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International Minorities Film Festival 2019 in Karachi

Aks, International Minorities Festival was held at T2f in Karachi from 6th to 7th of April 2019. The festival is designed to promote visibility and accessibility of the transgender community of Pakistan- proudly collaborating with their local partner organization Sub Rang Society which works to ensure the implication of rights and social justice for the transgender community. The transgender community still strives to make a place in the society-they feel discriminated and abused physically and emotionally due to harassment, torture and even murder. There have been several cases where people belonging to the transgender community have been killed due to the mass mindset-there certainly needs to be more tolerance andawareness about gender sensitivity subject to protect the rights and lives of the transgender community. Kami Sid, a Pakistani trans person who is also a Fashion model, actor and an activist, recently starred in a short film ‘Rani’ as a transgender who makes her living buy selling toys on the street. In an interview with Daily Times, Kami said,” We have been having this film festival for 5 years now in three cities i.e. Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad-we are having a mini version in Karachi this time and we shall have another larger festival in November” on further explaining the need of this festival Kami explained, “There is no rights for the trans community in our country and so there is a dire need to spread awareness through such events-where people come together. People can only learn about our needs and rights, once they mingle with our community through different programs. Most of the people related to the transgender community, live in areas where most of us would never go.”

Kami also shared” I am the director for Sun Rang Society that works for the transgender community-with this organization came the realization that we have to reach our people living in very unfortunate conditions. For advocacy we have to be fair and available for all. My only vision is to create tolerance and awareness through my work and roles in different dramas and movies”

Kami also shared how she is really looking forward to Hina Gul’s dance performance by the end of the show-which was the main highlight of the festival.

If I look back- probably five years ago, yes! There is definitely more acceptance. Our acceptance in the work and educational field will still take more time as change is not instant, it does take its own respective time. The khuwajasira work with us and they have become more vocal about their rights with time. Unless we talk, no one will ever know our issues.”

There were khuwajasiras from all over the country, who came to attend the festival- to add depth to their appeal, to be seen, heard and accepted. In conversation with Hina Gul, who was also the star of the night with her outstanding dance performance- dressed in an orange and silver long dress, with a Kashmiri style of mathapatti embracing her forehead along with big bold earrings to match the Kashmiri set, Hina Gul shared made a very important appeal, “I really request that our police men should be trained, they should be taught to respect everyone! We face a lot of discrimination and bad behavior from them. We are treated like outcasts by them, because they do not know how to respect a khuwajasira. We don’t have weddings or children and so we seek joy in our little festivities and gatherings. The police men raid our birthday parties and functions- they create a lot of trouble for us- we are harassed emotionally and physically by them. It is an appeal to PM Imran Khan to teach the police department some manners and respect as we are humans too. We are a rejected and abandoned community, we are human too-born to a human family like any other human. I really have a lot of hope in our Prime Minister; he is our brother and protector and I do hope that he will consider my appeal. We need his attention and help as a community”

Talking about education, Gul continued, “We do wish to study, there are a lot of khuwajasira’s that are highly educated and we are proud of them. I myself am an FA pass, I am the volunteer for Roshni helpline and an area in charge too. There is a need for a tolerant society to accept us into school, madrasas, colleges and universities, where we are not treated like aliens- but as a part of our large society. We are not thieves or criminals, we do not harm anyone. We have to stick to various professions because there isn’t much job opportunity for our kind of people. We don’t need to beg if there was a nice respectable job available for us”

DT: Are you able to vote or join political parties?

This time we got a chance when Bindiya Rana participated in the elections for President from Sindh, she received a very good response. We also now have the liberty to make our own ID cards, that issue is also solved. Some of us even manage to get normal jobs if they are lucky. There is definitely more acceptance compared to before. The system now listens to what we have to say and we are definitely on a route on change.”

Hina is also selected for an upcoming drama-the story is based on the life and struggles of a khuwajasira in our society. Jawaid Nasir is the director this drama “Guru jeet”- the cast is still being selected, but I am already finalized for the role.

Khalida, another khuwajasira, who had travelled all the way from Rawalpindi just to attend this event, shared her thoughts with Daily Times too, saying: I am so glad to see more people like myself who are fighting for our rights; it makes me very proud to see how they have an undying courage. Karachi is way ahead in this race, there is more acceptance here than compared to the Punjab. We are still fighting for basic rights in Rawalpindi and our ID card issue still isn’t resolved. Me and a lot of khuwajasira like us want to be educated- I can’t even write my own name, we all deserve rights of education. Education will bring us new opportunities- we will be able to refine ourselves with education. I may be able to find a job if I want to, but even if I do find a job- there is a lot of mocking and teasing that makes us very uncomfortable in a normal environment.”

The event continued, as Kami introduced the theme of the festival- followed by six short films, all on different subjects. Starting with Bird of Paradise, which was a 10 minutes Telgu film directed by Rahul M M. The short film was a scene from the life of a KhuwajSira. Just in 10 mins, we are able to see the kind of jobs they get and the discrimination and abuse khuwajasiras face on a daily basis-yet they have become immune to it. The group of 3 Khuwajasira friends is seen, enjoying a basic Indian meal together after a long day of work. The movie leaves a strong impact-how people treat them and how they settle with the day to day abuse is the alarming side of this short film.

A meeting with Noor Jehan is another short film, where a young boy who sells balloons on the streets- he comes across a “Hijra” who is a look-alike of film actress Saima. The young boy seems very charmed by her grace and company-another short film with a very lasting impact.

Zeerak Ali talking about her film “NarayanPura”

Narayanpura was a 9 min long movie, shot in the streets of Rancholine. They movie emphasizes on inter-faith harmony in a small area called Narayanpura where people from different communities live together. This multi-cultural community is very tolerant of each other’s beliefs, rituals and celebrations. Christians, Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs live together and set a very beautiful example of a loving neighbor for the world to see. Director Zeerakali and HumadNisar brought this beautiful hidden colony into the limelight through this film. Pakistan is notoriously known for its oppressive religious laws, but in the streets of Narayanpura, it isn’t so.

Waahi which means harvest, was another short film based on woman farmer’s life, who worked in the fields, all alone and against all odds to provide for her family. The lady single-handedly, learnt how to irrigate and grow a harvest. Her story is mind bending.

There was also a session for dialogue and questions after the movie and an excellent dance performance by Hina Gul at the end of the show.

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