Gay man thrown off a building: ISIS and TTP, our Frankensteins

Published: February 12, 2015
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The government, prison, and the military share a symbiotic relationship in the propagation of retributive justice. They play upon people’s insecurities and their tendencies to avenge by training them to kill. PHOTO: AFP

As long as we have activists, poets, musicians, artists, writers and entrepreneurs amongst us, we can hold on to the fact that humanity is worth having faith in. PHOTO: AFP The government, prison, and the military share a symbiotic relationship in the propagation of retributive justice. They play upon people’s insecurities and their tendencies to avenge by training them to kill. PHOTO: AFP

I must warn you – there is nothing new to read here. There is nothing here that spells ‘recipe for changing the world’. There are no prescriptions or solutions to the horrors we are witnessing today or have witnessed yesterday.

From our birth to our death, we are in a constant struggle to defeat our own monsters and demons on a daily basis, with silent victories and failures in self-improvement, relationships with family and friends, spiritual and economic prosperity, and learning and taking care of health.

The awareness of how well prepared we are in terms of dealing with the monsters and demons condemning, persecuting and executing innocent lives on a daily basis is likely to become a genetic trait of future generations. They will most definitely know better than us on how to wipe out the forces of evil by their very root. They will know how to identify evil and how to get them regardless of the labels they wear, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or the Taliban or the police or the army or the government or whatever-other-evil as to rephrase Shakespeare:

“What’s in a name? Evil by any other name would be same as evil itself.”

Throughout the 35 years of my life, I’m fairly convinced that monsters and demons are created by human beings. We hold immense power over our creations and have an innate tendency of exercising this power with zero accountability. Frankenstein must have been Mary Shelley’s catharsis over mankind’s potential to create monsters and taming them to perform evil acts. It was her work that inspired Karl Marx to write the Communist Manifesto.

The most recent example of Frankenstein’s work today is throwing an innocent man, “framed as a homosexual” off the roof of a building and then stoning him to death, and torching a young Jordanian pilot in a cage and then bulldozing his carcass. While trying to compare the two executions, I questioned fellow queer activist, friend, and writer, Hadi Hussain on how he perceives the two executions, considering that the pilot was a heterosexual man. Would this have happened if one of the ISIS monsters happened to be a homosexual? Why would a homosexual man murder other homosexual people?

He says,

“It’s an ‘if’. ‘If’ they were gay, then their understanding of laws does not permit them to be gay. They could be closeted gays. ISIS could be framing innocent people under the guise of homosexuality to legitimise their murders. They are chopping off lives like vegetables without any discrimination.”

The fact is that same-sex sexual activity was legalised in Iraq in 2003. The same year Saddam’s regime was overthrown. However, neither is there any legal recognition of same-sex couples nor legal recognition of same-sex marriage or surrogacy allowed for gay couples.

“It was the beginning of a terrifying period in Iraq,” recalls Hadi. “There was an exponential rise of the lynch mobs or militias hunting down gay people, arranging meetings with them over the internet and then killing them.”

The murders continue and gays continue to live in fear and many have fled their country. The sickening “emo” murders of 2012 are another fairly recent example of homophobic criminal acts, during which an Iraqi who appeared to be an “emo” was assumed gay and was killed on that pretext by the militia.

Therefore, the truth that needs to be acknowledged and understood is that we are all living at the mercy of the prison and the military industrial complexes. By adopting the system of “retributive justice” as Angela Davis, feminist, activist, and author of Prison Industrial Complex so aptly highlights in her lecture at the University of Chicago in 2013, they have created new forms of evil for mankind to suffer. The government, prison, and the military share a symbiotic relationship in the propagation of retributive justice. They play upon people’s insecurities and their tendencies to avenge by training them to kill, arming them with weapons and leaving a large amount of money behind for their families to sustain their haram livelihoods.

Retributive justice is based on the idea of vengeance from the perspective of the wronged party. According to Merriam Webster, vengeance is defined as “infliction of punishment in return for a wrong committed”. One example to explain how retributive justice works is to read or watch Shakespeare’s Hamlet – where the main goal of the protagonist is to avenge the betrayal of his father by his mother and uncle. Interestingly, Hamlet has recently been adapted to Hindi screens in the form of Haider amidst the controversial political settings of Kashmir by Bollywood filmmaker Vishal Bharadwaj, who is well-known for his earlier adaptations of Shakespeare, namely Omkara (Othello) and Maqbool (MacBeth). Haider was not screened in Pakistan for obvious reasons – Kashmir.

Jealousy, love, lust for power, hate including misogyny, racism, homophobia, transphobia and class-phobia are some of the stereotypical motivators for retributive justice, the so-called “war against terrorism”. Some examples of retributive justice from the perspective of monsters and demons include sectarian hate crimes, persecution on the basis of belonging to another religion, persecution on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation, incarcerations and death for innocent workers based on laws on terror which come as a bonus with foreign aid.

The main beneficiaries of retributive justice are governments, the police, the armies and terrorist groups, business groups, and political parties. All these groups are inter-connected in the propagation of retributive justice.

The merciless murder of over 150 innocent students and teachers at the Army Public school and college in Peshawar by the evil monsters was no coincidence or unexpected tragedy. Eight months before the attack, when the civil society across Pakistan had taken to the streets to protest against the massacre in Gaza, I clearly recall the zealous praises and support of the protestors for Pakistan army’s operation in FATA and Zarb-e-Azab, which had left hundreds of people dead and millions homeless.

The protest that was organised against military operations didn’t pick its pace as fast it ought to have as compared to the Gaza protests.  

“FATA? The terrorists deserve to die.” screamed one of the protestors for Palestine.

“But these are our own people, we should protest for them too,” I pleaded.

Another protestor argued,

“If we didn’t have an army, we’d pretty much be like Palestine right now, helpless and defenceless.”

This was a rationale I’ve witnessed with some partition survivors who’d migrated to Pakistan. I refused to argue any further.

What also became clear during these protests is that the foundation of Palestine and Pakistan are often conflated with Islamic ideology. No one here understands or is ready to acknowledge that the Palestinian struggle is an issue of Arab nationalism, as activist Leila Khaled explicitly stated in her Skype talk at Café Bol in 2012,

“Not all Arabs are Muslims and Arabic is not the native language of all Muslims.”

Similarly, it is essential to remember that not all “emos” are lesbians, gays, bisexuals or transgenders (LGBT) and not all LGBTs are “emos”. It is also essential to remember that Palestinian LGBT activists have responded aggressively and made it clear that they do not want to be subjected to Israel’s pink-washing propaganda.

There are around 5,000 Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli prisons today whereas there are approximately 99 political prisoners in Pakistani prisons, more than half of them are convicted under the anti-terrorism laws. These political workers are/were a threat to the business interests of the government, the police, the army, the terrorist groups – the monsters and the demons. There are a few monsters in Pakistani prisons convicted for massacre concerning two Ahmadi mosques in Lahore and the Mumbai attacks.

With the death penalty reinstated after the Peshawar massacre, it is a good opportunity for the government to eliminate these numerous imprisoned threats ranging from covering up of the death of innocents in prison to ignoring hunger strikes by imprisoned political workers and the immediate release of the mastermind behind the Mumbai attacks amidst the execution of the monster behind the Ahmadi massacre.

On January 4, 2015, I attended a vigil for Salman Taseer at Liberty Roundabout, Lahore. I was in conversation with a lawyer when I noticed bearded and non-bearded men had started forming a human chain in front of us. Feeling a bit of negative energy emanating from the people in front of us, I asked him,

“Are these people with you? Did you invite them?”

She replied saying,

“No, but if they’re here for support then that’s a good thing I suppose.”

“I suppose,” I repeated after her, not sure whether I agreed.

“Well, they should be the ones promoting peace considering they love to preach so much. It’s about time they take some responsibility for their actions.” I said.

Everyone knows how the story unfolds after that.

Before the mob began to attack the protestors, I had held my poster which said, “Stop killing in the name of religion” right in front of their faces – it was a moment of poetic justice and I felt somewhat accomplished. This poetic justice, no matter how small it may be, is what we all need to work towards.

It has taken five years for the world to acknowledge the legal victory for the transgender community in Pakistan; it is a victory that benefits everyone, which is free from all kinds of retributive elements, and therefore, it truly deserves celebration.

As long as we have activists, poets, musicians, artists, writers and entrepreneurs amongst us, we can hold on to the fact that humanity is worth having faith in.

As Howard Zinn puts it;

“To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasise in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places — and there are so many — where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction. And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvellous victory.”

Fakhra.Hassan

Fakhra Hassan

A self-identified feminist based in Lahore, she is working on completing her first novella and tweets as @fakhraahassan (twitter.com/fakhraahassan)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.