Baloch Women’s Historic March: An Emerging Driving Force Behind the Resistance Against Injustice

As we approach the end of the year 2023, it is clear that this year will be remembered as a significant period in the history of women's collective resistance in Afghanistan, Pakistan's Balochistan province, and Iran. The Baloch women have played a prominent role in a significant movement against authoritarianism, tyranny, and the dominance of religious clerics. Their unwavering determination is reshaping the narrative of struggle and resilience in the face of inequality, repression, and oppression.

Throughout 2023, women have emerged as the driving force behind the resistance in Afghanistan, Balochistan, and Iran. They have endured the harsh consequences of authoritarianism and Mullahism, witnessing the restriction of educational opportunities for girls, the imposition of dress codes, and various other oppressive measures. However, courageous women from Iran, Balochistan, and Afghanistan have stood up to reclaim their freedom that these oppressive policies had previously suppressed.

The challenges faced by Afghan and Iranian women are widely recognised by the world, but the struggle of Baloch women has received little attention. In Balochistan, there is a significant number of women who are bravely challenging the prevailing circumstances, as their family members have gone missing. Since November 23, a group of individuals has undertaken an extraordinary 1,600-kilometer march from the southern Kech district to Islamabad. Their purpose is to advocate for an end to enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings. Baloch women, who have historically faced marginalisation and neglect, are currently leading a movement that goes beyond traditional conservative and tribal norms.

The catalyst for this movement was the tragic killing of a 24-year-old youth named Balaach in Turbat Tehsil. His disappearance and the subsequent extrajudicial killing sparked a week-long protest in Turbat. In a series of unprecedented events, his family and a massive crowd came together to place his body on the road, igniting a movement that has now spread to Dera Ghazi Khan, the southernmost district of Punjab in Pakistan.

This uprising led by women is not only remarkable for its massive demonstrations, but also for its notable inclusion of young women. Balochistan, a region known for its conservative values, is currently undergoing a significant transformation as young women are actively participating in and leading protests. The movement, which was initially ignited by a tragic incident, has now evolved into a powerful symbol of frustration, mistrust, and resentment towards the security-centric policies of the Pakistani state.
As the movement continues to grow, it encounters various challenges, including a media blackout and government efforts to suppress its progress. Reportedly, the state is feeling pressure and is currently exploring various options to prevent future marches. However, it is important to note that mass arrests and crackdowns alone will not effectively address the underlying issues that are fueling the unrest in Balochistan.

The Baloch women leading this movement are not looking for conflict; rather, they are advocating for the safety and well-being of their families. Many of the protesters identify as either half-widows or orphans, and forced disappearances and custodial killings have had a significant impact on them. It is crucial for the state to acknowledge the suffering of individuals and take action to address the problem of missing people in Balochistan.

According to estimates from Baloch rights groups, more than 5,000 individuals have been forcefully disappeared, and approximately 1,000 people have lost their lives in the conflict that has spanned two decades. The denial of state involvement and downplaying of the issue by the caretaker government only serves to further fuel the determination of Baloch women in their pursuit of justice.

"History has consistently demonstrated that when women lead a movement, change becomes inevitable."

The question is whether this women-led movement will be successful in pressuring the government to stop forced disappearances and address the various abuses occurring in Balochistan. The government's response indicates resistance, but history has consistently demonstrated that when women lead a movement, change becomes inevitable.

The Baloch women have made history with their unprecedented journey as they march into Islamabad. They embody resilience, standing against dictators, authoritarians, and Mullahs, as history has proven their ultimate triumph. The global community closely observes as these women persistently redefine the narrative of resistance and justice in Balochistan.

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