Pakistan is a class based society, be it under a democratic regime, dictatorship or a somewhat-theocratic regime. We have ministers, who come from feudal or industrial backgrounds most of the time. And our system is made in such a way, where power remains concentrated in the hands of the people, who have been born within certain families, that help them maintain their imperial status intellectually, as well as economically. It creates a system where the privileged feel threatened even by the slight questioning of their ‘rights’ that they have been accustomed to.
One might encounter several such people on the Pakistan social media sites. Men and women flaunting their political, economic and social status on every occasion they get. Among these, there are certain quasi-empathetic ones. They criticise the elite themselves, but raise up their cudgels and contacts as soon as some middle class person states the obvious, trying to maintain a monopoly even in the virtual world.
Here is a perfect example of one such incident. Where Ayesha Sultana was cyber lynched along with several of her friends and supporters, who dared to talk back to the Pakistani ‘elite’.
The story starts two months ago, when Ayesha, a Pakistani middle class woman living in Canada, received an SOS email from H*, a woman based in Lahore on January 14, 2013. The following is an extract:
Moving back to the incident that triggered the hashtag CyberBullyAyesha, by the atheist, feminist high school mentality elite crowd, suffering severely from munchausen syndrome (no pun intended). After getting disappointing answers from one of Women’s Action Forum member and the bunch that claims to be radical feminist, custodians of the Pakistan Feminist Watch lynch mob and the high and mighty cyber witch hunters. The said activist sent several messages to people who actually do not brag about what they do for women in real or virtual life.
However, angry and hurt Ayesha chose to use her right to freedom of speech, thankfully provided by Social Media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, to rant against the over-all lack of empathy when it comes to women’s issues. This is what she wrote:
3 days ago, I got an email from this girl in Lahore about abuse that she faced from her teachers at Punjab University. She was scared, she wanted to file the complaint but she didnt know how it would affect her. She was scared of her family as to how they would react. She was completely distressed and distoreted while we communicated further.
I promised her that I will try to find someone in Lahore who can actually help her as I am not aware of the vicinity.
On my search for resources, this is what I observed; The so-called feminists and elites women of Pakistan who have TIME to be indulged in intellectual masturbation all day on theories of feminism & "Oppression Olympics" were TOO BUSY to lend in their contacts for help. They were of the view that we should just throw someone to a "shelter" or be "ignored" not recognizing that shelters are NOT really the greatest option and we can provide better resources of advocacy.
I just fucking sick and tired of these "elite" & "feminist" women for whom "feminism" is an elite badge which they borrowed from middle class white women of the West & who have never done fucking ground work in their sorry ass privileged life except talk about with their "Che Guevara" caps wearing males, how life sucks!!!
The general statement did come out as a shocker for our ‘Feminist Queen Bees’. Ayesha, without taking any names had hit the heart of the problem, unleashing on herself the wrath of the privileged section of our society, who have far more access to internet and a lot more time due to their, ummm ‘non-worker’ status? The following are the screenshots of the insults and exchanges:
If the fiasco has stopped right there and then, things might have been hunky dory. But unfortunately (for the Pakistani privileged lot), Ayesha was not alone. She was supported by several local as well as international activists who chose to counter the personal attacks being carried out by the ‘disgruntled Queen Bees’ of the Pakistani twitter world; for whom telling Ayesha to go for psyche evaluation came as naturally as crying comes to a newborn baby. They continued to target not only Ayesha, Maleeha and I (not just for supporting her and being anti-class-system, but also for having some mental health problems) but several international activists, including Leila Zahra, Nasreen Amina and Ram Narayan.
Apparently saying cunt, bitch, and invalidating someone for having a mental disability makes the said lady a very good feminist. If the same had been done by someone, who was not friends with the 'elite' crowd, s/he would have been lynched. Here's an example from someone who refused to take any step against the lady above, for it was a personal matter.
Tweets referring to people as Ayesha’s minions can be viewed here:
Maleeha Mengal has been told off by one of the Queen Bee crowd as being a ‘nobody’. In support of Ayesh she said, “We are all here to understand without interacting face to face. Words matter, if you create a hybrid of follies, you will end up making a mock out of yourself. We were there for Ayesha because, we saw, how everyone started calling her a bully when she only questioned their statuses. If they are so keen on their class, so are we, we are not privileged to automatic drifts, we get everything manually, and we go ahead of them. So why hide? Everyone can talk here online, not just the famous or elites. This is the only place where they cannot control the crowd; and we can all follow what we believe in.”
Ram Narayan from India, who works on rights of women prisoners, asked a very valid question, "Why are thy so insistent on putting people in shelters? Cause, THEY run a few and thrive. Seriously.. Dumping women in shelters fuels their own NGO business. And wearing the NGO tag as just that.. A tag."
The internet has created a fissure within the social fabric. In the past due to lack of access to communication devices and means, many people were unable to criticize or directly take to task the people who are the haves in our society. Even today, with 15 percent penetration of internet usage in Pakistan, a large majority does not have a voice to disagree with the decision makers, or even to ask for help against them. Hardly 12 percent of the total population actively use internet and even lesser use it for activism and grassroots movements. To be frank, there are no ‘grassroots’ online.
For anybody who is wondering who Ayesha Sultana is? She's an activist and blogger, who is studying forensic chemistry in Canada. She recently was nominated for the BlogHer International Activist Scholarship and will be presenting her work before a wider audience. For details: http://www.blogher.com/announcing-recipients-blogher-13-international-activist-scholarship
You can also check : http://storify.com/ashsultana/queen-bee-minions-and-elite-feminism
For reading the whole thread where Ayesha was attacked: https://www.facebook.com/goddess.chaos/posts/10151493527635817
Information about the shelter that was recommended for H*: http://aghsblog.wordpress.com/
Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy who won an Oscar filming acid burn victims, was accused of not doing what she promised Rukhsana. The case will remain obscured by conflicting accounts. For in Pakistan, media, judiciary and politicians are all for sale if one can pay the right price: http://criticalppp.com/archives/tag/sharmeen-obaid-chinoy
PS: Before anybody starts jumping the gun. All the screenshots have been made from public posts and were contributed by several people.