The murder of Qandeel Baloch was physically carried out by her brother Waseem. But the circumstances that allowed Waseem to take the life of an innocent woman, whether or not her actions were ‘shameful’, were created by us.
History has shown us that there is one especially effective way to murder someone – dehumanize them. This is not a phenomenon unique to Pakistan or even limited to the 21st century; it has popped up numerous times throughout history.
Adolf Hitler dehumanized Jews in the eyes of his people, condemning them as sub-human, and thereby minimizing opposition to the Holocaust. The white European dismissed the brown person as a ‘savage’ and therefore imposed his ‘civilization’ onto South Asia with the widespread support of his country. Even today, right-wing politicians and figures in the West dehumanize Muslims as the ‘archaic followers of an ancient and violent religion’ and use that false judgement as an excuse to rouse support for anti-Muslim legislation and policies.
In Pakistani society, this tactic has been used by fundamentalist groups to dehumanize women who act ‘indecently’ by the norms of society. The evidence can be found in the social media reaction after Baloch’s murder. “Qandeel Baloch was a disgrace to Pakistan,” “she will certainly suffer in hell”, “her brother did well” and “this bitch got exactly what was coming to her” were actually some of the milder comments observed.
We, Pakistani society, dehumanized Qandeel Baloch. To us, her actions meant she wasn’t even a human being deserving of basic respect. Even 4 years on, the consensus on Baloch isn’t that she was an innocent murdered for doing something that didn’t harm anyone; rather, she is condemned as a shameful woman who deserved her death.
Baloch may have been killed by Waseem. But it was our dehumanization of Baloch, our condemnation, jeering, and taunting that not only motivated him but also emboldened him to take his own sister’s life. We killed Qandeel Baloch.