The New York Times/ Women in the World: April 26, 2015
That which was squashed by others
Was lifted by this slight one
-Mir Taqi Mir
On Friday April 24th, the city of Karachi lost one of its bravest daughters. Sabeen Mahmud, a rights activist and the owner of The Second Floor (T2F) café, was shot dead shortly after she hosted an event that sought to highlight grave human rights abuses widely attributed to the Pakistan Army and associated militia in the country’s largest province of Balochistan. By Saturday afternoon the café where, since 2007, residents of Karachi could talk about virtually any subject—religion, ethnicity, sexuality, politics or even just the merits of the latest Apple invention—fell silent as Sabeen’s body was brought in by well-wishers, admirers, friends and family members. There were too many shoulders jostling to help carry the weight of the bier holding Sabeen’s slight, forty-year-old frame. She would have been 41 this June and had never been so still for so long in this café, for hers was a manic, irrepressible energy.
I was often irked by Sabeen’s optimism. When I spoke with her last week about a project we were collaborating on, I asked, tired, “How is everything going?” She replied, “Oh its madness! But the best kind.” I wondered how her spirit did not flag—or at least did not appear to—even as she lived in a place that did not always respond kindly to her attempts to fix what was broken and change what was flawed.
Photo: Ali Rez