Human rights defender
Zafar is a journalist and has worked for a radio station in Pakistan for more than five years. He investigates and reports human rights violations that take place in Pakistan. He has denounced pressing issues through the publication of written media reports and investigative stories. He writes about women’s rights, enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings by state forces, violations of the rights of religious minorities, forced conversion and child marriage of Hindu girls. Besides publishing his stories on public websites Zafar is also a column writer for a leading Pashto newspaper, in which he also mainly addresses human rights issues in Pakistan.
Photo: Daniella van Bergen
The situation for journalists who denounce human rights violations in Pakistan is very difficult. Journalists are being pressured by the state not to publish the collected data. Because of his investigative journalism about human rights violations, Zafar is facing threats, intimidation and arbitrary arrests.
On 13 june 2015 Zafar was arrested and detained by the paramilitary forces. He was questioned about his journalistic work and sources. After his release, he continued to be followed by the Pakistan paramilitary forces and eventually had no other choice but to flee to Nepal. When he noticed however that even in Nepal he was not safe, he fled to Afghanistan. But even in Afghanistan Zafar is not safe because of his journalistic work.
“Shelter City deserves the Nobel Price’, said Zafar well-meant when he looked back on his stay in the oldest city of The Netherlands. Not only was he able to gain rest and respite in Nijmegen, but he also made lots of interesting contacts and new friends: citizens, teachers, student associations, local politicians and fellow journalists. He also followed English classes at the Radboud University and has been under treatment at the University’s trauma department. The latter was certainly needed. ‘At first, I could not tell my story without having to cry. After my treatment, I am now able to tell my story in front of an audience. I am now in control of my tears.”
3th of May: World Press Freedom Day
On the 3th of May 2016, Zafar had two interviews about his work. In the afternoon Eric Smits interviewed him during the presentation of the book ‘Blad voor de mond – Persvrijheid wereldwijd’ at Justice and Peace in het Nutshuis in The Hague. In the evening he was interviewed by journalist Michel Maas during the ‘Festival van het Vrije Woord’ in De Balie in Amsterdam.