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Sammi Deen Baloch

General Secretary
Voice for Baloch Missing Persons (VBMP)
Sammi Deen Baloch Receives Front Line Defenders Award for Human Rights Defenders at Risk

The annual Front Line Defenders Award for Human Rights Defenders at Risk was established in 2005 to honour the work of HRDs who are courageously making outstanding contributions to the promotion and protection of the human rights of others, often at great personal risk to themselves.

Sammi Deen Baloch is a Baloch women human rights defender from Mashkai, Awaran District of Balochistan province, Pakistan. She is the General Secretary of the Voice for Baloch Missing Persons (VBMP), a non-governmental organization that represents and supports victims and relatives of enforced disappearances in Balochistan. In June 2009, at the age of 10, Sammi’s father, Dr Deen Mohammed Baloch, was forcibly disappeared in Khuzdar, Balochistan. She began persistently campaigning for the release of her father, which further lead to her deeper, collective involvement in advocating against enforced disappearances in Balochistan by state forces.

Following the enforced disappearance of her father, Sammi together with her family attended court hearings, and campaigned relentlessly for his release. In October 2013, Sammi, along with family members of victims of enforced disappearances, organised a 3000km long walk from Quetta to Karachi, and onwards to Islamabad. She was moved by the struggles of families, mainly mothers, wives and sisters, who did not know whom to approach for support in fighting for their loved ones to return. Sammi has led campaigns and actions including marches, protests and sit ins; documented violations and cases of enforced disappearance; and assisted families with registering cases with relevant authorities. She has been a vocal advocate on women's and girls rights, the right to education and ongoing violations including killings, mass graves and the collective punishment of families.

Her human rights work is especially significant given the extremely dangerous context in Balochistan, the largest mineral and resource rich province of Pakistan. The province has seen repeated rounds of insurgency and violence since it was annexed to the state of Pakistan in 1947. The province experiences crippling poverty and systemic, deliberate exclusion and denial of basic services, including education and health. The recent two decade long insurgency has claimed thousands of lives, and sadly many youth. Pakistan, through its military and proxy agents, have silenced dissent by committing widespread violations, of which enforced disappearances are a key strategy, against many Baloch people.

In November 2023, Sammi was an important figure in the Baloch Long March, a campaign in response to the extra judicial killing of a Baloch youth in November 2023. The campaign began as a sit in protest in Turbat, followed by a march to Islamabad, garnering national and international attention to the plight of enforced disappearances. Protestors including Sammi were blocked from entering the capital, beaten and arrested by Pakistani security forces.

Sammi has also been vocal against the targeting of human rights defenders and families of the disappeared as reprisal for their peaceful campaigns for truth, redress and justice. Being a victim of this herself, she understands the experience of human rights defenders and dissidents who speak out against violations and discrimination and face violent reprisals including killings, disappearance, arrest, detention and torture. Surveillance is routine and many have experienced false legal cases and other forms of reprisals.

Sammi has faced persecution and reprisals including violence towards herself and family members. Since 2009, the military have raided her home several times, burned and seized valuables and even tried to abduct her brother. The family were forced to relocate to Karachi where her work continued, and threats against her escalated. In 2016, at 17 years old, she was forcibly disappeared by the Pakistani intelligence agency and held in detention in Quetta (the capital of Balochistan) for seven days, subjected to abuse and threats. She was warned to stop her work and advocacy on human rights and against enforced disappearances. In 2018 her home in the village was seized by the military and is still under their control without legal basis. Family members including uncles and cousins were arrested, tortured and even killed in custody as reprisal for her work. Her brother was compelled to leave Pakistan due to escalating threats. She suffers ongoing attacks on social media and defamation campaigns which attempt to tarnish her work, character and safety in Pakistan. She faces physical and digital surveillance of her movements and communications - in 2021 her phone was hacked, data and photographs leaked and shared widely in an attempt to discredit her work. She has been labelled as a terrorist by powerful figures via social media including parliamentarians and government ministers.

Despite being targeted and risking so much, Sammi remains undeterred, driven by her unwavering commitment to justice and the protection of human rights in Balochistan. Her work has enabled thousands of women and girls to stand up for their rights and has brought attention to the struggles of the Baloch people. It also demonstrates the persistence of her community’s struggle for rights and justice and builds hope for those who walk alongside her.