I have to start off by being honest. Like half the Pakistani population, I had never really been a big fan. In fact, I was one of the people that would laugh at you, speak out against your actions, and roll my eyes every time a new controversy arose. When I woke up to the news that your brother had murdered you to protect your family’s honor, I quickly realized how dangerous my intolerance and ignorance was.
We are failing to look at this death for what it was. Just a few days before your murder, you revealed in an interview that you were once married to and had a child with a man who abused you. You spoke about how you have been using your wealth to financially support your family, even buying them a house in Multan. The story was all over Pakistani news, sensational headlines such as “The Plot Thickens…” or “Can You Believe it?” started to float around all over my newsfeed. Comments on validity of your abuse arose. Some even justified the abuse you received, saying that if it actually happened, it was because you deserved it. I consider myself an extremely proud feminist. Something I have always stood by was standing up for, believing, and supporting women who have said they were abused, raped, or cheated on. I’m ashamed to say that I hesitated doing this when I heard about your allegations, as if I wanted to protect myself from being fooled if these stories turned out to be publicity stunts. If all judgements and opinions are stripped away, and saw you for what you are, we see a woman who was wronged by a man, mother of a child. We see a woman who used her wealth to financially support the family that murdered her. This itself should be enough to be outraged by your death, and this is something that many of us are failing to acknowledge. At the end of the day, your murder was a betrayal.
We need to start validating all types of feminism, all types of social justice. Going through your social media, some of the most apparent and consistent posts are about empowering women and speaking out against a patriarchal culture. This facet of your personality was mostly overlooked, often drowned out by your more controversial posts. As much as you spoke about feminism, it was never something you were known for. We need to start paying attention to each and every woman who supports the idea of social equality. Although you may not have written eloquently as many others we see as heroes, all that you have written about is still relevant and important and therefore must be validated. As feminists, especially feminists of color, we need to find ways to give women like you stronger voices, as they are part of our community too. If we start to pick and choose which women get to move forward and which do not, we’re just as bad western feminists who only speak for white voices. The whole point of social justice is to give a voice to those who are being silenced, no matter how rebellious or outspoken they are. It’s not until we can start taking on these challenges that we can call ourselves social justice.
I’m sorry, Qandeel, that I failed you as a feminist. I’m sorry that I judged you. I’m sorry that you lived in a world that you were never taken seriously from the time that you married to the time of your death. I’m sorry that the men who threatened you, hurt you, and in the very end murdered you, will never get the punishment they deserved. In these past 24 hours after your death, I learned that I need to work on myself, that I need to be as unapologetic as you. May you rest in power, and in a peace that you never experienced in this world.