Conservatives Pelt Stones, Throw Sticks At 'Aurat March' In Pakistan
9 March 2020 1:37 PM GMT
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On March 3, the Lahore high court had given a green signal to the march with the condition that organisers ensure that participants adhere to “decency and moral values”.
International Women's Day was celebrated this year in Pakistan with thousands of women who took to the streets and marched through the capital, Islamabad, and other cities - for an event called 'Aurat March'.
Marking the third successive year of the march, men and women participated in the march while conservatives pelted stones, sticks and shoes at the campaigners.
To counter the march, hundreds of men and women from the Red Mosque brigade, consisting of several local militant groups and a Taliban allied religious party staged a rival 'Haya March' just across from the women's march venue, district deputy commissioner Hamza Shafqaat said.
Police official Mazhar Niazi said the officers blocked the hardliners as they tried to break through a cordon to attack the marchers. Niazi also said that a criminal case would be registered against those violating the law and attempting to attack the women's march.
Religious fundamentalists in the country were angered by the slogans like "My body, my choice", "My body is not your battleground" and "Stop being menstrual phobic" used at past events.
Organisers of the march claimed that after last year's march they faced a backlash including murder and rape threats. They also said that posters and murals for the march had been vandalised. Prior to the march, a mural of artwork in Islamabad was destroyed by students from a nearby religious school within hours of it going up.
Some of those marching in Islamabad were injured after they were hit by stones and bricks.
The Wire reported that one of the organisers, Ammar Rashid, posted a photo on Twitter of a secular woman leader, Ismat Shahjahan, with a head injury. Police said they were investigating the claim.
Comrade @IsmatShahjahan got hit with a brick thrown by JUI-F Mullahs today in Islamabad. Multiple other injuries also reported, trying to follow up on them right now. pic.twitter.com/dPOZsN3WCr— Ammar Rashid ☭ (@AmmarRashidT) March 8, 2020
Marches in other cities across Pakistan, including Lahore, Karachi, Sukkur and Multan were held peacefully amid tight security with large participation from students, civil rights groups and other women's organisations.
The marchers at some of these other events carried colourful placards and banners, chanted slogans challenging patriarchy and misogyny.
"You know, whatever they do, they can't scare us. Their scare tactics aren't going to work on us," Anam Rathore, one of the organisers of the marches, told Reuters.
The theme for this year's march was "Mera Jism, Meri Marzi" (My body, my choice). The marches were organised by a collective that includes Women's Action Forum, a women's rights organisation, Women's Democratic Front, a socialist-feminist organisation, and Hum Aurtein, a feminist group.
On March 3, the Lahore high court had given a green signal to the march with the condition that organisers ensure that participants adhere to "decency and moral values."
A petition in the high court had called for restrictions to be placed on the organisers and participants of the march and had alleged that the agenda of the march was to "spread anarchy, vulgarity, blasphemy and hatred" against Islam.
However, the court gave its permission for the march after Advocate Saqib Jillani, who was defending the march, held that the guidelines which included refraining "from using any language or images on posters and placards that are discriminatory towards any religion, ethnicity, nationality, gender or sexual identity" be considered as an undertaking for the march.
Lawyer Azhar Siddique, one of the petitioners whose case was dismissed by the Lahore high court, held that the entire movement was part of a Western agenda to ruin the culture of Pakistan. "I have worked for women's rights more than these people. And where in Pakistan other than a few places has there been discrimination against women?" he said, speaking to Al Jazeera.
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