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Sabeen Mahmud

Sabeen Mahmud


Fear is just a line in your head. You can choose what side of that line you want to be on

Sabeen Mahmud was a prominent human rights defender in Pakistan. In 2007, she set up The Second Floor (T2F) as a forum to host public discussion around human rights, blasphemy, cultural diversity, extremism, and peacebuilding. Mahmud founded T2F to create a "community space for open dialogue," aimed at "sparking conversations and ... providing a platform for people to engage with each other." Mahmud hosted musicians, filmmakers, artists, activists, rights groups, scientists, and even comedians in an ongoing quest to expand the boundaries of dialogue in Pakistan. On 25 April 2015, unidentified gunmen shot and killed human rights defender Sabeen Mahmud outside the arts venue she founded in Karachi.

Pakistan is one of the most challenging countries in the region for human rights defenders, who face high risks including killing, arbitrary arrest and detention, abduction and kidnapping, surveillance, threats and judicial harassment. Many HRDs have had their offices attacked or burnt down and their colleagues killed.

In Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), security agencies, religious groups, militants, and armed gangs all target HRDs. Strong sectarian violence and numerous killings of HRDs in Balochistan has forced most NGOs to close their offices and relocated their staff outside the area. HRDs working defending the rights of women in the tribal areas where extremist groups operate face the highest risks. Besides threats by security agencies and armed groups, WHRDs from KP and FATA often received threats by their own family members, who exert pressure on them to quit human rights work. Many WHRDs received threats that something bad will happen to their children.


Remembering Sabeen Mahmud