In 2016, Khadija Siddiqi was stabbed 23 times while picking up her 6-year-old sister from school in Lahore, Pakistan. The attacker was 23-year-old Shah Hussain; Siddiqi, who miraculously survived the incident, said Hussain was enraged because she had rejected his advances.
Though Hussain was initially sentenced to seven years in prison, he was acquitted last week by Pakistan’s high court. And Siddiqi is not staying silent about the injustice.
Siddiqi told The Guardian that the outcome of the case is symptomatic of a patriarchal system that imposes “stigma against women in the justice system, in which the onus is on the woman to prove she is the victim.” Hussain was reportedly acquitted because, based on a letter that Siddiqi wrote when she was 17, the court determined that she had been the one who pursued him.
Siddiqi also told The Guardian that she and Hussain once had a close relationship, but she felt compelled to distance herself from him when he began to try and control her behavior and hacked into her Facebook account.
After the attack, according to Al Jazeera, Hussain was granted post-arrest bail. At one point, Siddiqi, a law student, was forced to write an exam in the same room as him. She also revealed that during the trial proceedings, the judge told her she would have to prove the accused’s motive, and suggested that she must have done something to warrant the attack.
“When the court asked me what [Hussain’s] motive was, they tried to prove I was a woman of loose character, that I am immoral and don’t have values,” Siddiqi said. “The defense said in court that I was having illicit relationships with other boys, which was a lie. Their entire defense was based on discrediting my character.”
Hussain’s acquittal was met with so much outrage in Pakistan that the country’s supreme court has taken the unusual step of re-examining the case without a formal complaint. Siddiqi called the move a “very positive step.” On social media, supporters have rallied around her with the hashtag
Stabbed TWENTY THREE times, let’s put that into perspective – Imagine the pain from a paper cut or when you stub your toe. I can’t even imagine the pain. Khadija is a walking miracle. These things leave marks deeper than what is visible to the eye. #Justiceforkhadija
— Armeena Khan (@ArmeenaRK) June 4, 2018
When this horrific crime occurred Khadija was apprehensive that justice was not going to be served, she was stabbed over 20 times and today her attacker has been acquitted!! Justice has failed her and we need to speak up ! #JusticeforKhadija https://t.co/IVLdVsSPmQ
— Aseefa B Zardari (@AseefaBZ) June 4, 2018
A seven-year sentence for attempted murder – reduced to five years – reduced to nothing. This is how we value a woman seeking justice with proof (multiple eye-witnesses, DNA match) – the message is loud and clear. She is reduced to nothing. #JusticeForKhadija
— Osman Khalid Butt (@aClockworkObi) June 4, 2018
— SenatorSherryRehman (@sherryrehman) June 5, 2018
Siddiqi said she sees the unjust outcome being bigger than just her case. “I’ve had so many messages saying ‘this happened to me’, and it gives people strength,” she added. “There is a stigma for women to get justice, not just in Pakistan but across the world. This shows if you hurt or kill in the name of honor, you will be challenged.”
For more on Siddiqi’s story, watch the video below.