Pakistani social media star Qandeel Baloch was allegedly murdered by her brother in an “honour killing”. Photo: Twitter @QandeelQuebeeShe was a social media star known as Pakistan’s Kim Kardashian. But model and singer Qandeel Baloch used her fame for more than just self promotion, aiming to challenge the deeply conservative mindset of her Muslim nation.
“I believe I am a modern day feminist,” she said, in one of her final Facebook posts. “I believe in equality. As … women we must stand up for ourselves…we must stand up for each other…we must stand up for justice.”
On Friday, Baloch described herself as an “inspiration to those ladies who are treated badly and dominated by the society” and said she knew her critics would “Keep On Hating … DAMN but Who Cares”.
Hours later she was dead, allegedly murdered by her brother in a so-called honour killing.
Baloch, 26, was a polarising figure in Pakistan and beyond. Her bold, often provocative, videos, photographs and comments went viral online, where she had more than 750,000 supporters on Facebook. While Baloch was praised by some for her independence and defiance of social expectations, others subjected her to death threats and frequent misogynistic abuse.I will fight for it. I will not give up. I will reach my goal. & absolutely nothing will stop me…. https://t上海龙凤419/fjDhN6Aa1B— Qandeel Baloch (@QandeelQuebee) July 14, 2016 On July 5, she wrote that she was “trying to change the typical orthodox mindset of people who don’t wanna come out of their shells of false beliefs and old practices… It’s time to bring a change because the world is changing. let’s open our minds and live in present.”
But the old practices – even, apparently, in her own family – were not changing fast enough. Baloch, who was born Fauzia Azeem, was killed in her family home in the city of Multan. Contrary to earlier reports that she was strangled, Nabila Ghazzanfar, a Punjab Police spokeswoman, told Al Jazeera the initial post-mortem showed Baloch’s nose and mouth had been pinned shut, blocking off her airways.
Baloch’s brother, Waseem Azeem, was arrested and confessed to the killing, Pakistani news channel ARY News reported on Sunday. Presented to the media by police, he said he was not ashamed.
“We are respected people of Baloch cast,” he reportedly said. “Qandeel’s videos making rounds on social media could not be tolerated, hence I solely decided to kill her. I am not ashamed of my conduct.”
Baloch’s death prompted tributes on social media, as well as anger and protests in Pakistan, reigniting the debate about “honour killings”. Almost 1100 women were killed in Pakistan last year by relatives who believed they had dishonoured their families, according to the country’s independent Human Rights Commission. Such figures are widely thought to be “severe underestimates”, the Honour Based Violence Awareness Network says.
The chairman of the Pakistan People’s Party, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, and filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, who won an Oscar this year for her documentary on honour killings, A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness, were among many who condemned the killing. #QandeelBaloch killed in an #honorkilling- how many women have to die before we pass the Anti Honor Killing Bill?— Sharmeen Obaid (@sharmeenochinoy) July 16, 2016
#QandeelBaloch was a Pakistani woman and deserved the right to life. No ifs, no buts. Punjab government must hold murderer accountable.— BilawalBhuttoZardari (@BBhuttoZardari) July 16, 2016Honour killing of artist @QandeelQuebee celebrated by Pakistanis. #QandeelBaloch Via @i_k_bpic.twitter上海龙凤419m/Kp4VewWMhF— Rita Panahi (@RitaPanahi) July 16, 2016 – with Reuters