Should #WeDisownSharmeen?

Published: March 1, 2016
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PHOTO: AFP

It was yet another proud moment for Pakistan when Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy held up her second Oscar for A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness. To begin with, her being nominated for a second time was good enough, but winning a second Oscar came as a welcome surprise for me.

Unfortunately, most people don’t share the same sentiments as I do. Many are celebrating her success, but most are bashing her for portraying Pakistan in a negative light… yet again.

But why?

Are we enraged over the fact Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy projected the stark reality or are we upset we didn’t think about documenting such brutal issues before her?

Keyboard warriors leapt onto their favourite battlefield, Twitter, and soon the hashtag #WeDisownSharmeen started trending. Yup, it actually trended.

At her session during the Karachi Literature Festival, when Sharmeen was asked a question pertaining to this topic, she responded saying,

“If you don’t like the picture, then fix the problem. Don’t shoot the messenger.”

She’s right. Rather than hating on her for doing something our government should have rightfully done, we should be grateful to her for bringing such issues into the limelight. At least she got the government to look into the Anti-Honour Killings Law. Pakistan will actually have a bill protecting women against honour killings and perpetrators of this crime will be punished. Should we be annoyed about this as well?

Somehow Pakistanis tend to get touchy when fingers are pointed at them. Our inflated pride and ego are pricked and that’s it, we run head on into a battle of putting down the person who paints the truth. Yes Pakistan is a great country in so many ways, it’s home at the end of the day, but to get frustrated and go on a hate rampage because people are trying to highlight and fix issues is not what we should resort to.

Are we content watching women get killed every day? I know I’m not. I support Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy for picking topics that strike a nerve. She makes us question our conscience, something which we have buried deep within ourselves.

We seem to have gone back to the but-why-couldn’t-she-have-portrayed-the-positive-side-of-Pakistan-instead rant without acknowledging the fact that the brutalities she documents are real. They exist whether we believe it or not and the only way to portray the good is to show that we acknowledge the bad and are trying to fix it. What positive side are they talking about, anyway? The Kasur scandal? Children in Thar dying of hunger? Forced child marriages? The issue of child labour? The oppression of women? Religious extremism? Mourning the death of a murderer?

These are things that have happened in Pakistan, by Pakistanis! Yet, it is us Pakistanis who are in denial of them. Why? How? While it may be convenient for a large group of people to ignore these horrors, I am glad that there is someone willing to protest against them. To call us out on our ignorance and asinine attitude towards it. If there is a problem, hate it, fix it, talk about it, make laws to correct it, but just please don’t ignore it! Don’t be in denial of it.

In her speech at the Oscar’s she said,

“This is what happens when determined women get together. This week the Pakistani Prime Minister has said that he will change the law on honour killing after watching this film. That is the power of film.”

We should support our people in whatever positive efforts they put in improving Pakistan. Our country is blessed with amazingly talented people, all we need to do is appreciate and acknowledge them for their wonderful achievements.

Mushal Zaman

Mushal Zaman

The author is a sub-editor at Tribune. She tweets as @MushalZ90 (twitter.com/MushalZ90)

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

  • salman

    Totally agreed.
    Sharmeen didn’t invent honor killings, they are happening, she just highlighted the issue. The fact she won an Oscar for it, is secondary to the ISSUE she is highlighting.
    Qadri murdered a person, and for that he has been punished. The fact that Qadri thought Taseer was guilty of blasphemy is irrelevant. This is already a blasphemy law he could have used to report Taseer. But he took the law into his own hands, which makes him a criminal.Recommend

  • http://www.raheellakhani.com Raheel Lakhani
  • SkepticalFaraz

    Women dont understand that this is not an issue about domestic violence being good or bad, the good majority of Pakistanis don’t agree with domestic violence. This is about being exploited by prejudiced Western audiences who only need fuel to justify their hatred of certain races. Have you ever noticed the trends in Hollywood movies? Have you ever wondered why Africa is portrayed as a violent place full of thugs? Have you ever noticed why latinos are Portrayed exclusively as gang members? Have you ever noticed that Arabs are always portrayed as terrorists? and the white man tends to be the sensible hero who saves the day. If you have ever been bullied by racists in a Western country, you would realize they use the same tactics as Hollywood, They justify their hatred by demonizing their victims. The primary reason this kind of documentaries win awards is they provide fodder to the many haters in Western society. They promote any documentary, book, or lecture that will picture any non-white country as evil and ugly. If you have problems in your house, talk to people who are sincere to you? why would you go shake hands with the enemies of your house?Recommend

  • S.

    The writer has pointed out some disheartening, but true aspects of us Pakistanis. We should disown her too to keep the trend alive.
    Abdus Salaam, Malala and Sharmeen.Recommend

  • Javed Ahmad

    Sharmeen made documentaries showing the ills of our society. I think it is better her than an outsider. If she received Oscars for these efforts that is an international recognition of her talent in projecting an issue constructively. If Pakistani laws are changed as a result, then it is a bonus, and should be applauded. A section of righteous Pakistanis, who do nothing to show on their own, better than Qadri the murderer, but are ever-ready to downplay Pakistanis who are being recognized internationally. Malala is another case. Let’s be honest to these women and be generous in our praise, so that it does not discourage others from pursuing noble goals. Please don’t be disheartened because people who have maligned Malala and Sharmeen, are the same who justify terrorists, and the likes of Qadri.Recommend

  • wb

    As an Indian, let me tell you that there’s some truth in the fact that Oscars are frequently given for political reasons.

    Take the example of Argo, a very mediocre film with mediocre script, with a lot of twist in the truth, with mediocre performances. At least 4 films were vastly superior to that film in that year.

    Take another example of Jarhead, a momentous movie with stunning performances, cinematography, a great screenplay and sublime direction. The film was not even nominated because it showed US army in very poor light.

    Take examples of Salam Bombay and Slumdog millionaire. The former is a miracle of a movie that exposed the slums of Bombay with a great deal of honesty and the latter was a regurgitation of a million Bollywood films but directed by a white man.

    So, here again, I ask you what has Sharmeen done in this movie? Has she exposed honor killing? Was this not known to anyone before? Were the statistics not known to people? Wasn’t honor killing subjects of numerous documentaries by numerous news channels including NDTV, BBC, CNN? Wasn’t honor killing the subject of numerous debates and writings?

    So, what’s new in her film? Nothing. Absolutely nothing is new in that film. And one of the primary requirement of a good documentary is originality.

    Yet, she received the award because the west did have a point to score.

    And, I’m telling this to you as an Indian – a staunch opponent of the very idea of Pakistan – who never misses an opportunity to score points against Pakistan.Recommend

  • Mir Taqi

    Very thorough an honest review. Hat’s off.Recommend

  • Hamza

    You forgot ( perhaps deliberately) to mention hundreds of innocent children and women killed by done attacks………… but wait……………. this will not give one an Oscar……….so why bother……………….Recommend

  • wb

    Let me ask you this question. Were you not aware of the extent of honor killing in Pakistan before this film was made? Are you hearing about honor killing for the first time in your life through this documentary? Have you never read any article about honor killings before? At least several dozens have appeared in this very news papers.

    You need to understand the concept of good documentaries. A good documentary always exposes the truth for the first time in a way never seen before.Recommend

  • Shazia

    Its very unfortunate that people do not understnd the importance of highlighting the issues which needs attention of society as well as lawmakers. Shermeen’s success will be the law against honor killing, implementation of the law, and punishment for culprits. whether she win oscar or not, she will be happy to see the culprits brought to justice. I am proud of her and all courageous people.Recommend

  • Zh yusuf

    It is an illogical mindset that feels shame when silence is broken on an injustice. The day we as humans, sitting anywhere on the planet, learn that speaking about in-justice is the hallmark of civilized society, is the day we deserve the label of “human”.Recommend

  • salman

    Will making a documentary on drone attacks or even mentioning them end honour killings? Think about it…Recommend

  • Faiza

    There are documentaries which show the dark side of America all the time. Watch Louis Thereoux documentaries and a recent one that the Guardian did on the gun industry in America. Why is everyone crying now that a Pakistani woman is doing something about societal ills? What have any one of us done to make Pakistan a better place? Have we helped the downtrodden or less-wealthy? No! Do we do anything to change the status quo? No! Do we try and raise awareness about these issues? No! We just bury our heads in the sand, waiting for someone else to come and sort out our ills and then cry like babies when someone does try and do something about it. Typical!Recommend

  • Zahoorul Haq

    Hamza. Well said. This award is part of the organised propaganda against Pakistan. Does Edhi Sahib does not deserve any award???Recommend

  • Zahoorul Haq

    Very logical comment. Bravo.Recommend

  • siesmann

    As if the whole world is looking for news about Pakistan.Hardy anyone cares.It is for Pakistanis to take care of their country.Recommend

  • siesmann

    If the drone documentary were to be given an oscar,you will still complain that terrorism in Pakistan is highlighted.Recommend

  • siesmann

    As if this documentary is a box-office hit.Won’t unlikely be seen outside concerned circles..And it is more than likely that had the documentary not been given the oscar,same people will be complaining that Pakistan was ignored by oscars.Recommend

  • Hamza

    it also won’t win someone an Oscar…………….. think about it…………Recommend

  • Hamza

    So you admit that drone attack documentary will not be good enough for Oscar……So you don’t care about killing of innocent women and children unless it was for honour……….. what else can i say………..Recommend

  • SkepticalFaraz

    Their motive to raise issues isn’t to help you but to demonize you, There is a difference between a sincere friend trying to highlight your short comings and a prejudiced hater doing the same,Recommend

  • siesmann

    You can intrepret however you wish;Where did I say drone documentary will not be good.And it was not West that made this documentary.And it was not West that recommended it for an Oscar.Recommend

  • LS

    Here we go again…
    1) Abdus Salam
    2) Malala Yousufzai, and the new addition
    3) Sharmeen Obaid…

    Same old… Same Old…Recommend

  • liberal-lubna-fromLahore

    What an anti Pakistan woman she is. I live in Lahore, ladies that are in my tea party and in my social clubs are Pakistanis. If honor killing is such a common problem in Pakistan, wouldnt every one including me commenting here would know atleast 1 person who was killed for honor?

    Honor killing does not happen anymore. I refuse to believe this propaganda.Recommend

  • liberal-lubna-fromLahore

    they r not happening. its a propganda. how come i dont hear about it in the news then? stop defaming my country. sharmeen is the sole reason for harming Pakistan’s tourism industryRecommend

  • liberal-lubna-fromLahore

    I hold Sharmeen solely responsible for causing grave harm to Pakistan’s tourism industry. Shame on her.Recommend

  • Hamza

    But it was WEST who gave it an OSCAR………….. and we all know why……….Recommend

  • numbersnumbers

    So you say that there are NO HONOUR KILLINGS just because you never head about any!
    I suppose that you ALSO never heard of acid attacks on women, OBL’s Abbottabad safe house, child marriages or any of the other Pakistani items sure to boost the tourism industry!Recommend

  • numbersnumbers

    Under which rock have you been hiding not to have heard about honour killings???
    One just has to type in “honour killing” in the ET search block to see scores of reports!Recommend

  • liberal-lubna-fromLahore

    ok please name your female friends, colleges, sisters, aunts, maids that were KILLED for honor?

    You cant name anyone because its not a common problem like wife beating Pakistani husbands.Recommend

  • Hamid Pasha.

    Fix your own house, first. Known as Hindustan, Bharat, Hindu Desh, Hindu Land and India. Before you cyber sermonize across the border about the ills
    of society, to Pakistanis. Hindus have enough social problems to last them 20 reincarnations. Sharmeen got an Oscar. Period. Seems like sour grapes, from across the border. Well disguised.
    There are enough social scientists in Pak. We do not need hindus in ET pages describing their own camouflaged problems, as Pakistani issues.
    Worry about Sati. caste system, female infanticide, Muslim and minorities
    rights, religious freedom and Ghar Wapsi, Love Jihad, destruction of churches Bharat is RCOTW,..Rape capital of the world. Talk to your fellow hindus first.
    Once YOU fix all these issues, then come over, across the border.
    They will give you a visa. Maybe not.Recommend

  • Bibloo

    Time for you to wake up. The highest number of ‘honor killings’
    are in Punjab. And YOU know it.
    Just last week, a man killed his sister. It was an ‘honor killing’.
    Same man, fours ago, killed his mother, in an ‘honor killing’
    [the family forgave him, he was freed by the court!!!]
    This man is a serial killer, does it in the name of ‘honor’. Who will
    be his next victim? A niece? A cousin? His wife?
    Since he is running out of women to kill in his own immediate family.
    Get a life.Recommend

  • Rana Choudary

    No. Wrong. Hollywood is not India. Oscars are never given out
    for political reasons. There is a secret ballot. For each category.
    The voters do not even put their names on the ballot. It is done
    anonymously. Voters, chosen in each category, receive their ballots.
    They fill it out, and mail it in. Do you understand?
    This not Filmfare awards. Some Bollywood gig. Where corruption rules.
    Yes, the studios and others, can actively campaign, for best actor,
    best picture, best cinematography. But a foreign documentary? Not
    even financed by a major studio? SOUNDS like sour grapes from
    Rising India, Shining India, Shiv Sena ink throwing India.Recommend

  • Bibloo

    Just like the BBC documentary about the girl student raped
    on a bus? The World Famous Delhi Rape Case in 2012.
    The documentary was banned in India. The documentary maker,
    a woman, was hounded out of India. Almost killed by Hindu fanatics.
    Her visa rescinded by Modi. You hindus must look at yourself in the
    mirror, first, before commenting. Well, maybe don’t look in the mirror,
    because you will scare yourself.
    Get a life.Recommend

  • Hameed

    You have proved that women’s greatest enemy are other women.Recommend

  • Hameed

    Yet another human being decides to become an ostrich.Recommend

  • Hameed

    I have never heard of any murder in the circles of my friends and family. No one has been murdered in my personal circles. Therefore by the great logic of great lubna “murders” don’t exist in pakistan. Do you even realize how idiotic your argument is?Recommend

  • Hameed

    I sincerely hope that edhi sahab not get any western award. You right wingers would be up in arms about how he is bringing bad name to pakistan by exposing pakistan’s crippling poverty. Oh Allah please do not award edhi any western award, please. AmenRecommend

  • Hameed

    On a more serious note, i have in my familial circles have heard about both domestic violence and honor killings. In the case of domestic violence it ran for years, when i asked why doesn’t she get a divorce i was laughed at my naivety. In the case of honor killings the mother herself was involved in the murder of her own daughter and yes it was for honor.Recommend

  • Agha

    Wow you are worried about the tourism industry!Recommend

  • thriftysmurf

    Hameed please read the full comment and not just the first 2 lines.Recommend

  • liberal-lubna-fromLahore

    because MURDER is NOT common thats why we dont hear about our friends and family killing someone every now and then.

    Miss sharmeen over here is projecting the idea that honor killings is a grave problem that happens all over Pakistan and everyone likes honor killing because its a cultural trend here. Now that I refuse to believe because its even more less common than murders. It makes up less than 1% of all crimes so I dont understand why she had to freakin act all ground breaking about it and make a documentary about it as if shes going to do any good with it just like a dumbo malala ranting about education but increasingly number of children are getting more and more out of school thanks to drone attacks. She could have made a documentary about food and literature festival in Lahore and shown a positive image but no, honors killing is what I will do so I can harm Pakistan’s tourism industry which had just started to breathe again but thanks to this excuse of a patriotic woman, Sharmeen, it’s going to go downhill again.Recommend

  • liberal-lubna-fromLahore

    well he probably is of uneducated poor class. I’m an upper middle class woman how dare you slam their garbage on a society of my level. Point I’m trying to make is Pakistan is made up a gazillion different cultures and mindsets. Yes, backward mindsets do exist but you cannot use that to generalize mentality of whole of Pakistan’s citizens.

    Pakistan has likes of social worker who work hard day and night for better Pakistan, we have educated liberal empowered women like myself, jaahil men like that guy you mentioned in your example and then whiners and complainers like yourself who no matter how much luxury and comfort you are provided with in pakistan are still ungratful and take every opportunity to splash keechur at my beautiful country simply to vent out hate.

    That i cant stand.Recommend

  • Hameed

    But honor killing IS A GRAVE problem. Just because it doesn’t happen in your acquaintances doesn’t mean that we should shut up about it. And it definitely doesn’t mean that government should do nothing about it. I am absolutely horrified that as a woman yourself how can you take an issue that takes lives of hundreds of women every year in pakistan so lightly? Tourism industry??? Is this a joke??? Why she should do anything that YOU say. She has freedom to focus on issues that she feels strongly about. Your arguments are like whinings of little child. The world KNOWS about honor killings yes, she highlighted it. And it has already started to make changes for women in pakistan which is more than i can say of you.Recommend

  • liberal-lubna-fromLahore

    Its not just my acquaintances, its everyone’s acquaintances where honor killing does NOT take place. If you can name a single person you know DIRECTLY that was killed for honor by an educated Pakistani man then maybe we can talk. You just said you have NEVER heard of murders in your circle, hence my point proven.

    If honor killings do happen, they probably take place in extremely remote place inaccessible to civilization, like places near Indian border or perhaps more India than that location can be called a part of Pakistan. Honor killings also happens among White Americans. In fact they are more common than in Pakistan. Just because its a more ‘ modern ‘ way of murdering women and doesn’t happen in disguise of ” honor killings ” doesn’t mean its okay and negligible and that issue cannot be made into an oscar winning documentary. Where is your rant now or you are so oblivious to the horrific crimes of your white friends then someone needs an oscar winning documentary about the modern honor killings for you to start paying attention to female victims of white male abuse in North America?

    Sharmeen is a hypocrite. She can flaunt her golden dress at the oscars with that perfect hair and makeup and yet have the guts to claim Pakistani women as oppressed.

    If Pakistan is such an unsafe society for women, how come a Pakistani WOMAN managed to grab an award at just about the biggest award show in the world? I fail to understand that. Clearly, its a propaganda art. Film has not even been released anywhere and she went and won an award for that.

    Pakistani women are bold and progressive. We have the likes of progressive women like Mahnoor Baloch, Saba Qamar, Mahira Khan and list is endless. These are women vouch for because they promote soft image of Pakistan.Recommend