Community members gather for vigil after Quetta bombing attack

Monday, April 15, 2019 - 11:03pm

Students gather at a vigil for the Quetta attack on the Diag Monday evening.

Students gather at a vigil for the Quetta attack on the Diag Monday evening. Buy this photo
Claire Meingast/Daily

Monday evening, about 50 students, faculty and community members attended a vigil on the Diag to show solidarity and honor the lives of those impacted by the bombing in Quetta, Pakistan on April 12.

The attack was on an open-air market and targeted the Hazara population, an ethnic minority that includes many followers of the Shia sect of Islam. At least 20 people were killed and 40 were wounded as a result of the bombing.

The ceremony was presented by the Pakistani Student Association, the Islamic Society of Ahl-ul-Bayt and the Muslim Students’ Association. Former ISA President and LSA junior Syed Rizvi was the emcee of the vigil. He opened with a description of the events that occurred in Quetta and the people who were impacted by the attack.

“These victims were simply regular people going about their lives,” Rizvi said. “They were unarmed and peaceful and posed no threat to anyone. Yet they were killed. They were killed because as an ethnic minority, they looked different. They were killed because, as a religious minority, they prayed differently.”

There was then a moment of silence for the lives lost as a result of the Quetta attack.

The speakers at the event included ISA Social Co-chair Humza Hemani, LSA junior, who helped organize the event, as well as MSA Vice President of External Affairs Zoha Qureshi, a Public Policy senior.

The third speaker, PSA Advocacy Chair Alezeh Mumtaz, an LSA freshman, spoke about the value of unity and compassion, especially during the times of these attacks.

“I’m not here to say a lot of big words, or spout about violence or this or that,” Mumtaz said. “I’m not here to share facts, I’m here to do what this vigil was created for: show and emphasize solidarity. All we need to know is that love and community are the things that matter, and the things that stand. So, we stand here today, in support of the innocent; we are gathered here, not on the basis of religion … but as believers of the power of good.”

In Qureshi’s speech, she spoke about how students at the University of Michigan should respond to these types of attacks — especially with the advantages students have.

“We should do all we can to support as college students at the University of Michigan with the privileges we hold and the power structures we live in,” Qureshi said. “Whether it be donating to a humanitarian cause, spreading awareness, standing in solidarity, spreading advocacy or simply offering a hand to a brother or sister who needs our support — we must come together.”

Qureshi further highlighted her experience at the vigil for New Zealand, and how the false active shooter threats made her reflect on those around the world who face these threats and attacks frequently impact.

“Just about a month ago, there was a vigil for New Zealand, and I remember being there and present and listening and mourning, but then moments later, running for my life in what I thought was an active shooter situation,” Qureshi said. “I am thankful that my peers and I are safe, but I remind myself that millions of people in this world do not have that luxury.”

Rizvi then opened the floor to those attending the vigil, offering them an opportunity to give speeches and express themselves at the ceremony. Several students and community members recited poetry in Urdu, the national language of Pakistan, and spoke about how they felt the attack impacted their lives and the lives of people they know.

Later in the event, Rizvi also highlighted the necessity for media coverage on the Quetta attack, and condemned the Pakistani government for failing to properly address the bombing.

“The lack of coverage of this event by the Pakistani mainstream media is absolutely unacceptable,” Rizvi said. “People are going to find out about this horrifying event one way or another, and when they do, they will not be happy. They will also not be happy when they find out that the government of Pakistan failed to address the issue, and offered neither adequate condolences, nor met with the people affected.”

After the event, Hemani spoke to The Daily about how he hoped those who attended the event gained more knowledge about the Hazara and recognized how their situation reflects of a larger problem of minority rights.

“I hope the attendees learned a little about the Hazara and their story,” Hemani said. “I hope they also saw this not just as an issue for Pakistan, but see it as part of a larger global issue of minority rights, and I tried to help push the focus of the event towards that minority rights in general.”

Over the past several days, about 200 Hazaras in Quetta and 50 Hazaras in Karachi have been protesting and taking part in sit-ins as a result of the attack. Hemani believes the Hazaras are doing what they can to fight for the rights, but the power their community has alone is not enough to make an effective difference.

“I think the sit-in protests are effectively the only tool the Hazara have left to them,” Hemani said. “There is power in seeing an entire community come together to say something is wrong, but it hasn’t brought real change yet, and that’s why we need non-Hazaras to also speak out for them, because at the end of the day, the Hazaras don’t have a lot of political influence.”