Perween Rahman: The Rebel Optimist
October 21: The Department of Social Sciences and Liberal
Arts hosted a screening of the documentary film "Perween Rahman:
The Rebel Optimist" on October 21st. The film captures the life
and work of the architect, urban planner, and committed social
activist Perween Rahman, who was gunned down in Karachi in March
2013. Rahman's remarkable work on Karachi's informal
settlements, water, and other urban development issues was
driven by her concern with social justice for the poor and
dispossessed population of Karachi.
The documentary meticulously puts together her life through archival footage, director Mahera Omar’s own interviews with her, photographs and oral testimonies of more than half a dozen people whose lives she had touched, directly or indirectly, while living and working in Karachi. It brought out the warmth that defined Rahman’s personal relationships with her siblings and her long-time associates. It simultaneously also highlights her contribution as the director of the Orangi Pilot Project (OPP) in improving the lives of the poorest of the poor in Karachi. The documentary, in fact, records everything that her life revolved around — from her love for the sea and the beach to her worries about environmental pollution and climate change, and from her focus on the issue of water theft in Karachi to her efforts for the relief and rehabilitation of flood victims.
Later On, a thought-provoking panel discussion grabbed the attention of the audience. Dr. Nausheen Anwar, Faculty Social Sciences Department, introduced the panelists and initiated the proceedings. The panel included: Anwar Rashid, Friend/Director OPP-OCT; Aquila Ismail, Sister/Chairperson OPP-RTI; Mr. Saleem Aleemuddin, Friend/Director OPP-RTI and Tasneem Siddiqi, Mentor/Chairperson SAIBAAN. The panel discussed that Why would someone kill a human being who had dedicated her life to assisting the poor, who believed that there was a solution to all our civic problems and who believed in taking the first step towards finding that solution? Three years after her death, there is still no answer to this question. Even the identity of her murderers remain unknown. A deep silence – and a sense of frustration – has descended upon her colleagues, friends and family as far as the reasons and the circumstances of her killing are concerned. Moreover, while shedding light over the government’s action on this particular issue, Ms. Aquila Ismail said, “The government has basically failed to address this issue. Rather, now their discussion has shifted to Rahman herself — to celebrating her life and to promoting the work that she had devoted her life to.” Adding to the similar thought, Mr. Anwar Rashid said, “Many in the non-government sector in Karachi believe Rahman was targeted for her work on land use in and around the city and for her opposition to illegal water hydrants that steal water from the poor. The police claim she was killed by the Taliban, who were reportedly incensed by her work for the economic independence of women.” The session concluded as the panelist invited students to come and look at their work and research on the matter under consideration.