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Burqa Brigade


Women who are often seen as rather victims of violence and are likened to peace, fragility and physical weakness are occurring in a different roles suddenly. Although the stance stands, terrorism or violence in any form either perpetrated by men or women is undeniably condemned, however, it is interesting to see women take up sticks and join their male comrades into the field for their ideological and political war.


In Pakistan, if we go back to 2007 the Siege of Lal Masjid till date remains one of the most horrific and jaw-dropping incidents in the history of Pakistan. Not only it created an air of despair, death and dread among the civilians but almost shattered the very unity of the country to an extent that one of the most strongest institutions of the country underestimated the resources and strength of the Lal masjid militants.


Although, the government’s strategy to deal with it has been widely criticized and debated over, much less attention has been paid to the role of women in this context. Jamia Hafsa had been the female base of the rebellion (which was also illegally occupied). Interestingly, the khwateen were not kept in the dark but in fact were equally provided with the resources and tools to participate in the ‘Sharia Revolution’ that was planned. Although ethically wrong, but in my opinion, it was at least noteworthy to see their participation.

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Your article really has me wondering should I feel good about 'burqa brigade'. Jokes aside armed women in burqas has been a tool religious extremists have used to target women from Aurat March. Because men would seem wrong attacking women of Aurat March last year organisers of Haya March that was brough up to counter Aurat March gave its supporters batons and full permission to charge on Aurat March. We would have seen many injuries if police hadn't come in between.

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Your post reminded me of the recent children's cartoon, 'Burqa Avenger". We all know that media is also a tool for education in the modern context. With shows like these catered towards children, we take a step in the right direction in not only empowering young girls to be loud and outspoken and fight for their rights against injustice, but also young girls in burqas who more often than not are portrayed as quiet and meek in media. Such representation of girls, in particular muslim girls, helps fight against the patriarchal culture that exists where woman are pushed towards the back and instead encourages girls to step up and claim their space. However, we still need to be concious of…

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Iqra you kind of very interestingly demonstrated where I was going about with this post. Although the violence perpetrated is condemned and objectively wrong but the shift in roles is fascinating.

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You raise a very thought-provoking point. The role of women as perpetrators in conflict is often neglected, because of the said assumptions and all the structural basis that lead to such participation is ignored. Not only Jamia Hafsa, but many other women-led madaris in Pakistan have actually been the hub of trafficking into ISIS territory and recruitments, for example. I still remember how Central and South Punjab were rocked in around late 2016 when a women, Mrs. Cheema ended up recruiting from her headquarters, supposedly an educational institute afterall, in Kasur and travelled all the way to Syria with a cohort of no less than 6 women. Since ISIS has been the best example to date of such acts, Shamima…

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Thank you Zain, for shedding light on the many other examples and incidents which I was definitely unaware of or looking past. This phenomena is gaining popularity, and definitely bringing a shift in the roles of women participating in conflict and mere ideas of femininity and masculinity.

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You have rightfully called Lal Masjid a shocking day in Pakistan’s red history. The role of women in conflicts has always been underreported and unexplored; whether we see western history - women played pivotal roles in WW2 either by sitting in Bletchley Park, decoding messages or by flying planes or the many women who played a role in the War on Terror in Afghanistan. I found an interesting article that talks about the evolving role of women in various military organisations (including Pakistan Airforce) https://thediplomat.com/2013/03/women-warriors-break-down-barriers-across-asia/

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Thank you so much for pointing that out, even I myself had missed that bit because my research was mostly surrounding women in Islamic revolutionary contexts rather than a widespread and holistic idea. This could potentially be an interesting topic of debate, thank you for sharing the article as well!

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