Asma Jahangir

Asma Jahangir
Asma Jahangir Four Freedoms Awards 2010 cropped.jpg
Jahangir in 2010
United Nations Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Iran
In office
1 November 2016[1] – 11 February 2018
Preceded byAhmed Shaheed
Succeeded byJavaid Rehman
President of Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan
In office
27 October 2010 – 31 October 2012
Preceded byQazi Anwar
Succeeded byRasheed A Rizvi
Head of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan
In office
1987–2011
Preceded byPosition established
Succeeded byZohra Yusuf
Personal details
BornAsma Jilani
(1952-01-27)27 January 1952
Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan[2]
Died11 February 2018(2018-02-11) (aged 66)
Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan
Cause of deathBrain hemorrhage[2]
NationalityPakistani
Children1 son and 2 daughters
ResidenceIslamabad, Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT)
Alma materPunjab University (LL.B.)
Kinnaird College (BA)
ProfessionLawyer, Human Rights Activist
AwardsHilal-i-Imtiaz (2010)
Martin Ennals Award (1995)
Ramon Magsaysay Award (2005)
Leo Eitinger Award (2002)
Four Freedoms Award (2010)

Asma Jilani Jahangir (Urdu: عاصمہ جہانگیر‎, translit. ʿĀṣimah Jahāṉgīr; 27 January 1952 – 11 February 2018) was a Pakistani human rights lawyer and social activist who co-founded and chaired the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.[3] Jahangir was known for playing a prominent role in the Lawyers' Movement and served as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief and as a trustee at the International Crisis Group.[4][5][6]

Born and raised in Lahore, Jahangir studied at the Convent of Jesus and Mary before receiving her B.A. from Kinnaird and LLB from the Punjab University in 1978. In 1980, she was called to the Lahore High Court, and to the Supreme Court in 1982. In the 1980s, Jahangir became a democracy activist and was imprisoned in 1983 for participating in the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy against the military regime of Zia-ul-Haq. In 1986, she moved to Geneva, and became the vice-chair of the Defence for Children International and remained until 1988 when she returned to Pakistan.[7]

In 1987, Jahangir co-founded the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and became its Secretary-General. In 1993, she was elevated as the commission's chairperson.[8] She was again put under house arrest in November 2007 after the imposition of emergency. After serving as one of the leaders of the Lawyers' Movement, she became Pakistan's first woman to serve as the President of Supreme Court Bar Association.[9][10] She co-chaired South Asia Forum for Human Rights and was the vice president of International Federation for Human Rights.[11] Jahangir served as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion from August 2004 to July 2010, including serving on the U.N. panel for inquiry into Sri Lankan human rights violations and on a fact-finding mission on Israeli settlements.[12][13] In 2016, she was named as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Iran, remaining till until her death in February 2018.[14][15]

Jahangir is the recipient of several awards including the 2014 Right Livelihood Award (along with Edward Snowden), 2010 Freedom Award, Hilal-i-Imtiaz in 2010, Sitara-i-Imtiaz, Ramon Magsaysay Award in 2005, 1995 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders, and the UNESCO/Bilbao Prize for the Promotion of a Culture of Human Rights. She was awarded an Legion of Honour by France, and in 2016 the University of Pennsylvania Law School awarded her a honorary degree.[16][17][18] Her writings include The Hudood Ordinance: A Divine Sanction? and Children of a Lesser God.[19]

Jahangir was posthumously awarded the Nishan-e-Imtiaz on the 23rd March 2018, the highest degree of service to the state, and for services to international diplomacy by Mamnoon Hussain.[20][21]

Early life

Jahangir was born into a prosperous and politically active Kakazai Pashtun[22] family with a history of activism and human rights work. Her father, Malik Ghulam Jilani, was a civil servant who entered politics upon retirement and spent years both in jail and under house arrest for opposing military dictatorships. Malik was imprisoned on several occasions for his outspoken views, which included denouncing the Pakistani government for genocide during their military action in what is now Bangladesh (formerly East Pakistan).[23]

Her mother, Begum Sabiha Jilani (1927–2012),[24][25] was educated at a co-ed college named Forman Christian College situated in Lahore,[24] at a time when few Muslim women even received higher education. Sabiha also fought the traditional system, pioneering her own clothing business until her family's lands were confiscated in 1967 as a result of her husband's opinions and detention.[26]

Jahangir herself became involved at a young age in protests against the military regime as well as opposing her father's detention by then president, Benazir Bhutto's father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in 1972. She received her B.A. from Kinnaird College, Lahore and her law degree in 1978,[27] and her Bachelor of Laws (LLB) degree from Punjab University. She also holds an honorary doctorate from University of St. Gallen in Switzerland.,[28] Queens University, Canada, Simon Fraser University, Canada and Cornell University, United States. She was married and had a son and two daughters, Munizae Jahangir, a journalist and Sulema Jahangir, who is also a lawyer.[29]

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