Waseem Azeem says. “She was bringing dishonor to our family.” Seeing his friends share clips of her was “too much” for him and he decided that killing her was a better option than killing himself.

Their father reported her death to the police. He told the press, “my daughter was brave and I will not forget or forgive her brutal murder.” Her death has been condemned by international media and quite a bit of Pakistani media, but there are still traditionalists who support honor killings. The state was named as a complainant in the murder case so that the family could not pardon the killer or killers. There is still suspicion that her other brother, Aslam Shaheen, may have helped plan the murder or coerced Waseem into perpetrating the murder.

“I really feel that no woman is safe in this country, until we start making examples of people, until we start sending men who kill women to jail, unless we literally say there will be no more killing and those who dare will spend the rest of their lives behind bars,” filmmaker and activist Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy says of the incident. She further said, “There is not a single day where you don’t pick up a paper and see a woman hasn’t been killed … this is an epidemic.”

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Laurel Dickman is an intersectional feminist, plus size model, stylist, and fat activist that can also be found via her blogs, Exile In Dietville and 2 Broke Bitches. She grew up in the south between Florida and North Carolina, migrating to the Portland, OR in 2005. All three places inform her perspective of the world around her a great deal. While in Portland, she worked with the Alley 33 Annual Fashion Show, PudgePDX, PDX Fatshion, Plumplandia, and numerous other projects over the near decade that she was there. In August of 2014, she moved to the Bay area with her partner, David and trusty kitty, Dorian Gray. She continues her body positive and intersectional feminism through various forms of activism, fashion, photography projects, and writing from her home in the East Bay. She can be reached at laurel@wyvmag.com and encourages readers to reach out to her to collaborate!

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