Pakistan News

Sheedi lawmaker targets ‘scourge of racism’

Sheedi lawmaker targets ‘scourge of racism’

KARACHI: Pakistan’s first lawmaker from the Sheedi minority is on a mission to fight centuries-old discrimination against her community of African descent, saying it has been held back by entrenched racism.

“Being penalised for something that is beyond our control — our black skin — is a reality all black people face every day in big and small measures in every country,” said Tanzeela Ume Habiba Qambrani, a member of the Sindh provincial legislature.

“The majority brown skin community considers itself the white community of America and superior to us,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone from the southern Badin district, where many Sheedis live.

Many of Pakistan’s Sheedi people are descendants of East Africans who were brought to South Asia as slaves or soldiers by Arab traders.

Qambrani, 41, who traces her own roots back to Tanzania, lodged a protest resolution in the provincial assembly against a “wave of racism”, condemning last month’s killing of Black American George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody.

Persistent negative stereotypes about the Sheedis in Pakistan limit the community’s educational and employment prospects, keeping many in poverty, Qambrani said.

“We are considered ‘jahil’ (ignorant) and ‘jungli’ (wild) and assumed to be involved in criminal activity. This stereotype has kept our community from progressing,” she said, and called for educational funds to be allocated for young Sheedis.

“Education is our way out of poverty,” she said.

Published in Dawn, June 24th, 2020

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