Qandeel Baloch, the subject of MTV Documentary Films’ A Life Too Short, became a new kind of celebrity in her native Pakistan. Beautiful and outspoken, she challenged the norms of her society by daring to post semi-nude photos of herself and to voice provocative opinions.
“She was this huge social media sensation in Pakistan, the first social media star in Pakistan,” director Safyah Usmani says at Deadline’s Contenders Documentary awards-season event. “She had many followers, she had many haters.”
The haters were not shy about calling for her death. Baloch’s bold social media profile went far beyond what they found acceptable in such a conservative, patriarchal country.
“In Qandeel’s case and in many cases around the world, especially with women,” Usmani says, “they’re not afforded the right…to choose, to create their identity, to choose how they want to live their lives.”
In 2016, Baloch’s youngest brother drugged and strangled her, justifying the homicide by saying his 26-year-old sister had stained the family’s honor. It was the latest in what some have called an epidemic of “honor killings” in Pakistan, many of which go unpunished (though Baloch’s brother was convicted and sentenced to life in prison).
“There is no honor in honor killing, really,” Usmani says. “As long as the honor killings are continuing in the world I feel like we need to continue to make this noise and keep talking about it over and over and over again.”
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