Human rights defender and founding member of the Civil Society Organization Aware Girls Gulalai Ismail was detained this morning by the Federal Investigative Agency upon her arrival to the Islamabad airport from London. She has since been released from detainment on temporary interim bail, but the authorities have kept her passport and her name is still on the Exit Control List.
This remarkable activist co-founded Aware Girls at just 16 with her sister Saba Ismail, with the hopes of changing the attitude towards women and their treatment in her environment. Apart from her advocacy work in women’s rights, she is one of few who are brave enough to speak out against the Taliban, for which she has been awarded the prestigious Anna Politkovskaya Award, presented annually by the Reach All Women in War organisation, intended to honor women human rights defenders. The award recognizes women from conflict zones who stood up to defend the rights of victims affected by conflicts.
Gulalai has been threatened for her activism multiple times, and labeled as a “foreign agent” for her advocacy. Her detainment this morning seems to be the consequence of her support for the nonviolent Pashtun Tahafuz Movement, for which the authorities have targeted her and placed her name on the ECT (Exit Control list), which bans her from leaving the country. Detainment on such grounds is unlawful, and should have never occurred in the first place
In a WhatsApp recorded voice message sent out to her friends and family, Gulalai stated:
“This is an attack on civic freedoms. This is an attack on our liberty to speak out. This is an attack on our freedom of speech”.
World Youth Movement for Democracy strongly condemns her detainment and demands that she not be targeted and arrested for her activism.
We stand in solidarity with Gulalai and refuse to be silenced by oppressive governments. People like Gulalai Ismail must not be treated as criminals and state enemies, as their values and work demonstrates they fight to create better conditions for their community daily.
We should use every opportunity to express support to their work which is essential for the betterment of human rights in Pakistan.