Khadija Siddiq: "Fighting Pakistan's Law'
For those of you who don’t know Khadija Siddiq, she is a strong willed and wonderful woman who went through such trauma after being attacked in Pakistan and was fighting her case against her attacker. As we sat together in the little costa coffee down by her university, I couldn’t help but admire her courage and strength. It’s one thing to read about her story but to hear it first hand from her, in her own words with as much detail as she gave was completely emotional. To have gone through what she did and still have the positive attitude to life and moving forward is incredible. Here she shares her story and hardships but remember there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
Can you tell us what happened to you on 3rd May 2016?
So, I had gone to pick up my younger sister. She was six years old and at school. It was like a normal day for me, well not actually that normal, as I was very busy studying for my final law exam that was scheduled on the 6th of May. So that day, I told my mum that today is the last day I will be able to pick up my younger sister from school, because I have to just sit back home and study and well, it really turned out to be the last day. I picked my younger sister and my car was standing 5-6 minutes walking distance from the school because of the traffic congestion and I usually ask my driver to park it there so its easier to leave the area without getting stuck. So, I made my sister get into the car and I was just about to go in as well. That’s when I was propelled onto the back seat of the car. I remember just being witlessly stabbed continuously and, in the meantime, my sister was tried to intervene and save me. She was screaming and yelling and then she got stabbed in the back. That’s when she fell onto the streets where cars were coming so my driver immediately went to her side first to get her to safety. It was such a confusing and shocking state that he didn’t even know exactly to do. He came to my side and pulled the attacker off of me. I was lying in a pool of blood after being stabbed 23 times. So, my driver lifted me from the road, put me in the car and quickly transported me and my sister to the hospital.
How long were you at the hospital and what treatments did you need?
At the hospital I was treated for 2-3 weeks and had to undergo surgery and blood transfusions. I had to get 200 stitches all across my neck and my arms. One place the attacker stabbed was my back and so my back bone had a deep injury which led to fluid leakage. I would say it was a very stressful and tormenting period but God helped us through that time.
How did your parents and family react to all of this?
My mum is a principle at a children’s school, so when she heard the news, she was at work, and she received a call from the hospital and hearing it, she was in denial, like she couldn’t believe it and couldn’t contemplate anything like this to happen to her own daughters. She immediately went to the hospital but for her, it felt like a never-ending journey, like ‘no, no, no, it’s not possible’. When my dad was called, he was at his office and he fainted immediately. He couldn’t take that shock; he couldn’t believe what he was hearing. My mum told me, my entire family, each and every one of my cousins, all donated blood to me as I needed so much blood for surgery. My cousins even had to call friends to donate blood. It was circulating around the family and people kept coming in and giving blood. That’s how the family united.
How was your recovery?
The initial stage was very tough because I remember I would be lying straight without any movement. I couldn’t even lift my arms to do anything and I was constantly in pain. During that stage, the first 4-5 days I was under anesthesia and I didn’t know what was happening to me but after that, when I gained consciousness, I was thinking to myself that I had my exam on the 6th. My life could have ended had the driver not intervened and stopped the attacker, the doctors said it was less than a millimeter away from my main artery in my neck that the knife stopped. Allah stopped it because Allah wanted to save me and give me a new life. So that phase was so terrible and as time passed, the doctors said to make some movement to get to recovery quicker.
How did #JusticeForKhadija start?
It started when I had to prepare for my final exam, the one that I had missed which I had to take a year later. We could see that nothing for the case was working in our favour. We were told to stop fighting it and that there was nothing we could achieve from going against them. As time passed, I started to believe that it was going to be useless. The fact that the attacker was the son of a lawyer was really conflicting and they had all the legal backing from many high-status lawyers to support their case. In January 2017, I wrote an article or two for the newspaper and even that didn’t get enough coverage. After I had completed my exam, Hassaan Niazi, a lawyer and activist, happened to have heard my story and came to me, offering his support. At this point, I felt like the help wasn’t going to circulate the sort of coverage I needed as many channels had already ignored my cry for help. He told me he would carry the campaign and manage everything. I know its going to be tough to get justice because the wall that’s standing in front of you is a wall of an entire legal community. So that’s when people started talking about my case on social media.
How did you prepare for court?
It was 56 days of trying to break the morale, it was 56 days of trying to break my credibility, my driver’s credibility. My 6 years old sister was a witness who was cross questioned in court who had to relive the trauma. He was sentenced to 7 years but as luck would have it, he was able to appeal the case and somehow, he was acquitted and cleared of all charges. There were articles in all these mainstream papers such as the Guardian, BBC and more. It was a huge outcry for someone to be convicted and then suddenly lose all the charged by the same court who said there wasn’t enough evidence against him. I couldn’t believe it. If this is the struggle every common man is going to go through then who is going to approach the courts, who’s going to fight their case? Who’s going to demand for justice?
What do you think needs to change in Pakistan’s law in order for justice to be served to so many victims, who go through the same trauma you have?
The loopholes that I feel needs to be fixed is the inclusion of women within the supreme court. In the UK, there is always the inclusion of two females and a male so with the law in Pakistan there has to be a panel of male and female judges. So, when I was fighting the case, my case was handed to a female judge and that immediately was transferred over to a male judge. Why though? That patriarchy was reflected everywhere and at every stage. There are very few female judges and the ratio for that needs to increase. The judges are empowered but there is this huge force of the lawyer’s community that easily overpowers them. For my case, there was about 60-70 lawyers intimidating the judge, pressurizing the judge, bribing him, and threatening him. This is something that really needs to change. The judges should be more empowered and not let lawyers sway their decision. There should never be this many lawyer in one case and I think that reflected badly as we had to continue the case. The delay tactics that are used need to stop. There should be a proper trail period, a time table that should be followed so that the case is not extended for years and years. Apart from that, I think there needs to be witness protection for the victims. A lot of women in our society are afraid to come forward and speak their truth. They need to be protected in court and out of court. The attacker was 3 or 4 feet away from me when really it should be screened. I was able to face him however many victims wouldn’t want to. They need to easily give evidence without any fear or repercussions. There are many reforms that need to happen but these are just a few that come to mind.
Who has been an inspiration to you?
That’s actually a very interesting question, I’ve not thought about it. You know what, my parents have been a role model for me, because even in this case, if you see the way they stood up for me, in a society like Pakistan, no one would even dare to put their daughter’s life or honour at stake for the sake of family’s honour. My parents said ‘to hell with the family’s honour, we do not care. For something like this to happen to my daughter, how dare anyone do that?’ my dad said, no matter what kind of friendship you had with the attacker, that does not matter to me at all, what matters is what he did and he should be punished for it.’ My mum and my dad really kept me going through all the tough times so they are definitely my inspiration.
Would you ever want to write a book about your story and why?
Well, yes sometime in the future, I would like to share my experience. But as of right now, I want to build on helping others in my situation. They often don’t have the platform and I want to do right by them. I want to show them how to work in this field. As soon I have achieved my goal, I think I should write about it all.
Since you graduated, what are your next steps and what do you hope to accomplish?
I will be going back to Pakistan and I will be working. That’s always been my plan, I didn’t want to stay here even though its been nice but I miss my family and I think Pakistan needs more help. Every day I get messages on twitter and Facebook, telling me that they’ve been following my story and have gotten inspiration from hearing it. They often share their own stories. They just need to vent out even if it’s not a case, they are going through emotional trauma, and my story has helped them. Hearing all of this is giving me the push to continue to help others. I hope I can go back and work with all these people to help them.
Follow Khadija: https://twitter.com/khadeeeej751