The Motorway Incident has sparked nationwide protests as people from all walks of life are demanding strict repercussions for the criminals. The incident has put a spotlight on the alarmingly large number of rape cases that are reported in the country on a regular basis. The topic is trending both on social media and in real life as protests are happening to make sure that these horrific cases are now dealt with in such a manner that the chances of them being repeated in the future lessen, if not get completely eradicated.
Our celebrities have also shown their support for this issue by both showing up to and organizing protests meant to get the media’s as well as the government’s attention towards the issue. Celebrities have been vocal about their support both on social media and on the streets. However, some accounts that are now emerging on social media have raised suspicions that the celebrities, in being vocal, are drowning out the voices of other victims who need the platform more that is readily available to the celebrities than them.
Not trying to downplay anything or anyone’s efforts for today’s protests, but the way trans community’s voice was snatched by a ‘bigger’ voice in a span of 15 minutes. – you should’ve seen.
— Rida Lodhi (@ridaalodhii) September 14, 2020
A tale of two protests
On 14th September, a group of some of the most popular Pakistani celebrities showed up in front of the Karachi Press Club to protest against the Motorway Incident. The protest that was joined by the likes of Mahira Khan, Sarwat Gilani, Ayesha Omar, Ali Rehman Khan, Sarah Khan, Aijaz Aslam, Faysal Qureshi, among many others and organized in part by Yasir Hussain got much of the media attention. However, this protest also took away from another protest that was happening at the same time at the same venue.
A group of transgender activists had gathered in front of the Karachi Press Club to demand the safety of the transgender community as well as protesting against the Motorway Incident. Last week a couple of transgenders were targetted by some unknown people who opened fire on them which resulted in the death of one and caused several injuries to the other. This incident highlighted the precarious situations in which the transgender community lives in the country where they have to constantly fear for their lives and safety.
Glad to see that celebrities protested today but it would be more helpful to have consolidated efforts. A massive protest took place on Saturday outside Karachi Press Club. Celebrities should've thrown their weight behind that instead of keeping a separate protest for themselves
— Manal Faheem Khan (@ManalFaheemKhan) September 14, 2020
Hijacking the protest
Some accounts of people, who were on the ground when the two protests happened to coincide, are being shared on social media where it is being shared that the celebrity protest had hijacked the ones being conducted by the transgender community. A post on Facebook briefly accounts the events of the protest that when the celebrities showed up at the venue, they took up all the space and the media attention away from the already happening protest by the transgender community that happened to be against the same issue as the one the celebrities were protesting against.
The posts also read how a couple of transgender activists were being harassed just a few feet away from the celebrity protest but no one had come to their aid. The media cameras were pulled away from the 200 or so transgender women who had gathered to protest for Trans Rights and were focused on the celebrities.
Incidentally, on 12th September a huge protest was organized by Aurat March that was joined by thousands of people, including a few celebrities as well. That protest was bigger in number and focused solely on the issue of the Motorway Rape case. People on social media began to question why the celebrities, that chose to organize their own celebrity special protest on the 14th, hadn’t joined the larger protest on the 12th and lent the organizers their support then.
The other side of the story
Galaxy Lollywood reached out to Yasir Hussain who is being credited for organizing the celebrity protest. Yasir claims that the protest was all done in a peaceful manner and no such thing as being reported on social media happened on the ground.
“Karachi Press Club is a place where big and small protests happen on the regular. There were already 2-3 protests going on when we reached there. All of them were carried out in a peaceful and successful manner.”
Yasir also said that he cannot take full credit for organizing the event as Frieha Altaf, Asim Jofa, and Sarwat Gillani had helped a lot in making sure the protest was all well organized. When questioned about what he has to say about social media posts that are asking why a separate protest was organized by the celebrities when they could’ve joined another, already bigger protest a few days ago, Yasir said that it was all done for causing awareness.
“We had celebrities that have following in the millions on social media individually. When a group of people with such massive following all gathers at a place, it is bound to create awareness. Which is what our aim was. I would like to see more and more groups come out to protest. As this is an issue that affects all of us.”
Yasir said that it is the media’s job to cover everything that happens and it is wrong to just blame the celebrities for media not doing its job. When questioned what he has to say about the trans community saying their voices were drowned by the celebrities’ protest, Yasir said that the transgenders were standing with them.
“They were standing with us. They were very cooperative. They asked us for pictures and videos. In fact, I had gone to the other protests that were happening and supported them.”
Regarding the last allegation that the transgenders were attacked and harassed, Yasir had to say that he saw nothing of that sort happening. From the moment they arrived to the venue to the point that they left, everything was done in a peaceful manner.
Celebrities coming out in support of social causes should not be discouraged as they lending their support to causes like this does bring much-needed attention to the issues. However, the transgender community has a history of being discriminated against and their voices being silenced. Even if this situation is a case of unfortunate coincidence, the transgender community has a right to speak against their platforms being hijacked by celebrities. And their voices should be heard.