Shiite Muslims in Pakistan are angrily demanding protection from the government after a wave of attacks left about 120 people dead on Thursday. Two blasts targeted Shiites in the city of Quetta.
One of those who died there was human rights activist Irfan Ali, who was immediately mourned by fellow activists on Twitter.
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Jeb Sharp: I’m Jeb Sharp and this is The World. Shiite Muslims refuse to bury the dead today in the Pakistani city of Quetta. It was an angry active protest against the government demanding more protection for their community. A series of attacks against Shiites yesterday in Quetta and elsewhere killed about 120 people. A Sunni militant group claimed responsibility for the deadliest blasts. Before I’d even heard about the bombings the story of Irfan Ali, a young man who died in the attacks, came to my attention through Twitter. I was drawn in by the emotion of the tweets eulogizing them. They called him a gem, a bright mind, a brave soul, someone born to fight for human rights and peace. We called up Irfan Ali’s friend and fellow activist, Marvi Sirmed in Islamabad to find out more about him.
Marvi Sirmed: At a personal level he was a very passionate and caring person, despite the fact that he had to leave his hometown, Quetta, a year and a half ago because of the security reasons. He left Quetta, tried to settle in Islamabad. He got some freelance work, but despite all these hardships the inner activist in him, the caring, very soft, emotional person, passionate person in him did not die down. He was [inaudible 01:26] and strong in his resolve as he could be. If you know the situation in Pakistan even a little bit, you wouldn’t know that being Hazara and being Shiite in Pakistan, and then not budging and still speaking up for the rights of others, it takes a lot of courage. It takes a lot of spine. It takes a lot of heart. And that’s what he was.
Sharp: You referred to his background, that he’s a Shia Hazara, this attack is presumed to be an attack on Shiites by extremist Sunnis linked to the Pakistani Taliban, exactly the kind of sectarianism he fought against. Is that right?
Sirmed: Absolutely so. He used to say that he would like to die fighting and while helping others. And that’s how he died at the end. He died as a volunteer who was just cuing people who were injured in the first blast. He died in the second blast, which was planted in an ambulance.
Sharp: And Marvi there’s so many activists and in Pakistan especially, is there a story you have that would help us understand why Irfan Ali was so special himself?
Sirmed: Irfan was very, very clear about so many things. He would say what they were, he thought was right. For example, I tell you that in 2010 there was an attack on Ahmadis, another minority community in Pakistan, which is very, very ferociously targeted here. There was an attack on Ahmadis community in their mall, on two of their malls. And over a hundred people died in that incident. And I gave a call for a protest and so much is the fear among the civil society that no one turned up. It was only Irfan and I who were standing there holding a placard at the end of the day. No one was there. And I cannot forget this–then he was coming to Islamabad, he was very clear that he would want to live another day to fight and to help people. And that’s what happened on the last day. This blast happened right in front of his house, the native house at [inaudible 03:40] Road. And after the first blast he dashed along with this brother and brother-in-law. He rushed. There were people who were stopping him and the volunteers. People were feeling that there would be another blast and there was another blast. And this time he could not survive, he could not, he just could not save himself.
Sharp: Marvi Sirmed, human rights activist, telling us about the human rights activist Irfan Ali. Our condolences to you all.
Sirmed: Thank you so much.
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Irfan’s last tweet:
— irfan (@khudiali) January 10, 2013
— Marvi Sirmed(@marvisirmed) January 10, 2013
Fellow blogger Shiraz Hassan notes Irfan’s death:
— Shiraz Hassan (@ShirazHassan) January 10, 2013
Irfan survives previous attack:
#Quetta, was on the way to home nearly escaped from bomb blast 11 ppl dead
— irfan (@khudiali) January 10, 2013