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Pakistan: Women's Rights Activist Killed

Fareeda Kokikhel Afridi, a prominent and tireless activist from Jamrud was shot dead in cold blood by armed gunmen. She was the head of a women's rights NGO, SAWERA (Society for Appraisal & Women Empowerment in Rural Areas)  that strives for the betterment of local women in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan.  According to local newspapers, Fareeda was shot dead just a kilometre away from her home. She was travelling to her office in Peshawar, while four gunmen killed her along the way. In all likelihood this killing was executed by Taliban who have killed another prominent Human rights activist Zarteef Afridi on 8th of December 2011.

Who is Fareeda Kokikhel Afridi?

Fareeda graduated from the Allama Iqbal Open University with a Master degree in gender issues. She with her sisiter, Noor Afridi, co-founded an organization with the goal of improving the female literacy rate and women empowerment.  SAWERA is a voluntary based, non-profit organization working for the accomplishment of these goals.

It was a radical move in a culture where women are often forced to live within the confines of their homes. In tribal and religious societies, women are not allowed to participate in the mainstream. Men force them to strictly wear the veil, which reduces human interaction.  As women are sidelined, education becomes a much sought dream that is never attained.

25-year-old Fareeda knew about these challenges when she founded SAWERA in 2004. She wasn't against tribal value; rather only wanted to raise the standard of living in her area.

Condemnation for Afridi's killing

The HRCP (Human Rights Commission of Pakistan) has strongly condemned this brutal act. HRCP commented:

“It is a matter of grave concern that the risks facing human rights defenders and those working to ameliorate the lot of marginalized segments remain very high across the country”.

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

Tribal NGOs Consortium also severely condemned her assassination. A press release issued by the organisation said:

“We the participants of civil society organizations 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 free hand to kill people of civil society.”

Netizens have also condemned this incident. Although the issue has not been highlighted on twitter, comments on news articles and other social media sources reveal  reactions to this horrendous act.

Usman comments:

Along with her, a part of Pakistan’s soul also died.

Charnushah says:

It is so tragic. It seems that with the arrival of these beasts called Taliban we Pakhtuns have also forgot our glorious traditions of Pakhtoonwali as well. So sad

Shakeela khan writes:

Ms. Afridi was a ray of hope and an example of bravery and courage for all the women and especially of FATA. Her sudden and brutal killing is indeed a great loss for us and a discouragement for all those who worked for the development and empowerment of the marginalized people especially women.

Shaad Begum — a women's rights activist who recently received an international award for her work in the field of women's education and health — sees no hope in future. In an interview to VOA urdu [ur], she says:

“مجھے نہیں لگتا کہ اس طرح کی صورت حال میں اب فاٹا (وفاق کے زیرِ انتظام قبائلی علاقوں) کی کوئی لڑکی کام کرنے کے لیے تیار ہو گی۔”

I don't think in such conditions girls in FATA (Federally Administrated Tribal Areas) will be ready to carry on with there work.

The government needs to work for the protection of such inspirational women. As more human rights activists get killed, the militants are winning more space to preach their irrational ideology.  Hafeez comments:

“The only way to encourage such women/men working for upliftment of lives in dangerous areas is for the government to bestow some medal of honor and money to the family. Such workers are our assets.”

Fareed Afridi will always remain a shining example for all activists around the world her her daring stance. Here is to hoping that her work will be continued by others.

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