samar.esapzai

Samar Esapzai

The author is a mommy, writer, visual artist and academic. Her areas of interest include gender relations, women's empowerment, maternal mental health, and anything and everything related to her people, the Pashtuns. She blogs at sesapzai.wordpress.com and tweets at @sesapzai (twitter.com/SesapZai)

It’s time we stopped turning a blind eye to the racism and xenophobia that exists in Canada

I consider myself a very proud Canadian. I do. I love Canada with all my heart and soul, as utterly clichéd as that may sound. When my parents were thinking of immigrating ‘abroad’ – we lived in Saudi Arabia at that time – they kept insisting that we move to Canada. And they didn’t have a valid reason for it either; they just wanted us to move here, because everyone else they knew was immigrating in flocks to the United States. I guess they knew, in their hearts, that Canada was the better option. And it was; well, for ...

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Change begins at home: Stop blaming France for the Burkini ban

When I lived in Saudi Arabia, religious policing of women’s bodies was the norm. I remember a time when my mother and I were casually strolling down Suwaiket street – one of the most busiest and populated areas in downtown Al-Khobar – when we suddenly witnessed the religious police, most commonly referred to as ‘mutawa’ (or mutaween for plural) approach a young woman, and angrily demanded that she cover up, as she wore the abaya (full Islamic body covering), with the scarf resting loosely around her shoulders, her face and hair bare. When the woman, who was too shocked to speak or didn’t comply right away, ...

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Dear Forever 21 and Urban Oufitters, please stop plagiarising our Sindhi cultural heritage

As someone who lived the majority of her life in a city packed with diverse cultures, I love and thoroughly enjoy indulging in food, jewellery, and clothing from various ethos and lifestyles. From Japanese sushi to Indian yoga to Moroccan mint tea to African jewellery — I live for them all! And quite often, too. So, when I hear words like ‘cultural appropriation’ being thrown around, as soon as a (white) person indulges in food or clothing that would otherwise be considered sacred or unique to a specific culture, I often wonder what the reason behind all the animosity could be. What ...

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Killing patriarchy, one headscarf at a time

Every once in a while, I come across news that fills me with hope that patriarchy will indeed perish someday, and that all is not lost in vain. And the news about Iranian men donning hijabs, in solidarity with their wives was one of those rare moments. For the past few days, several men have been posting pictures of themselves wearing the hijab – and some even wearing the full burqa – to not only show solidarity with their wives, who have been forced to cover up in accordance with the strict ‘modesty’ rules of the country, but also to protest ...

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No, Edhi is not ‘Pakistan’s Mother Teresa’

Abdul Sattar Edhi was a great man. He was one of the greatest men Pakistan – and perhaps even the whole world ­– would probably witness in our lifetime. For, in a country ridden with much despondency, Edhi’s existence served as a beacon of hope for those who bore first hand witnesses to injustice and inequality. His founding of the Edhi Foundation – a momentous philanthropic organisation dedicated to serving the poor and the destitute in the country for over six decades – provided light where there was incessant darkness. He saved lives, time and time again, lives that weren’t ...

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If that was my kid, I’d want Harambe killed too

Over the past few days, the incident of a four-year-old boy (who had somehow ended up in a gorilla’s pit at the Cincinnatti Zoo, and where one of the gorillas was shot dead in order to keep the boy safe) has turbulently taken the internet by storm. Countless tweets, Facebook posts, blogs, and articles have been written about the incident; some justifying the killing of the gorilla for the boy’s safety, while others expressing immense outrage, stating that the boy’s mother, Michelle Gregg, was “negligent” and that the gorilla, the beautiful and endangered Harambe, should not have been killed. Curious, I decided to watch ...

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My teacher told me that if I didn’t cover my hair, Satan would urinate in it

I have always loved Sesame Street. It was the only children’s show, along with Fraggle Rock, that I eagerly watched as a little girl while growing up in Saudi Arabia. I especially love how culturally diverse the show is and how, through multicultural elements, it aims to teach young children the value of mutual acceptance and cross-cultural friendships. In a nutshell, the show is perfect in all aspects of what a children’s show is supposed to entail. So, it did not come as a surprise to me when I learned last week, through an Instagram photo a friend had tagged ...

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Did Nawaz Sharif just wake up to honour killings in Pakistan?

When it comes to the barrage of crimes against women, Pakistan ranks among the highest in the world. Such crimes against women include violence (sexual and non-sexual), trafficking and murder in the name of “honour”. While no crime is worse than the other, the regularity with which honour killings occur in Pakistan is especially harrowing. As a matter of fact, more than 1,000 women die from honour-based killings every year. These are just the reported cases. Think about how far the number would jump up considering the fact that most of the cases of violence against women go undocumented. Despite the uniformity of these crimes, ...

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#ParisAttacks: How social media took to anti-Muslim bigotry

Friday the 13th is considered to be the unluckiest day of the year, according to western superstitious beliefs, and this belief couldn’t have been more accurate, as the world bore witness to one of the most horrific terrorist attacks that mercilessly swathed the capital city of Paris, in France, last night. The horrific attacks consisted of a series of shootings, suicide bombings, and explosions, killing over 120 people (thus far) in six distinct locations throughout the city, which included a theatre, concert hall, shopping mall and a sports stadium. And while it is yet to be confirmed whether the attackers were in fact ...

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Living with postpartum depression in Pakistan because a woman’s honour depends on it

Earlier this month, we learnt that famous Hollywood actresses Hayden Panettiere and Drew Barrymore are suffering from postpartum depression and it is due to their courage of opening up about their experiences with this acute illness, why the world should start talking about this issue further. And I couldn’t agree more. I agree that the world should not only start, but should have been talking about postpartum depression and the severity of this illness for a long time coming. The illness, depending on its severity, is experienced by women all over the world. Some are fortunate enough to live in places where this illness is ...

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