–Lawmakers condemn assault, demand action against culprits
Several people were injured after the Aurat March in Islamabad came under attack by religious men –one of whom was disguised as a woman in a burqa — on Sunday as the march was drawing to a close in front of Islamabad Press Club.
The men initially began with throwing stones at the marchers, but also drew out sticks to chase after and hit the women. The burqa-clad man was arrested by the police as it was later revealed that he along with a few others had infiltrated the march pretending to be supporters and had begun attacking the marchers.
A cloth partition installed for the protection of the participants was also removed after which hoards of men infiltrated the demonstration, prompting people to hurriedly exit from the venue. It may be noted here that the men on the other side of the partition had been staging a counter-protest when they decided to launch the attack.
According to an organiser who spoke to a local media channel, the men, who reportedly belonged to the Jamiat Ulema-e Islam – Fazl (JUI-F) and Lal Masjid, were hurling abuses at women, telling them to stop chanting the slogan ‘Mera Jism, Meri Marzi’.
JUIF & Sunni-ittehad mullahs violently attacked us today at #AuratAzadiMarch2020 with rocks & chilli powder and 5 of our people got severely injured. What triggered them? Seeing women reclaiming public space.
This is the true & ugly face of this society that we march against! pic.twitter.com/c5VLJGvJ4B
— Maria H. Malik ☭ (@marriyamalik1) March 8, 2020
Police and organisers struggled to control the situation and closed the F-6 road for traffic but the people were stopped from marching till D-Chowk. Some policemen were also seen running away and escaping themselves.
Islamabad police DID NOT provide the protection the way it should have.
1. Why was the mullah session in the same place separated only by a cloth tent?
2. When stones were thrown at us why were the police running away?
— Benazir Jatoi (@BenazirJatoi) March 8, 2020
Many women reported being subjected to violence. According to a woman who was returning to her car with her children, a man threw chilli powder at her face while many others reported that the religious men showed them their private parts.
— Irfana Yasser (@irfanacheema) March 8, 2020
We were flashed at by the JUIF goons, they threw chillies on another woman’s face, they injured multiple people but no one backed off! I’m so proud of each and everyone person and the organisers. We will win. Victory is ours! pic.twitter.com/OdIBpxLxlP
— Tooba Syed AWP ☭ (@Tooba_Sd) March 8, 2020
The march was attended by over 2,000 people who protested against multiple issues faced by women, transgenders, men, children and society as a whole and raised slogans urging the government to take action for their causes.
In the lead up to the March, supporters of the march had been threatened with murder, rape and violence, in addition, to being subjected to online vitriol and opposition from men and religious women.
On the other hand, Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) had issued an advisory, asking TV channels to refrain from broadcasting ‘vulgar/inappropriate content’ citing Pemra rules as well as court orders.
PPP Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar also condemned the incident and said: “To scare women from sticks, stones and bad language is cowardly behaviour.”
Khokhar demanded that legal action be taken against the people responsible for pelting marchers with stones.
Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari also issued a condemnation, saying that while people have the right to disagree, “violence is unacceptable”.
“Strongly condemn the stoning and violence against peaceful gathering of women, men and families in #AuratMarch2020. Our religion teaches tolerance and Sabr. It does not allow throwing stones and sticks at unarmed people one disagrees with. Can disagree with them but violence is unacceptable,” she tweeted.