Edited and produced by Sehba Sarwar
Sehba Sarwar: Women Under Siege was inspired by metal detectors. In 2009, when I joined the board of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, I was surprised to have to go through a metal detector to enter their old building on Fannin Street.
In Karachi, Pakistan, where I grew up, one has to walk through such doorways to enter shopping malls, movie theaters, and more recently, Sufi shrines. As violence and extremism rise around the country, so do protection measures. In recent years, there has been a sharp increase of local Taliban attacking Sufi shrines all around the country. In response, there are now metal detectors at the entrances of Sufi shrines.
The interviews used for this short video collage were taken in December 2011, when I spent time at the shrine of Abdullah Shah Ghazi, the patron saint of Karachi. There are two entrances to the shrine, one for women and the other for men. My mother, Ahsan Bari, and I visited the shrine on a Thursday night, the evening when crowds gather to pay respects and gain blessings. Because the night was unusually cold, the crowd was thinner than usual, and two female guards talked about their experiences working at the shrine.
The video opens with footage taken from Geo TV of a 2010 attempted suicide bombing at the shrine’s entrance, when more than eight people were killed.
Sehba Sarwar (Karachi, Pakistan / Houston, USA) is a writer and multidisciplinary artist. Born and raised in Pakistan, she is based in Houston, and her writings have been published in India, Pakistan, South Korea, and the US; her videos have been screened in India, Pakistan, Egypt and the US. She serves as VBB’s artistic/founding director and produces VBB living room art shows.