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Pakistani humanist campaigner arrested in Pakistan on return from Humanists UK’s Conservative Party Conference

Pakistani human rights campaigner Gulalai Ismail was arrested at Islamabad Airport today on her return from the UK. Humanists UK has joined other humanist organisations from across the world in calling for her immediate release.

Gulalai was in London to attend the Board meeting of the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU), of which she is a director. She also attended Humanist UK’s Conservative Party fringe event as a guest speaker alongside Crispin Blunt MP and Humanists UK’s Chief Executive Andrew Copson.

Among other human rights work, Gulalai is the founder of Aware Girls, an organisation which works to empower and educate women and girls on rights and leadership in Pakistan, and mentored Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai, whom she also visited when in the UK last week.

Humanists UK Chief Executive and President of IHEU Andrew Copson said:

‘We are gravely concerned for our dear friend and colleague. Gulalai is a brave humanist and human rights activist, whose tireless efforts for peace and human rights have earned her respect around the world. Pakistan should be proud to have produced such a daughter and we urge the authorities to release her, return her passport, and restore her freedom to travel.

‘We have written today to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Pakistan High Commission in London urging them to support Gulalai’s urgent release and offer her the full protection of the law.’

About Gulalai

Gulalai Ismail is an award-winning Pakistani human rights defender. She is the co-founder and chairperson of Aware Girls, an organization which works to empower and educate women and girls on rights and leadership in Pakistan, and chair of the Seeds of Peace network. She regularly speaks at home and abroad on peace-building in Pakistan and women's empowerment.

Aware Girls aims to challenge the culture of violence and oppression of women in the rural Khyber Pakhtunkhwa area (north-west Pakistan). The Seeds of Peace network, founded in 2010, trains young people in human rights and political leadership, encouraging the participation of women in politics in Pakistan, and encouraging tolerance between religions and beliefs.

Gulalai is a recipient of the Fondation Chirac Peace Prize, and won the International Humanist of the Year Award 2014. She has also been awarded the Democracy Award from the National Endowment for Democracy, the Commonwealth Youth Award for Excellence in Democracy, and the Anna Politkovskaya Award.

In August 2017, she was elected by member organisations from around the world to the Board of the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU). She has previously been on the Executive Committee of the International Humanist and Ethical Youth Organisation, and a Board Member of the Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights. She also works for the Gender Working Group of the United Network of Young Peacebuilders, and is a member of the Asian Democracy Network.

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