Attack on social media celebrity Hareem Shah reminder of violence against women in Pakistan

Renowned TikTok star Hareem Shah was violently targeted in her apartment. The targeting of the social media celebrity has brought concerns regarding violence against women to the limelight.

Earlier this month, media reports emerged that social media celebrity Hareem Shah has been tortured in her own home. According to details, a male and a female entered Shah’s home forcibly and tortured and harassed her.

Talking to media, the Tik Tok star stated that Ayesha Naz and her boyfriend Bahadur Sher aka Abdullah were drunk, they beat her, stole her passport and threatened to blackmail her. After the incident, Shah contacted police, Federal Investigation Agency and Cyber Crime and get an FIR registered against the suspects.

As per FIR, Shah stated: “I, resident of E-11 (III) Omni Arcade, came to Islamabad from Karachi for shooting on March 16 and two people, Ayesha Naz and Bahadur Sher Afridi, forcefully entered my flat on March 18 (Thursday) and started assaulting me.”

Currently, police are searching for the suspects as they are on a run.

Observers maintain that an interesting yet not so surprising aspect of this news is that there was not much talk about this attack on Hareem Shah either on social media or other media outlets. There are a couple of interviews of Shah on news channels, but that is it; there was no voice against torture on her, or harassment against her.

Critics argue that the reason is that most of the people, activists and even women rights’ activist don’t care as much about the social media stars. They argue that for the majority it is ‘gossip’ and that most will ‘enjoy’ this news. Critics say it is a pity that the general attitude appears to be that social media stars like Hareem Shah somehow don’t deserve much respect or proper attention, as most believe that “they do such acts to get people’s attention.”

Indeed, this has not happened for the first time. In a high profile case, the same thing happened with Qandeel Baloch. Most of the people, including media outlets, were not ready to take her seriously. She was just supposed to be an ‘attention grabber’. She was not a proper celebrity, hence, news about her were mere gossips.

Even, the media went to a length to reveal her actual identity, which ultimately led to her murder by her own brother. And then that very media made her a resilient, feminist icon.

But sadly, no one was taking her seriously, during her life time, and observers fear the worst for many social media stars. A few weeks ago some media outlets leaked the details of Hareem Shah’s actual CNIC.

Again, no one took much notice of physical torture on Shah, which is not surprising. But critics question: isn’t that the case with most of cases of domestic torture on common women?

Reports emerge every other day of women being beaten by her husband, in-laws, or by her own family for one reason or another. As per Journal of Pakistan Medical Association, 70 to 90% women in Pakistan face domestic violence. Another survey revealed that over a third of the women admitted in hospitals in Pakistan had a beating at the hands of their husbands. Two Pakistani women are burned every day in domestic violence incidents.

These are astonishingly high numbers and have been for a long time. But observers have long noted that there is a lack of awareness, and even conversation regarding the issues that result in these numbers. Cases are often pushed under the proverbial carpet, because the so called local norms uphold ‘values’ which push women to remain silent.

Following Hareem Shah’s case, these questions have resurfaced. Critics are urging the government to take note of the violence against women on all possible levels and scales. And even activists are being urged to take note of those whose plight is not as frequently taken up.

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