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Afzal Kohistani

Afzal Kohistani


Afzal Kohistani was a human rights defender who had been campaigning against “honour killings”, or choar, in the Kohistan region of Pakistan. He had been the central figure seeking justice for the killing of five young women and three young men in 2012 and 2013. The 2012 and 2013 “honour killings” were linked to a video, which went viral after it appeared online in 2012. It showed five young women singing and clapping, while two young men performed a traditional dance during a local wedding in Palas, a remote area in Kohistan. The mixing of genders is considered a serious violation of tribal norms in Kohistan and the young people were killed as a result of the “dishonour” they had brought on their families and community.

Since the killings, Afzal Kohistani had played a key role in urging authorities to investigate the crimes so as to bring the perpetrators to justice. His advocacy on the 2012 killings sparked widespread media outrage against the killings, which prompted the then Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Chaudhary to order a fact-finding mission into the killings. After the fact-finding missions failed to conclude whether or not the murders had taken place, a First Information Report (FIR) was registered at the Palas Police Station on 31 July 2018, following an order from the Supreme Court. Several suspects were subsequently arrested and confessed to the killings of three of the girls. 

Pakistan’s record of impunity has emboldened hostile actors and fostered an increasingly violent climate for HRDs, who face high risks including killing, arbitrary arrest and detention, abduction and kidnapping, surveillance, threats and judicial harassment. The government of Pakistan has made no real effort to support or protect their work and instead regularly votes against UN resolutions aimed at providing better protection for HRDs.