PAKISTAN: “Qandeel Baloch,” a name that refuses to die down, a name that refuses to be buried, a name that refuses to be forgotten. One year after her tragic death, Baloch’s name still shines and still resurfaces amidst conversations.
On July 15, 2016, Fouzia Azeem was brutally killed by her brother for the sake of “honour” because he felt that she had brought shame to his family and their community. He took it upon himself to end her life to put a stop to the comments and statements of friends and family which pointed fingers to what she did and who she had become. But did that stop it?
In a recent search, it was discovered that there are no Facebook memorial pages for Qandeel Baloch, her original Facebook page, all her videos were wiped from existence shortly after her death. Facebook has a law that allows them to either memorialise a person’s Facebook profile after their death or to delete it. Baloch’s Facebook page wasn’t even memorialised, it was deleted straight.
The most adequate explanation for the reaction Qandeel’s death received is of the politics of respectability which discusses the way in which women were deemed respectable or not based on their behaviour.
The social media wipe out encouraged a spiral of silence around her death. While everyone talked about whether her death was justified or not, the debate certainly subsided. However, a few weeks after Qandeel’s death, people had switched over to different topics and in the absence of her profile or videos, the discussion completely died down.
This is how fast social media and all the people wanted to forget her. They wanted her removed from existence so her name is shoved into corners and concealed.
But that’s not what happened. Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy directed a short film in memory of Qandeel which was voiced by international pop-sensation Madonna. The video begins with a snippet of Baloch saying, “I will do something. I will do something that will shock everyone” and then shows snippets of Baloch’s video while being voiced over by Madonna.
“Proud to narrate my friend #SharmeenObaidChinoy ’s latest film about Qandeel Baloch, the Pakistani social media star who was murdered by her brother in an “honor killing.” The Pakistan government finally just passed the #antihonorkilling bill, closing the loophole that allows killers to walk free! ☮So good to see positive change happen in the world. Too bad Qandeel and so many others had to die first. Today is the. DayoftheGirl @CHIMEFORCHANGE #GCFestival .”[sic]” said Madonna’s Instagram account with a picture of Qandeel Baloch attached.
It also shows her father talking about Baloch saying, “She was my daughter and my friend”.
Obaid-Chinoy’s video brought Baloch back to conversations. And then came Saba Qamar’s announcement in May that she would be playing Qandeel Baloch in a biopic termed ‘Baaghi’.
‘Baaghi’ brought back Baloch’s name to the social media. She was being remembered again, and this is a victory against those who work towards silencing women by opting for murder. While honour killing is prevalent in Pakistan, initiatives are working against it every day.
And the most recent attempt to remember her with respect is filmmaker Saad Khan’s initiative, a Facebook page called “Qandeel Ki Kahani”, which talks about her family’s anecdotes about the famed starlet. The Facebook page reads, “Centering her story in her own words, and through narratives of those who knew her. Qandeel successfully climbed the socio-economic ladder in a country where the class you’re born into determines who you are, what opportunities you’ll get, and what you can do. She defied all that and became Pakistan’s social media superstar.”
The first post is a quote from the interview he did with Baloch’s sister, it reads:
“I called her Fauzia. She changed her name to Qandeel Baloch after she joined the media. When I met her two years ago, I asked her why she had changed her name to Qandeel. She said that she changed her name because the people she worked with didn’t know she was a single woman working alone, that she didn’t have any support from her family.”
A very interesting anecdote shared on the page talked about how she was brought by Abdul Sattar Edhi after she had left her town in one day looking for grandmother to make clothes for her dolls. Her mother’s anecdote says, “She told him she was from Shah Dar Din, and that she wanted to go to her grandmother’s house in DG Khan. He told her she had accidentally come to Multan. She started crying even more. He took her to Edhi Home and left her there.
We were all so worried, we didn’t have mobile phones back then. At that time, you had to go from house to house to find someone. We kept looking for her, asking around. Four to five days passed. No one cooked in our house… our mother became hysterical crying all day. She was thinking someone must have kidnapped her, got a hold of her. ‘Where had Fauzia disappeared?’ she would keep on saying.
Then, one day, at night it had rained heavily. Abdul Sattar Edhi – you have heard of him, right? – he brought Qandeel back.”
“Edhi Saab and Qandeel passed away in 2016, a week apart. Qandeel’s body was transported by Edhi Saab’s ambulance team,” the page reads.
The page also sheds light on Qandeel’s life; one that she lived much like most girls from a small village, full of weddings and family and tradition. One of the posts talks about how Baloch loved singing and dancing, “She loved dancing. She liked singing. She’d tell us her voice is really good, that she’d become a singer. She’d be watching TV and she’d say, ‘I’ll make something out of myself. I’ll do something.’ ‘I’ll act, I’ll sing.’ ‘I’ll do everything.’ ‘you’ll see.’We [brothers and sisters] would laugh and say, ‘Azeem Baray’s daughter will do work in acting?’ She’d say ‘Yes, I’ll do it and show you all,’” Qandeel’s sister.
This Facebook page is much like a chronicle on Baloch’s life that attempts to show you both Fouzia Azeem and Qandeel Baloch together, and is a memorial to the deceased social media celebrity.
While attempts have been made to shun her out of society, to remove her name from existence, to forget her; many attempts have been made to keep her alive, to bring her back to public discussion, to remember her as not a shame to society but as a person who did not deserve to be killed.
Rest in Peace, Qandeel Baloch. You will ALWAYS be remembered.