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Telegraph.co.uk | Mar 19
Malala Yousafzai starts school in Birmingham, five months after she was shot in the head by Taliban gunmen in Pakistan.
This week, an Oscar went to a Pakistani film for the first time in history. The documentary short, Saving Face, chronicles the work of the British-Pakistani plastic surgeon Mohammad Jawad. His patients are women who have been victimized by brutal acid attacks. The film was co-directed by a native Pakistani, Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy.
Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy:
To all the women in Pakistan who are working for change, don’t give up on your dreams - this is for you.
Here’s Wajahat Khan on how Pakistanis are reacting to the Oscar win.
Obaid Chinoy has been making films touching on women, children and war for the last decade now, but because all of her work is in English and is only distributed to western channels and networks, she was never a household name in Pakistan, till this moment. Social media was expected to explode with Oscar pride, and it did. But well before the Oscar announcement, her supporters had started a Facebook community group, “Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy Has Gotta Win An Oscar,” posting reviews of her movie, Saving Face, as well as serving as a virtual pep rally for the Pakistani producer. The hashtags of #Sharmeen and #Oscar started trending on Pakistan’s Twitter feed and her followers jumped from a little over 4,000 to well over 10,000. But then, there were some gripes. An online poster from Pakistan’s largest religious political party, the Jamaat-e-Islami or the Party of Islam, slammed Pakistani media for promoting what they said was “Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy’s American Oscar” and ignoring what they claimed were “American crimes of burning Qurans in Afghanistan.” Many users agreed. One extremist user, Maaz Khan, even suggested that Obaid Chinoy “should be beheaded.”
Others joined the hate brigade, too. This Facebook update from a filmmaker, Faizan Haquee, said:
"The nation is indeed celebrating, but I hope they're not celebrating an accolade that'll come back to haunt them!"
The point of contention was the subject of Obaid Chinoy’s film: acid throwing on women by Pakistani men as a revenge tactic.
Nadir Hassan, a young columnist at the usually left-leaning Express Tribune, churned out a piece that got a lot of Facebook likes, called "How to Win an Oscar." His hardly veiled criticism: Obaid Chinoy follows a pro-western agenda. He wrote:
"Her documentaries all perform the kabuki dance that brings forth international funding, distribution and publicity."
But Obaid Chinoy had her defenders too. A widely retweeted post by radio presenter and documentarian Fasi Zaka captured the essence of the debate, as he questioned the logic of those who were criticizing Sharmeen. Maha Jawed put an existentialist spin on the whole Oscar debate about whether Pakistanis should welcome or hate their new Oscar heroine’s attempts. As in most things Pakistani, the left versus right divide was hard at work on Pakistan's social media networks during and after Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy’s Oscar victory. Sure, her choice of subject was not rosy, but then, Pakistan is a hard country with bitter realities. Now that she has found Oscar glory and has officially decided to launch an anti-acid campaign to protect Pakistani women, her detractors and critics might understand her reasoning and where she is coming from. From Islamabad, Pakistan, this is Wajahat S. Khan for LinkAsia.
The vast majority of attacks involving acid occur within the Seraiki ethnic population, located in the central and southeastern parts of Pakistan. Acid is widely available in these areas, as it's used to harvest cotton.