KARACHI: Jalila Haider wants her voice heard in a place where, in her own words, there has not been a single family which hasn’t carried the coffin of a father, son or brother. The 30-year-old belongs to the Shia Hazara community from Quetta.
Her story is one of 25 to have been selected for a contest titled ‘Tell Her Story’ by the Institute for South Asia Studies at the University of California, Berkeley and Facebook.
Nosheen Abbas, the writer who penned Jalila’s story for the contest, wrote some moving words about the latter’s community. “Walking down one of the most treacherous roads in Quetta’s Alamdar road, and any (Shia) Hazara will tell you that they don’t know if they will make it across alive,” Nosheen wrote.
“Some call them (Hazaras) the Rohingya of Pakistan because of the sheer number of ethnically motivated targeted attacks against them,” she added.
Quetta’s Hazara community has found in Jalila a defender of human rights, often at the forefront of protests against the injustices and brutalities meted out to her people. She is the first woman in her community to become an attorney who specialises in human rights and criminal litigation.
“Jalila is an ardent social activist, often taking to the streets to fight for Hazara rights and protesting targeted killing. But not only does she face life threatening situations because of her work, but also deals with challenges at the work place as one of the few women working at the bar council,” Nosheen’s story on her goes on.
In an interview with Cutacut, Jalila said she wasn’t aware that her story was making the rounds on social media after Nosheen wrote it for the contest. “It is very exciting to see that someone wrote about me, which will eventually spread the word about my cause,” she said.
These days, Jalila said she is pre-occupied with her profession and activism. “Last week, my cousin was shot dead and we organised a protest for that. Conditions keep deteriorating here, but what can we do except raise our voice?”
“I have been offered admission for further studies in a varsity abroad but I’m still undecided if I should go there. Who will work here if I leave? I can’t think of going and leaving my people,” she said, adding that she also fears naysayers will argue they were actively protesting in order to move out of the country.
Nosheen is among the 25 women shortlisted in the contest. The finalist will receive a cash prize and a trip to UC Berkeley to spend a week with scholars of gender, film and media studies.