Fearlessly campaigning for human rights in Pakistan: Qamar Naseem

Peace Award 2015: Shortlist

He is a human rights campaigner, peacemaker and advocate of a new way for men and women to live together: for the past 15 years Qamar Naseem from Pakistan has risked his life for social justice and reconciliation in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, a region shaken by crisis.

The north of Pakistan is regularly the victim of terrorist attacks carried out by Al Qaida or the Taliban. The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region and the bordering tribal areas are particularly badly affected. It is here that Qamar Naseen, the activist for human rights and women’s rights, has been campaigning for peace and non-violence for the past 15 years. Regardless of all danger – military organisations threaten his life because he is the advocate of marginalised ethnic groups, because he re-builds destroyed schools and stands up for women´s rights in a male dominated society.

An advocate for women

Qamar is the programme coordinator for the women’s organisation Blue Veins where he makes the exploitation of women and girls a subject of discussion and stands against traditional practices such as child and forced marriages.
He wants his concerns to take root in society and so cooperates with religious and local decision makers as well as with community based organisations. Qamar trains government members to integrate women’s interests into daily political life and cooperates with the media in drawing public attention to the rights and concerns of women. As co-initiator of the campaign against breast cancer, Qamar promotes self-determined family planning. He fights for the right for women to be recognised as state citizens and also take part in elections without restrictions.

Solving conflicts through religion

Over the last years, Qamar was able to convince 500 religious leaders to join him in working out strategies for solving conflicts. He persuaded them not to justify breaches of human rights in the name of religion, and encouraged them to question extremist viewpoints. It was his initiative which led to the founding of the Council of Imams in different areas, whose task it was to break down hostility between opposing parties and prevent fundamentalist aspirations within the crisis shaken communities.

Putting an end to male violence

In order for peace to reign and women’s rights to be respected, men have to rethink their role in society: Quamar developed the MOVE Circles programme to support this aim. It gives men the opportunity to find a way to reflect their attitudes and the consequences of their violent behaviour. They learn how to express strong feelings in a non-violent way and to build healthy relationships to their families. Qamar helps men to find a respectful way of dealing with others - and makes it clear to them that social justice is necessary as a foundation for a peaceful society.