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
The Herald: Cover story, December 2011
Making a mark
Defacement or censorship in international publications
British GQ’s September issue features a portfolio of images by photographer Mario Testino, including portrait of supermodel Gisele Bündchen. You are denied a comparatively innocuous glimpse of the curve of Bündchen’s breast – it has been scribbled over with black marker.
The director of distributor Liberty Books’ magazine division, Jamil Hussain, explains that this process, which the company refers to as “defacing”, is carried out by buyers in the U.S. and U.K.. Liberty, who supplies an estimated 95% of the market in Pakistan, is responsible for the purchase and distribution of 250 titles ranging from GQ, Vogue, Cosmopolitan, Men’s Health and Esquire to Harvard Business Review, Time, Newsweek, Reader’s Digest and The Economist across Pakistan. With magazines such as Maxim, which promises “scantily clad cover models and plenty of revealing photo layouts,” Liberty has what Hussain refers to as a “standing order” from the Pakistani Press Information Department (PID) and Customs to ensure that “nothing sexually explicit and anti-Islamic” makes its way into the local market. International buyers approach publishers such as Conde Nast on behalf of Liberty Books, acquiring magazines that are subsequently checked for images that would not pass the litmus test of the market’s sensibilities – Pakistan or the Middle East, for instance. In warehouses in London and New York, black marker-wielding employees restore the modesty of the scantily clad models.
Link to PDF of full article
Link to full article on Herald site