On Tuesday evening, mother’s tucked their children into bed. They listened to their chatter. They read them stories. They encouraged their innocence to remain intact by entertaining their imaginations. To the child and to the mother, all seemed to be right in the world. As they said their goodnight’s and exchanged kisses, and embarked on their slumber, a seven-year-old girl named Zainab wasn’t being tucked into her bed. She wasn’t in her mother’s embrace. She was crying for help as she slowly felt the trauma paralyse her body. The trauma of being abducted and held captive from her home by strange men. The trauma of being raped. The trauma of being strangled. She screamed until she couldn’t to a world that was asleep and deaf.
When the dawn of a new day greeted Pakistan, it didn’t deliver the usual political or lifestyle news. When people went onto their social media platforms, Zainab was the first picture they saw. A beautiful little girl with light eyes, wearing a fluffy pink jacket, with a subtle but blissful smile. They saw the three words written on the bottom of her picture. Kidnapped. Raped. Murdered. And then they saw her age. Without a moment to spare, they joined the movement by sharing her picture and constructing statements to shed light on their pain and disgust towards such a grievous crime.
It wasn’t too long ago when pictures of children wearing school uniforms were shared fervently along with statements about their agony and disdain. As a nation consisting of old and new generations, we vowed to make our land a safe haven where children are allowed to be children with innocent imaginations and idealistic beliefs about the world. Zainab’s story reminds us that each day a child is killed is a black day for our country.
She was a little girl. She didn’t get the time to develop likes and dislikes. She didn’t get to uncover her passion or make a life-long friend. She didn’t get to experience all that is ultimately taken for granted. When a child is unexpectedly taken from the world, everyone wonders about what they could have been and whether they would have affected change.
If we can’t protect and defend a child, then we cannot defend and protect humanity. It isn’t enough that her picture is shared from one profile to the other. It isn’t enough that her hashtag demanding justice is used. It’ll never deliver justice or save another child. Hashtags and pictures aren’t wake-up calls to the predators that still wander the streets and target children. Zainab’s death symbolizes what we as a society must change. When girls are taught to be extremely careful and cautious, boys must be taught to be extremely aware and respectful. They should be held just as accountable for their actions, and shouldn’t be spared if they exercise violence in the classroom or in the home. The time has come for topics such as rape and harassment to be given the spotlight instead of being considered a taboo. When people look at Zainab’s picture, their minds shouldn’t wonder about whether anything about her behavior or character asked for this. A seven-year-old girl doesn’t deserve to be a victim, and her memory shouldn’t be given an ounce of blame.
Many people have demonstrated their desire for the man responsible to be executed publicly. The perpetrator shouldn’t get off easily with a public hanging – but rather with a public display of torture. After all, people who speak the liberal truth are beaten to death and bystanders have no problem taking videos of it for the media, why can’t the world see that this is the kind of nation we are meant to be. Where men who have no respect shouldn’t be given any. Where they shouldn’t be called animals but demons, because animals are inclined to protect and kill for their young. Where they should feel the exact torture and pain that they inflicted on that little girl, and live in only the darkest prisons with no possibility of ever seeing light or feeling freedom. Even though it won’t bring her back, the message will be loud and another little girl might be spared. A little boy who isn’t being taught respect by the elders around him might learn what happens when you don’t have it, when he sees that male privilege has been stripped off its influence.
Zainab doesn’t need pity or sadness. She needs to be remembered as a beacon for reform within society and within ourselves. She is the wake-up call from our ignorant sleep. She is the one life that was taken, to prevent a million others from suffering the same fate. She was a child that should have been shielded instead of being targeted. In her untimely death, Zainab has awakened a fire in people who are now burning to affect change on her behalf. That fire must torch misconceptions and illuminate facts that need to be addressed.