“Fear is a line in your head. You have to decide

which side you want to be on.”

 

–(Sabeen Mehmood)

 

Born in 1974 in Karachi, Sabeen Mahmood was brought up in a family in which she was given the independence to carve out her life the way she wanted to, a freedom very rarely granted to a woman born in Pakistan. Perhaps, this was one of the reasons why Sabeen fought for the right to freedom for everyone in the society, be it the Shias on Alamdar road, or Christians in Peshawar. Frustrated by the lack of a public space where people could come together, interact, express and learn in a safe environment, Sabeen founded a café/ bookshop, T2F, which brought together a crowd of writers, poets, painters, filmmakers, musicians, book lovers and queers. A firm believer in the freedom of expression, Sabeen would also use T2F to organize talks on such “controversial” issues as the Second amendment which declared Ahmedis as non-muslims. As expected when you cross certain boundaries in this country, Sabeen received threat calls. But her dedication could not be mired down by fear. When Mama Qadeer was not allowed to give a talk on missing persons of Baluchistan in LUMS university, Sabeen took the risk and invited him to T2F. On her way back from the talk, Sabeen was gunned down and killed.

Most of us do not even know who Sabeen Mahmood is, nor are we interested in celebrating her, since her life and work demands an acceptance of diversity of opinions and we, the proud religious and patriotic Pakistanis, lack the intellectual and moral courage to accept such a diversity. Instead of standing up for those who have been oppressed and silenced, Sabeen Mahmood needed to advocate a “positive image” of Pakistan and spew hatred against India to be celebrated as our hero.