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Pakistani celebrities accused of ignoring transgenders during anti-rape protest

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KARACHI: A renowned English language daily reported on Wednesday that the earlier protest by Pakistani celebrities on Monday outside the Karachi Press Club, deliberately ignored members of the transgender community who were there earlier to protest and voice their demands.

Sarwat Gilani, Adnan Siddiqui, Mahira Khan, Ayesha Omar, Ali Rehman Khan, Aijaz Aslam, Maheen Khan and Bushra Ansari, among others, were present at the protest on Monday to highlight their anger against rape and sexual abuse.

However, members of the transgender community were there earlier to protest for the same issue and according to a few of them who spoke to The Express Tribune, they were sidelined by media personnel and were asked to move to clear the way for celebrities.

“We were first asked to evacuate the area for celebrities, and then the shouting by media teams reporting the event turned into cussing and we were left clueless,” trans community leader Zehrish Soomro, who was present at the protest told The Express Tribune. 

“When the community leader Bindiya Rana herself tried to control the situation by trying to buy some time she was categorically told that our protest will not be covered now that the celebrities have arrived”.

Bindiya Rana, Executive Director of Gender Inactive Alliance and a pioneer activist, said she was surprised as she expected the celebrity to stand with transgenders and not separately.

“”The main reason for all of us to come together was to raise voice against the increasing violence against the oppressed in the society, against the influence, against the harassment, against the killings, rapes and other horrific forms of abuse.”

“The only difference was we were there before and were getting a bit of coverage. When the celebs came in, everyone started moving towards the other side of the road where they were planning on staging the protest, I kept asking the attendees to come back to the front. I then came to know that the press and the media were focused on the celebs, but this isn’t news to us. If there were 500 of us, and Meera comes in, then people will look at her.”

However, Frieha Altaf also spoke to Tribune to dismiss the claims, saying that she won’t be ‘bullied’.

“I speak for the entire fraternity and we knew about the transgender community’s protest. This was always about combined efforts,” she said.

” “I will not be bullied into this,” she said. “It is very easy to play the blame game. We were all there to support each other. We were all chanting the same slogans. Whatever is being conspired, I will not tolerate it!”

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