Sabeen Mahmud was a passionate supporter of free speech. She ran a space in a Karachi cafe for people to talk freely about politics, society and human rights – but six weeks ago, in the latest of a string of attacks on liberal activists in Pakistan, a gunman killed her as she drove home. Her mother, Mahenaz, who was next to her, talks about her remarkable daughter.
I hadn’t visited the space for quite a while but that day I just wanted to be around her – it was just a feeling, “I have to go today, and I have to be around, just to show her my support.”
This image keeps going round all the time in my head – these eyes looking, and this gun coming out. I said to Sabeen, “Just look, I mean these guys, what do they want?” I thought it was a mugging actually, I thought they wanted a handbag or phone, because that’s pretty common in Karachi. But then I heard the gun shots, the glass shattered and Sabeen was gone and they disappeared.
I took two bullets. One bullet actually is one of the bullets that Sabeen took, because they fired at such close range – we were stationary because we were at a traffic signal which was red. There were people all around us, and this motorcycle rode up a bit too close for comfort at Sabeen’s side and they fired from there and one of the bullets went through her, out and into my arm and out of my arm. That is one. She took five.
The other one, the police believe it came in and ricocheted somewhere in the car and it went into my back. I must have moved forward to look at her. I was saying to her, “Sabeen, can you hear me? Say something, we’ll just get you to the hospital.”