Ironically, I was going to write about the diversity of viewpoints in Los Angeles as my first blog, before I got this terrible news that Sabeen Mehmud was shot dead in my hometown, Karachi.
Sabeen was a human rights advocate who pioneered initiatives like The Second Floor — a forum where students, activists, reporters or anyone with a different viewpoint can gather and talk. The attack came a few hours after she hosted a forum called “Unsilencing Balochistan,”
I am thousands of miles away from home, but somehow I felt like I was in Karachi at that moment. As a Karachiite and as a reporter, I have seen enough violence to become, unfortunately, detached from it. But it’s a different situation altogether when the person who is targeted is someone you know or used to see around.
I didn’t know Sabeen personally, but I wish I did. Because this attack somehow seems personal, as if a family member was targeted. And that is what she was to a lot of people around me.
Sabeen was someone who would speak out about the most controversial issues politely but firmly. And one of her habits, unfortunately, was to call a spade a spade, as was evident during the many interactions I had with her at The Second Floor. During one of the seminars in Karachi, I remember her telling a student, who spoke about having to struggle in a city full of various ethnicities, to “stop being a victim and learn to take a stand for yourself or people around you.”
Now that she’s murdered and out of the way, I don’t see a lot of people taking a stand for what she believed in. We are scared of standing up for ourselves — forget about taking a stand for someone else. And if that someone else happens to be someone we know, so what?
All I know is that these attacks won’t stop because we are not strong as a community. We are just waiting for another murder, another attack and then we’ll go about our work and try to forget about it. But these attacks are circling closer. They will come even closer to people near us, and then one day, it’ll be us.