UPDATE: Gulalai Ismail is a brave and inspiring peacebuilder

Since the arrest of Gulalai Ismail in Pakistan on 12th October, we have been deeply concerned and are continuing to call for no further interruption to her vital peacebuilding work.

On Friday 12th October, Gulalai Ismail was arrested in Islamabad. She was placed on Pakistan’s exit control list during a recent visit to the UK. She has since been released on bail, however her passport has been taken. On Thursday 25th October, Gulalai was granted bail by the Swabi Session Court.

Gulalai is a champion of peaceful action and non-violence. With her sister Saba Ismail, she co-founded Aware Girls, our local partner organisation in Pakistan. Through their work, young people have been encouraged to promote tolerance and non-violence in their communities. 

The seed of fighting injustice has grown throughout the lives of Gulalai and Saba. Gulalai is no longer detained and is out on bail, but she remains unable to travel. Despite the fear of rearrest, Saba says her sister’s detainment is not the end for either of them.

“Even though she’s on bail there’s still the danger she could be arrested again. But she is still committed and calm, this incident won’t deter her or anyone else at Aware Girls for working towards human rights, we won’t stop.”

We are taking action to support Gulalai and raise awareness of her situation to ensure no further hindrance or interruption to her work. We are reaching out to those able to support Gulalai, including the Pakistani High Commission in the UK. 

We support her right to travel and agree her right to travel should be respected. The following petition has been launched for Gulalai’s passport to be returned and for her name to be removed from the exit control list.

“We were deeply saddened and troubled to hear the news of Gulalai’s arrest. Gulalai believes in peace, and continues to build it in spite of limits to her freedom and safety. Just as she is dedicated to building safer communities and supporting young people to turn away from violence, we are dedicated to standing behind her,“ said Dylan Mathews, CEO at Peace Direct.

In an audio statement issued after her arrest, Gulalai called this a concerning example of “shrinking space of civil society and civil society voices.”

We underline the need to put all our efforts behind building and sustaining a diverse, engaged and open civil society, and protecting all human rights and efforts to build peace.

She has worked tirelessly in countering extremism, in preventing young people from joining militant organisations, for peacebuilding, for inclusion of women in peacebuilding and for women’s rights in Pakistan. We call on those able to take immediate action and support our friend and committed peacebuilder. 

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