Young Woman Working for Social Change in FATA is Killed

Farida Afridi (Credit:
Peshawar, July 5: Farida, belonging to the Afridi subtribe Kokikhel, was targeted on Wednesday morning at 6.30am when she left her house in Tehsil Jamrud Ghundi Kali for her office in Hayatabad.

“She was cornered by motorcyclists who shot her and she died on the way to Jamrud hospital,” said witness Abid Ali. Farida was 25.

Along with her sister Noor Zia, Farida was committed to social change and economic emancipation for women from the platform of a welfare organisation called the Society for Appraisal and Women Empowerment in Rural Areas (SAWERA). Both women were among the founding members of the NGO and had a Masters degree in Gender Studies.

Due to tribal customs and traditions, women in the area remain mostly restricted and unable to achieve their true potential, but Farida broke all barriers and relentlessly worked for women’s development. “We have lost a great member of our team,” said Lal Jan, the technical advisor of the organisation.

To increase women’s involvement in the social and economic sphere, a few educated and aspiring women, including Farida who was still in school at that time, established SAWERA in 2004. The NGO works for the rights of women and children’s rights in the tribal belt.

Farida had three sisters and four brothers and she was the second eldest. She belonged to a poor family that had no personal enmity, Lal Jan said.

In an interview for The Express Tribune published in September 2011, Farida had said: “The government is oblivious to the general attitude of tribesmen towards women and the extent of inequality in our patriarchal society. This pushed us to start a struggle for their empowerment.”

The sisters faced tough resistance when they told their family about the path they had chosen for themselves. “We told our parents that we would work in accordance with our religious and cultural traditions, assuring them that we would never let the family honour suffer because of our line of work. Finally, they agreed,” Noor had said.

Syed Afzal Shinwari, project coordinator in Community Appraisal and Motivation Program (CAMP), said that SAWERA started small but is now an influential organisation. “Because of this brutal act, women in Fata will be discouraged to work and development will come to a halt,” he said.

“Both government and security agencies will be sleeping and people like Farida, Zartif Khan, Khan Habib Afridi and Mukarram Khan Atif will be mercilessly killed. We, the participants of civil society organisations in Peshawar, strongly condemn this tragic death and vow to raise our voice against this tyranny and brutality at the hands of anti-state elements who have been given a free hand to kill people from the civil society,” civil society group Strengthening Participatory Organisaion said in a statement.

The End Violence Against Women/Girl alliance in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Fata also condemned the murder.

Farida’s struggle and efforts towards the empowerment of tribal women will never be forgotten.

Edited by Zehra Abid

One Reply to “Young Woman Working for Social Change in FATA is Killed”

  1. We, members of the Alliance for Ending Violence Against Women and Girls (EVAWG), express our shock and grief at the brutal targeted murder of a renowned and highly respected Human Rights Defender, Farida Afridi, of the Khyber Agency (FATA), and we demand that immediate action be taken to ensure the safety and security of all Human Rights Defenders, in particular women.

    We demand that the Governor of KP and the Political Agent of FATA must take full responsibility for Farida Afridi’s murder, and must ensure the safety of citizens who have worked tirelessly to alleviate poverty, illiteracy, disease and despair among the communities of FATA, PATA and KP, who are in the grip of several conflicts and humanitarian crises and yet have provided full cooperation to the government in supporting the affected communities. Yet these very human rights workers, both men and women, are vulnerable and under threat as they are the target of extremist elements from within and from outside their communities.

    The ambush and targeted murder of Farida Afridi is even more shocking when one considers the historic cultural norms of Pakhtoonwali. We demand that the authorities expeditiously capture and expose these murderers to the aggrieved family, community and the nation, mourning the loss of a dynamic woman leader and human rights defender.

    The uncontrolled abuse of religious authority by clerics in denouncing the noble work of human rights workers, NGOs and civil society in general, and pronouncing death edicts (Fatwas) from the pulpits is an alarming trend and represents the federal and provincial governments’ failed ability to exercise their writ over a powerful minority while being unable to safeguard the fundamental rights of a vulnerable majority. We demand that the government must establish their writ in these areas, where pockets of religious anarchy are running amok, as also seen recently in Kohistan. We demand that the federal and provincial governments learn lessons from the laws and practices of other progressive Muslim countries, where local clerics are not allowed free reign to pronounce Fatwas and where it is illegal to give voice to hate speech and incite vigilantes through sermons from mosques.

    The Alliance demands that the government must demonstrate greater commitment to the safety and security of all its citizens, and in particular its Human Rights Defenders, and take legislative measures to ensure that such Fatwas are banned. We demand justice for Farida Afridi and exemplary punishment for her murderers.

    The Alliance is a network of members of civil society who voluntarily devote time to end violence against women and girls in Pakistan

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