Attacks on Academics and their freedom continue

The attacks on academic freedom – from Pervez Hoodbhoy to Ammar Ali Jan to Mohammad Hanif- continue as do smear campaigns against activists like Dr Arfana Mallah.

The International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH), the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), issued an appeal addressed to all top Pakistani leaders, including the President, Prime Minister and the government of Sindh.

The Observatory’s statement condemns “the smear campaign against Dr. Arfana Mallah and considers the attacks against her amount to incitement to violence and pose a serious risk to her safety. The Observatory calls on Sindh and Pakistani authorities to provide Dr. Mallah with immediate protection and to guarantee, in all circumstances, her physical integrity and psychological well-being.”

According to the Observatory’s statement it “has been informed by reliable sources about the smear campaign against Dr. Arfana Mallah, a professor of chemistry at the University of Sindh Jamshoro, a prominent women’s rights activist, and a member of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), based in Hyderabad, Sindh Province. According to the information received, on June 10, 2020, Dr. Arfana Mallah expressed her dismay on Twitter when a colleague at Shah Abdul Latif University in Khairpur, Sindh Province, was arrested on charges of blasphemy and sedition. Within hours, Dr. Mallah was subjected to a vicious campaign led by clerics with the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam party and, subsequently, the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan, who sought to have Dr. Mallah charged with blasphemy. A hashtag #ArrestArfanaMallah, which trended for over a week, from June 11 to 19, appeared in some particularly disturbing tweets, including one that compared her to ’the female version of Sulman Taseer’ referring to the former governor of Punjab Province, who was assassinated by his own bodyguard in 2011 for having spoken up in defence of a Christian woman charged with blasphemy. Under pressure from radical religious groups and the police, Dr Mallah subsequently issued a written apology, explaining that her social media posts meant no disrespect to Islam or the Prophet. Meanwhile, radical religious groups have further insisted she video-record her apology.”

The full appeal and statement is here.

Author: Alia Khan

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