Remembering Aasiya Zubair by Vanessa Rivera de la Fuente

Asiya Zubair Hassan
Aasiya Zubair

Aasiya Zubair Hassan was an architect and business woman of Pakistani origin, resident in the United States, motivated to contribute to the end of cultural stereotypes about Muslims and to a better coexistence in post-9-11 American society. For this reason, together with her husband Muzzamil Hassan, she decided to found Bridges TV in 2004, a satellite channel to connect the life of Muslim communities with American society.

The couple had been married for 9 years and had two children. But the reality between Aasiya and Muzzamil was not exactly that of an ideal marriage, as of those in novels and TV series. Aasiya Zubair lived between her career, community activism, the TV channel and the spiral of domestic violence. On February 12, 2009 her body was found beheaded in New York State, after his own husband informed the police where to find it.

Prosecutors argued that Hassan was abusing his wife and planned to attack her in a Bridges TV hallway. He was arrested in 2009 after he entered a police station in the city of Buffalo, in the state of New York, and told officers that his wife was dead. Muzzamil was found guilty and sentenced on February 7, 2011 to 25 years to life in prison.

In February 2010, and while Hassan was waiting to be sentenced, American Muslim women began the Purple Hijab Day, that since 2011 has become international, commemorated in Canada, England and Libya. It is a day of remembrance and support for victims of domestic violence and femicide, but it is more than that: it is a struggle to eradicate violence against women in Muslim communities and to challenge the patriarchal religious narratives that support it.

The date is commemorated each year between the 12th and the 16th of the month with different activities such as prevention talks, vigils, community education days, and cyberactivism through social networks such as Facebook or Twitter. It is a tradition to wear the hijab or Islamic headscarf in purple, but it is also possible to wear any purple garment.

Prevention of domestic violence is just as important as denouncing misogynistic narratives that enable it, because as Amina Wadud says:“To define religion is to have power in it.”  One of the most widespread and disastrous stereotypes that exists about Islam is that which holds that religion legitimizes violence against women and authorizes husbands to punish their wives and dispose of the lives of the women in their households.


While these prejudices are held by voices outside of Islam and part of the narrative of Islamophobia, it is no less true that there are some currents within Islam that encourage men to punish their wives and for many Muslim men these interpretations are believed to be an almost un-appealable form of justification for the abuses they commit against women.

Memory is important when it comes to counting women. Not only because our presence has been historically invisible, but also because language that erases our lives still exists. Every act of violence that has a woman as a target is treated as an isolated event and the victim as anonymous. “A woman was found dead” is the recurring headlines in the news of the world. The reality is that we women do not appear dead, we are murdered. And, although society treats us as serialized and replaceable elements, our unique subjectivity is summed up in our names. Speaking our names is to make visible our struggles, hopes, and pains.

“Aasiya Zubair, a career woman, community’s value and mother was murdered by Muzzamil Hassan” and almost 10 years later there is still outrage and sadness because every day somewhere in the world, another Aaziya adds her name to the list.

The International Purple Hijab Day is an initiative started by Muslim women, but it does not belong only to them. It belongs to all women and everyone who is in the side of women rights. It is a day of activism and memory, an opportunity to find new ways to end gender violence in a context of its acceleration and increase in all parts of the world, because no civilization has the exclusive privilege of misogyny.


Vanessa Rivera de la Fuente is a specialist in training and community outreach in Gender, Communication and Interculturality. She’s also a learning and social projects designer and a qualitative researcher; an awarded activist for women’s rights who too does independent scholarship in Religion, Gender and Social Discourses. Nomadic writer. A woman with stories and geographies, lover of books, cats and spicy Chai.


Images: Daily News (NY) and The Huff Post

Patriarchy is Killing Us by Vanessa Rivera de la Fuente


And not softly..

More than 2000 died by feminicide … More than 700 disappeared in Argentina … And more in Latin America and the world.

A few days ago they found Micaela dead. Her family, friends and my fellow activists searched for her for days, campaigned on social networks, shouted her name everywhere, without quitting and  accepting her death—totally avoidable. Micaela Garcia, a 21-year-old girl, raped and murdered by a repeat sexual offender who was questionably released by Judge Carlos Alfredo Rossi in Argentina. Micaela is one more victim of the depredation with which colonial and capitalist patriarchy attacks the lives of women in Latin America.

I just completed my first six months in South Africa. I live in Cape Town. I love this city, I am delighted by its colors and flavors. I am studying a Master’s in Women and Gender Studies—a goal I had longed struggled for.

In my trip from my home to the university, I think of Micaela Garcia and also of Stasha Arend and Tracy Roman—two girls killed in Cape Town recently. Their lives were violently interrupted while they were returning home. At the end of each of my days, 27 women will be raped, likely by someone they know. Some of them will be killed and thrown in the garbage or into a soccer field, or half-buried in an abandoned house; even in death it seems that we have no right to some dignity.

No matter where, death is my guest and part of my landscape; the scenario of its violence has as background the Andean Cord or Table Mountain. It is the same, because it is the same indolence when it comes to the life of a woman, here or there. And I think: I can move my city and even change the country, and start a new life, even with another name, and my life will remain insignificant because I am a woman—a woman of color, from the south, with all the oppression surrounding me in the air.

How to deal with that pain? Well, I have enrolled as a Rape Crisis facilitator. It is not only for solidarity; it is for survival. Do you see what I see? How could I just watch?

The body of a murdered woman is becoming something so common that daily dead had to receive their own name to describe this horror: FEMICIDE. In Mexico, Susana Chavez coined the slogan “Ni Una Más” (Not One More) to lead the fight against femicides. The writer and activist was herself found murdered in 2011.

About two years ago, women from all over Latin America got together to claim “Ni Una Menos, Vivas nos Queremos” (Not One More, We Want Us Alive). And I wonder why this clamor is not yet worldwide, if everywhere patriarchy is killing us, one by one, on our way home and in broad daylight, with no shame or remorse.

Patriarchy is killing us and many murders only matter while selling magazines and newspapers. Then, the rest is silence, as the silenced femicides of indigenous women whose bodies oppose the last stronghold in territorial conflicts against agro-business or mining corporations, as silenced as those women murdered in the “tranquility of their houses” in the name of love for their jealous partners, as silenced as the girls kidnapped on the way to school to appear later killed with their hands and feet tied, with signs of having been raped.

It is no longer just about reporting and visibilizing, but also about counting them: 57 femicides in the first 43 days of 2017 in Argentina, 3 this week in Chile, 27 rapes per day in Cape Town, all of those lost in the trafficking networks. The hunting of women is systematic. Human beings have bad memories, and who has no memory tends to repeat the horrors. As Karina Bridaseca says:

We must check the systematicity. The bodies, found, disappeared, the bones in the desert, are claimed today and always. Our strength is to have managed to gather them all, to alter the regime of the invisible. This feeds the hope of making the account closed. What is important is that today we all share the same language and demand that the account closes.

Patriarchy is killing us … and not softly. Every time the news reports another woman or girl dead, I check my mother, my sister, my daughter, my friends in Chile. I double check my close friends in Cape Town, to know that they are as I saw them last time: OK. And then I can sleep, knowing that they have returned home.

In Santiago de Chile and in Cape Town we must count, dead or alive. Hope for the figthers and memory for those who are no longer here. We won’t stop asking about all of you. We want to know you have returned home. Our lives must matter.

Vanessa Rivera de la FuenteVanessa Rivera de la Fuente works in community development, gender equality and communication for social change. She has led initiatives for women’s empowerment in Ecuador, Peru, Argentina, Morocco and South Africa. As a Gender Justice advocates with a broad scope of interests, she is a social and digital entrepreneur committed with the strengthening of grass roots organizations and the developing of an independent pathway of thinking, research and academic writing around Gender, Politics and Religion. Loyal lover of books, cats and spicy chai.

Photo: Artivism installation. Crosses represent the women dead and shoes, the gender bias of femicide. Shoes are one of the first things found at the site of a murder.

Gendercide: Words and Poem by Bernedette Muthien

engender, Bernedette Muthien, gendercide, poetry, violence against women, patriarchy,


 it took a full week

of straitjacketing generations

of genocidal femicidal trauma

for the clay dam wall to explode

and flood me in torrents

of collective grief

a poet with no words

a lifelong activist struck dumb

i choke on love for the dead

thousands of beautiful women and children a year

i puke for my incested cancerous country

and gag grappling for compassion of

perpetrators and the morally blind

in this breathtaking country

so brutally drenched in the blood

of ordinary women and children

i discover anew

that i fail to


my spiritual cadaver

is dragged under by the concrete limbs

of victims perpetrators witnesses

majority blinkered burdens

too busy scrabbling for survival

to fight for justice

as i contemplate the imminent refreshment

of my childhood starvation

my hunger for food agency adventure

leads me to stare the dragon in its ambered eyes

like a mirror of my ever-present shadows

Demon! Patriarchy…

how can I love you to death…?

— Bernedette Muthien (15 feb 2013)

for the billion women martyrs around the world… Continue reading “Gendercide: Words and Poem by Bernedette Muthien”

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