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Tag Archives: pakistan

#Heroine: Sheema Kermani – Dancing for Pakistan’s Soul…

Heroes and heroines come in many different shapes and sizes.

None, however, are as graceful as Sheema Kermani – the Pakistani classical dancer, teacher, actor and human rights activist who was recently in London to choreograph and perform ‘Twelve’, a hard-hitting theatre production by Janet Steel exploring the issue of ‘Honour’ killings in Britain.

Kermani, who choreographed the entire production and performs, is incongruously graceful and haunting in a play about so-called ‘Honour Killings’.  The title refers to the number of such murders that take place each year in the United Kingdom – it is the official figure, one which is – depressingly enough – a fraction of the actual figure.

A dozen stories recount real tales of victims of this horrific practice – women such as Shafilea Ahmed and Samaira Nazir.

Kermani is no stranger to issues such as honour killings – whilst the number of incidents in Britain is horrifying, it still pales in comparison with how widespread the issue is in Pakistan where more than 3000 girls and women are killed each year for a myriad reasons – from daring to be independent to leaving abusive husbands.

It is also the kind of issue that gave rise to Tehrik-e-Niswan, a cultural movement founded by Kermani in 1979 and which campaigns for the rights of women through the arts.

Her achievements are made all the more remarkable by the fact that Kermani, now in her sixties, has been dodging bullets of one type or another for the last four decades.  Even as artists of her ilk fled Pakistan in the face of different forms of oppression – from Zia ul Haq to the Pakistani Taliban – Kermani remained, battled and has emerged – largely – unscathed.

In fact, Kermani was the only dancer in Pakistan throughout the years of General Zia-ul-Haq’s Martial Law, when dance was considered anathema to Zia’s much-reviled programme of ‘Islamization’.

Undeterred by the extremism around her, Kermani has dedicated her life to not only promoting classical dance and theatre but also reviving her country’s rich cultural heritage – one which become all but lost in the maelstrom of Islamic extremism.

The UKAsian caught up with Kermani in London to talk about her work and how she’s managed to fly under the radar.

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#SuperHeroine: Pakistan’s Burka Avenger flies into India

Pakistan's Burka Avenger flies into India Asian News UK British Asian

Pakistan’s famous Burka-rocking female superhero ‘Burka Avenger’ is bringing her message of women’s empowerment to India. The Emmy-nominated cartoon series was launched in Pakistan in August 2013 and has won a string of other global accolades as well as launching in Afghanistan. Its main protagonist, a teacher called Jiya – …

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#Secure: Gordon Brown brings Safe Schools project to Pakistan

Former British Prime Minister and UN education envoy Gordon Brown this week unveiled a new pilot project in Pakistan aimed at securing the country’s schools against terror attacks. The project, a collaboration between the Pakistani government and UNICEF among other organizations, will use technology to help schools assess risk levels …

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#Dukhtar: ‘Violence against women in Pakistan exists on multiple levels’ – Afia Nathaniel

A harrowing and poignant film about the horrors of child marriage and the status of women in Pakistan opens the 17th annual London Asian Film Festival tonight.

'Dukhtar' is the thrilling story of a mother and her ten-year-old daughter who flee their home in rural Pakistan after the youngster is promised in marriage to a local tribal leader.

Mom Allah Rakhi (Samiya Mumtaz) herself was betrothed to a much-older tribesman at the age of fifteen and she is determined that her daughter escapes the same fate, despite the appalling dangers she is bound to face as an unaccompanied woman with a young child in a lawless land.

As her outraged husband and men from her tribe embark on a pursuit that will almost certainly result in her death, the courageous and determined Rakhi flees and eventually hails down a truck driver, Sohail (Mohib Mirza) and lies to him about wanting a lift.

When Sohail learns of the real reason for Rakhi's flight, he is forced to decide whether he will endanger his own life to deliver mother and daughter to safety in Lahore.

The film is the debut feature of Quetta-born writer and director Afia Nathaniel.

Nathaniel spent nearly a decade cobbling together the financing for the film and endured everything from violence to sexism to bring the story to the big screen.

She spoke to the UKAsian during last year’s London Film Festival about her journey with ‘Dukhtar’.

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