Thank you, Asma Jahangir: A WLUML tribute

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Asma Jahangir was a lawyer, an activist, an advocate, a champion for human rights, a defender of minorities, a dissident to the military, a women’s rights defender, a South Asian icon, a lion in the face of adversity, an undaunted victor, an incredible woman.

When she passed away of a heart attack on the 11th of February, at the age of 66, the world felt shockwaves.

A litany of Jahangir’s achievements include being the chair of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief,  co-founder of the Women’s Action Forum, Pakistan's first woman President of Supreme Court Bar Association, co-chair of South Asia Forum for Human Rights, and the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Iran.

Beyond the wordy titles, Jahangir was an outspoken critic of Pakistan’s militant Islamist groups, a leader in the Lawyer’s Movement of 2007, decrier of Pakistan’s military and intelligence services who suffered imprisonment and house arrests for her views with defiant anger, and a staunch women’s rights defender

Time Magazine listed her as one of the 100 most influential women. Sweden awarded her with the Right Livelihood Award. Pakistan awarded her the Hilal-i-Imtiaz and Sitara-i-Imtiaz. The Philippines awarded her the Ramon Magsaysay Award. UNESCO gave her UNESCO/Bilbao Prize for the Promotion of a Culture of Human Rights.

People like Asma Jahangir, who come few and far between, are irreplaceable. When they pass, their loss reverberates across all corners of the world.

Thank you, Asma Jahangir. You have left a trail of inspired women in your wake. We will carry your legacy forward.

Out network expresses their grief at the news:


Fatou Sow, International Director of WLUML, Senegal:

Talking to Codou Bop about her, earlier, this afternoon, she remembered me that Asma invited us for a lovely dinner at her house, the first time we attended a meeting at Shirkat Gah in Lahore, about 25 years ago. We had a great dinner, and also had a lot of fun.

Asma was not only a political activist and human right defender. But she was also a "good person", "une bonne personne" as we say in French, and "nit ku baax" in Wolof, my mother tongue.

Karima Bennoune, UN Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, Algeria/USA:

It is hard to find the words to express what Asma's amazing work and courage and example have meant, or indeed to express the impact of her untimely death.  Let us commit to continuing her human rights work in her memory, and also to taking good care of ourselves and our health and each other as we do this incredibly difficult and taxing work. 

 I remember visiting Asma's office in Lahore, which had to be protected by armed guards, and I remember her appeal that those in the diaspora do more to support activists like her on the ground.  I think of all the important efforts she was making as SR on Iran, and her outspoken tweets during the recent demonstrations there.  And so many important achievements. The UN Secretary General was absolutely correct in his statement yesterday to say, "We have lost a human rights giant."

My warmest condolences to Asma's family, including her brave sister Hina Jilani, to her friends and colleagues. Let us think of an appropriate way to memorialize Asma, through the creation of an award, a publication, an event or some other initiative.  We must keep her memory alive, and that of all our lost colleagues who too often pass away in silence.

Edna Aquino, human rights activist, The Philippines:

Asma was the subject of urgent actions and appeal cases that I campaigned on during my years at AI. She was arrested and threatened so many times defending the rights of women and girls and minorities in Pakistan.  I had the privilege of working with her when web were preparing out our global campaign on honor killings in Pakistan. She was also one of the endorsers of our proposal to appoint a UNSR on human rights defenders in 1998.  Her various reports as the UNSR on Freedom of Religion and religious beliefs were groundbreaking and remains very relevant- especially her inclusion of discrimination against women as one problematic area that need attention in her mandate.  

My condolence to her bereaved family and colleagues and most especially to our sisters in the Pakistan women's rights movement. Her spirit will live on. 

Braema Mathi, President at MARUAH (The Working Group for ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism, Singapore):

I am very upset.

She inspires.

Her courage and beliefs are what she is/has been/will always be.

It is a sad day that we lose such a strong and dedicated woman a little too quickly.

We can only say Thank you.

May she rest in peace.

Arefe E.:

She was also Iran's special rapporteur for human right in Iran;
Iranian activists are saddened by this news,
Condolences to her family and friends.

Samira Hamidi, Afghanistan, researcher and Board Member of the Afghan Women’s Network, Chair- Human Rights Defenders Committee:

We are shocked and saddened by losing Asma Jahangir today. She has been an instrumental voice for women’s rights in South Asia. Many of us in Afghanistan have been following her strength and dedication. 

I share my condolences to her family, friends and followers. 

Hasina Khan, activist, India, founder Bebaak Collective:

Huge lost to heard this news. It’s a universal lost to human rights n women’s movements. Many times she visited India to contribute to our struggle and voices. 

Wazhma Frogh, Director of the Women & Peace Studies Organization (WPSO), Afghanistan:

Many of us in Afghanistan who had started our careers in human rights and women rights took inspiration from Asma Jahangir are devastated at the news of her loss. We activists and the women from the women’s network express our condolences to Hina Jilani, Asma’s Family and the whole human rights community in Pakistan and South Asia and even Iran for whom she raised her voice against injustices. This is a huge loss for all of us. 

We live in a constant battle of explosions and survival and continue the path that many of us learned from Asma jee as our elder sister. 

Mary Akrami, director of the Afghan Women Skills Development Center, Afghanistan:

It’s a very shocking and sad news; I really cannot believe that Asma Jahangir is not among us anymore. I meet her few years before, and her sweet talks were guiding and inspiring me. She was always a role model and source of inspiration for all of us in Afghanistan and all women activists around the world.

It's a huge loss, and we will remember her and her way of struggle, Rest in peace Dear Asma Jahangir, we will always admire all your efforts and commitments for promoting women human rights in Pakistan and all around the world.

Hadijah Kisembo:

Sad to hear about the demise of our sister. May her soul Rest In Eternal Peace.

Faizun Zackariya, Muslim Women's Research and Action Front (MWRAF), Sri Lanka:

I share that grief and a big loss to the women's movement and HR at large.

Please convey my sincere condolences to the family of Asma and the Pakistan comrades.

Zainah Anwar, Executive Director, Musawah, Malaysia:

This is really sad. Asma was tireless in her fight for justice. A huge loss to the human rights and women's movement. Please convey my deepest condolences to Hina and Asma's family. 

Qutub Jahan, Regional Coordinator, West India, Deputy General Secretary, URI Asia Executive Council:

It shocking and indeed a great loss! I am still in absolute disbelief. We flew together from Lahore to Delhi. I was in awe of her intellectual work and expertise. And had a memorable conversation with her. I still cherish the moment when she blessed me and was happy to know about my work. I was coordinating HRCP's Vulnerable Prisoners Project then.

She was so vocal about victims of Blasphemy law and her persona was a major challenge to the bigots and dictators. We all have to keep her legacy alive and derive the same courage, dedication and action to strengthen women and minority rights.

Someone rightly said REST IN POWER, ASMA!

May her soul be blessed with eternal peace! Aamin!

Mufuliat Fijabi:

Asma's death is a shock. She was a great defender of women and human rights. No doubt she will be missed. May family be comforted and may she rest in peace. Her work lives on.

Horia Mosadiq, Amnesty International, Afghanistan/London:

I am equally shocked and sad by this news. My thoughts are with the family and friends Asma and she was a legendary human rights defender and she will be always missed by human rights movement globally.

Djingarey Maiga, President of Femmes et Droits Humains, Coordinator of the African Network for Medical Abortion (ANMA) for the International Consortium for Medical Abortion (ICMA), Mali:

My condolences! May she rest in peace.

Ariane Brunet, Director of Center for Secular Space, Montreal:

Asma was a human rights activist, a justice and women’s rights activist, a democracy and secularism activist and a woman with a great sense of humour, loved to laugh! 

It is this all around activism that made her a compelling feminist that served so very well Pakistan and us all. 

Farida Shaheed, Director of Shirkat Gah, Pakistan:

A real loss to Pakistan the region and all the marginalized and oppressed of the world...

Zari Abdul Aziz, Institute for the Study of Human Rights, Malaysia/USA:

It took me a few days to absorb that one of our stalwarts is no longer with us. Her spirit and commitment will live on ... in all who have had the privilege of having been inspired by her.

Lalia Ducos, president Women Initiative Citizenship and Universal Rights, Algeria:

Very sad by the sudden death of our friend Asma. We will not forget it. 

Limota Goroso Giwa, International Women Communication Centre, Nigeria:

I join you all to condole the family of Asma Jahangir and pray that may her soul rest in internal peace. Ameen.

Lois Herman, Women's UN Report Network, USA:

I have known Asma for so many years, and looked just now, with great sadness, at her funeral procession.

Asma was truly a LEGEND, and will remain so in our hearts and movement.