Beautiful also in death
A true humming bird whose melody was cut short by barbarism and ignorance.
This is a sad story, a story of ignorance, misogynists, religious fundamentalists, and of the absurdity of a society that bases itself on the masochistic application to its social order of the rules and codes of one of the deadliest religions of this world: Islam.
It is also a story of dreams, longings, ambitions; desires, talent, and a beautiful singing voice that have been permanently broken by a hail of bullets, and for no other reason than an absurd and mentally deficient sense of “male honour”, frustration, ignorance, brought on by the religious teachings of Islam. A religion that in its core value is nothing more and nothing less than a blue-print to legitimize child rape, murder and pillage.
This is the story of GHAZALA JAVED.
Who is she you may ask? One could say just a poor girl whose only crime was to be born in the wrong country and at the wrong time. And why should we care, after all thousands of people are killed daily? But I say we should, WE HAVE TO CARE! Because when she died she took a little bit of all us with her.
Ghazala born on January 1, 1990 in Tahir Abad Muhallah of Mingora, district Swaat in Pakistan. When the Taliban invaded that part of the country she and her family, like many others, escaped and settled in Peshawar. Ghazala had a great gift that became apparent from early childhood, a gorgeous and melodious voice. She was only 7 years old when she started entertaining and amusing people at family parties and weddings. According to her mother she had a great voice, singing was in her blood. Even friends and family agreed so her father and brothers “allowed it”.
She was forced to leave school at 5th Grade at the insistence of her older brother, because she “was too beautiful” and boys took notice of that and teased her, and that notwithstanding that she excelled in both academic studies and of course singing. She begged her family for permission to become a professional singer and finally after much insistence, her father and brothers gave their permission.
But remember, this is Pakistan, a country where like the Taliban, traditionally minded Pashtuns view music and other forms of entertainment as an immoral distraction to the religious duties inherent to the worship of the Prophet, if not the work of the Devil itself. Not counting the fact that there is permanent and persistent risk in Pakistan Taliban Zealots kill musicians simply for being musicians, and Ghazala and her family escaped from Mingora just in time not witness the brutal Taliban Commander Maulana Fazlullah taking control of their district, banning television, music, public singing and dancing, even at weddings and private parties. Blowing up radio stations and girls schools and female dancers and singers were dragged out their house and whipped in the public square. The same man that in 2009 when the Pakistani army retook the area had his men drag out of her house the famous Pakistani dancer Shabana in the middle of the night and personally beheaded her in the public square shouting “Allah u’ Akbar” (God is great). She was 27 years old.
One can see the hypocrisy and the madness of all this in the statement of Nazir Gul, Ghazala’s music teacher: “Pashtuns love music, but they hate musicians, they will shower money on singers and dancers but would never allow their sisters, wives, or mothers to do the same”. He still recalls the winter day when Ghazala’s father brought her to his studio in Penshawar saying: “We are poor people, and are here because of Taliban threats, but please teach her how to sing”. Ghazala’s dancing and singing were the only source of income for the family. Gul saw her potential immediately and within months she was on her way to fame.
“We were very poor, but she made us very rich.” Said her sister Farhat who is 24.
Ghazala started singing in Pashto Language and subsequently recorded the songs "Baran dy baran dy" and “Lag rasha kana”. Later in her career, she sang more melodious songs and became known amongst the people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and even amongst Pakhtun living abroad. Ghazala Javed also appeared in stage-shows in Dubai. Her songs “Za lewaney da mena”, “Za da cha khqula ta fikar wari yem”, and “Mena ba kawo Janana mena ba kawo” had a positive critical reception. She was nominated for a Filmfare Award in 2010 and received a Khyber Award in 2011.
Greed is a powerful thing, and ignorance and greed are powerful cocktails, so when as her fame grew so did her exposure to the public and that brought into the equation a powerful and well connect businessman, Jahangir Khan (30 years Ghazala’s senior) who wanted her as a his wife. Of course money talks and personal feelings and desires of one’s daughter walk, so the family arranged and forced Ghazala to marry this man. Ghazala of course hated the idea, aside the fact that she at that time was not yet 18, and she begged both parents not go through with the wedding, but Kamran, Ghazala’s father couldn’t back down as his word had been given. So they forced the marriage on 7 February, 2010.
As soon as the marriage was done, Jahangir laid down the law, and forbid Ghazala to sing or to perform in public and ordered her confined to his family home. Ghazala did the unthinkable in Pakistan, she rebelled! 4 times she tried to escape from her husband and three times she was brought back by her own family. On the fourth attempt she remained at home. She courageously took the unprecedented step for a Pashtun woman to petition the court asking for a divorce, an apparently futile gesture in a male dominated society like that of Pakistan, and yet even more surprisingly the court found in her favour. The court documents show that Jahangir had already two other wives and many children.
Ghazala’s fans were ecstatic, because since the marriage she had simply disappeared, and by then her voice had made her a true star. The secret of her success was her authenticity and unlike most contemporary Pashtun singers she never tried to mix her music with Western music thus never tried to mix the two cultures. After the daring divorce, her assertion of independence she returned to the recording studios and resumed her schedules. She was more popular than ever.
She had set a very dangerous precedent.
“Honour killings” are a common occurrence in Pashtun families, and another popular singer, Aiman Udhas has been literally executed by her own brothers because they disapproved of her career. So she was in serious danger, and this was heightened by the fact that she still kept a contact with her ex-husband.
Jahangir, the ex-husband tried to get back with her, he even took out a huge newspaper add in a major newspaper promising that he would allow her to record as long as she gave up performing in public. When that didn’t work, he began with the threats and even threatened to kill other musicians that were working with her.
On the 18th of June, 2012 Ghazala and her sister arrived at the Baba beauty parlour in Peshawar’s bohemian Dabgari Garden Neighbourhood. She was not her usual self, Salma Khan, the owner of the Beauty parlour recalls her saying: “I sense some unforeseen sorrow.” Her father was waiting outside in the car when his wife called him asking him to get the two girls out of there as the ex-husband had been seen in the area. Both Ghazala and her sister came out of the hairdresser and went towards the car, when Ghazala realised that in the hurry she had forgotten her hand bag and send her sister to get it.
Farhat did so and when she walked towards the car she heard the shots. She clearly saw Jaharangir and his cousin Iqbal by the car, and she clearly heard Iqbal shouting “Shoot her”. The police report states that Ghazala was hit by four bullets and the father by three while sitting in the car.
A beautiful humming bird was silenced.
“Every day her grave is visited by many”, sais Shamroz Khan, a cobbler who has a shop nearby, “ I have never seen so much love for anyone, “ he says. “As a singer she may have committed sins, but she will surely go to heaven”.
Of that I am not sure, because I don’t believe in heaven; however it would be a better place considering the hell of her very short life.