Young Hazara Woman Leads Hunger Strike for Justice
In Quetta, Pakistan, young Hazara women are exhibiting unprecedented strength and resilience in the face of violent extremism. Jalila Haider is one of the courageous women who has emerged as a leader within her tribal, patriarchal society. She has demonstrated that when women take the lead, we move closer to making peace a reality.
Hazaras are an ethnic minority population in Pakistan inhabiting the once serene Quetta valley in the province Balochistan. Of 2.3 million people living in the provincial capital of Balochistan, Quetta, an estimated 700,000 are Hazaras. Despite their relatively small population in Pakistan, Hazaras have made significant contributions to their homeland including sports, literature, and civil and military leadership.
"An estimated two thousand Hazara men, women and children have been killed while thousands more injured in various attacks ranging from targeted killings to bomb blasts. "
Yet, the Hazara have faced immense persecution and violence at the hands of terrorist groups for the past two decades. An estimated two thousand Hazara men, women and children have been killed while thousands more injured in various attacks ranging from targeted killings to bomb blasts. The Pakistani Government has failed to protect the community or hold perpetrators responsible.
Despite the increased number of security check points in Quetta, the government has been unable to restore peace, enforce law and order, nor bring justice to victims. As a result, Hazaras have been forced to live in ‘open prisons’ in their own city. Commuting out of their residences to universities and workplaces has become a daunting task for Hazaras. Women and girls are facing added difficulties - the threat of targeted violence has led many Hazara girls to drop out from local universities and discontinue their education. Furthermore, traders, laborers and workers have been killed inside their workplaces. Earning a livelihood for Hazaras in Quetta has become a matter of life and death.
"Young women like Jalila demonstrate that leadership models based on principles of inclusion have far-reaching power and potential for success that exclusionary models lack."
In April 2018, Quetta experienced another spree of killings in which more than 10 Hazaras were killed. To protest the barbarous killings of her community members, Jalila Haider, a young woman, went on a hunger strike. As a human rights advocate, she demanded that the government take steps to restore peace in her city. She boldly questioned the law enforcement agency’s failure to implement the National Action Plan and Quetta Safe City Project. The hunger strike led by Jalila was successful and ended on the fifth day when the government announced to strengthen security measures.
The hunger strike was a peaceful demonstration professing the resilience and strength of Hazara women. Young women like Jalila demonstrate that leadership models based on principles of inclusion have far-reaching power and potential for success that exclusionary models lack. Jalila became the voice of the most marginalized sections of Balochistan society. She became the voice of the Hazara.
While meeting with the officials from government and law enforcement agencies, she embodied the voice of Hazara women who have been suffering ongoing violence in silence. Households whose male breadwinners have been killed are facing numerous social, financial and administrative challenges after losing their loved ones. Likewise, heads of households are unable to work due to the immense threat to their lives in leaving their homes. No where is safe and the challenges are mounting.
Jalila not only pointed out those challenges, she also proposed adequate solutions. Her words had the power to humanize the situation, and make outsiders feel the pain of the oppressed. Young women like Jalila are a symbol of hope for people living in fragile and conflict affected areas.
Read "Exploring Women's Voices - Women in Conflict Zones: The Pakistan Study" to learn more about targeted killings of Hazara from women's perspectives.