Gay rights

An open letter to Muhammad Ejaz, serial killer of gay men in Lahore

Lahore police have arrested a serial killer who lured his victims through a gay dating website and killed them in their own homes. As the man gives interviews to the media from his prison cell, saying he wanted to remove the evil of homosexuality because of the child abuse that destroyed his life, a Pakistani queer rights activist writes him an open letter.

Dear Muhammad Ejaz,

I never thought I'd be writing this open letter to someone like you, but it is one of those moments when it becomes one's responsibility to speak up.

You might be surprised to see me use your full name here. I even wish I had a photograph of your face to shame you publicly. After all, we live in a society where the media conveniently flashes pictures and names of victims of atrocities, while showing utmost concern over maintaining confidentially of horrendous criminals like you. I will refuse that privilege to you.

In the last two months, you murdered in cold blood three men who were living independently in Lahore. You sedated and poisoned them and broke their necks. Even as the police and media were treating these as usual murders, your actions sent a shock wave in the underground gay subculture of Lahore. Rumors spread like wildfire of an ongoing gay hunt as all the deceased men were active on popular gay social networking websites and apps and the community knew them. The rumors were confirmed when a news channel, Samaa, showed a sensational programme last weekend that seemed to have been sponsored by you. We saw you brazenly confess to the killings. You described how you established contacted with them over a dating site and lured them. You denied the police's allegation that you had sex with them before killing them.

I want to respond to some things you said on that show. That is important for me because I am part of the "kachra" (garbage), the word you used to describe gay men.

Firstly, you said that you hate us because we are gay. Would you be kind enough to tell me if have you ever tried reading anything on homosexuality beyond the bigoted twisted lies society told you? You said you discovered the gay dating sites popular in Pakistan through a Google search. Did you ever bother to Google search and read about homosexuality – the scientific scholarship or alternative religious views about it? If you had, the course of your life and the lives of those who were ruthlessly murdered by you, might have been different.

Instead, you chose to hunt down and kill gay men after having sex with them and satiating both your lust and your childhood trauma. Once again, Google search wasn’t on your mind when you were making associations between homosexuality and child sexual abuse.The difference between homosexuality and child abuse is not rocket science. Child sexual abuse is an unwanted sexual activity perpetuated by an adult, over a minor. There is no consent involved in it. Homosexuality involves sexual as well as romantic relationships between two consenting adults. What happened to you when you were a fifth grader was child sexual abuse, not homosexuality. The guy who molested you was a paedophile, not a gay man. How could you not have been more thorough in your search for the truth?

Actually I am not surprised by your selective attention because mostly people don’t bother to investigate beyond what they are told. It requires more mental effort than simply hating people and coming up with devious ways of killing them. We react only to re-affirm our social prejudice. That is why many are hailing you as a hero and saviour of society and I am anticipating that they will turn you into an icon, just like they did to Mumtaz Qadri, the man who assassinated Punjab governor Salman Tasseer for speaking up against blasphemy laws.

The only thing that makes me sorry for you is that when you faced child abuse and told your parents about it and they registered a police case, you did not get justice because the accused man was politically influential. How is it that you did not blame the corruption and nepotism of such a criminal justice system? Why was the police not the object of your ire? Why didn’t you avenge yourself by standing up against the ones specifically responsible for the abuse you faced?

If you had known better you could have worked against child sexual abuse, spreading awareness and empowering children, breaking the social silence over it. You not only missed the opportunity to do that, you gave in to the same system by becoming a murderer, answering injustice with injustice.

You thought that your actions would instill fear of death in us. Community members initially panicked. Some existing online forums and groups were deleted. But you forgot our undying resilience which has motivated us since childhood. We have been bullied, abused, kicked, mocked, shoved, taunted, punished, violated. All our lives, we have been told by the zealots of this heteronormative society that we need to change, or live in shame for being who we are, live in constant fear of being discovered and to remain guilty of what we do. What we have faced has been more fearful than death.

Perhaps I need to thank you Ejaz, for sacrificing the lives of three people to unwittingly break Pakistan's silence over homosexuality. Our lives and deaths are now part of the public narrative. You will rot in jail but we will rise again from the collective shame, fear and guilt that you have brought upon us. We will still talk, meet, hold hands, exchange hugs and kisses. We will make love, unapologetically. We will continue to hope, believe and work for building a society where education and dialogue will change social prejudice.

We may be in mourning for now, praying for our departed brethren who became victims of your hatred and bigotry. Yet, as Maya Angelou said, “You may write me down in history/ With your bitter, twisted lies,/ You may trod me in the very dirt/ But still, like dust, I'll rise.”

Yours fearlessly,

Hadi Hussain

(Hadi Hussain is a queer rights activist in Lahore.)
We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
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The incredible engineering that can save your life in a car crash

Indian roads are among the world’s most dangerous. We take a look at the essential car safety features for our road conditions.

Over 200,000 people die on India’s roads every year. While many of these accidents can be prevented by following road safety rules, car manufacturers are also devising innovative new technology to make vehicles safer than ever before. To understand how crucial this technology is to your safety, it’s important to understand the anatomy of a car accident.

Source: Global report on road safety, 2015 by WHO.
Source: Global report on road safety, 2015 by WHO.

A car crash typically has three stages. The first stage is where the car collides with an object. At the point of collision, the velocity with which the car is travelling gets absorbed within the car, which brings it to a halt. Car manufacturers have incorporated many advanced features in their cars to prevent their occupants from ever encountering this stage.

Sixth sense on wheels

To begin with, some state-of-the-art vehicles have fatigue detection systems that evaluate steering wheel movements along with other signals in the vehicle to indicate possible driver fatigue–one of the biggest causes of accidents. The Electronic Stability Program (ESP) is the other big innovation that can prevent collisions. ESP typically encompasses two safety systems–ABS (anti-lock braking system), and TCS (traction control system). Both work in tandem to help the driver control the car on tricky surfaces and in near-collision situations. ABS prevents wheels from locking during an emergency stop or on a slippery surface, and TCS prevents the wheels from spinning when accelerating by constantly monitoring the speed of the wheels.

Smarter bodies, safer passengers

In the event of an actual car crash, manufacturers have been redesigning the car body to offer optimal protection to passengers. A key element of newer car designs includes better crumple zones. These are regions which deform and absorb the impact of the crash before it reaches the occupants. Crumple zones are located in the front and rear of vehicles and some car manufacturers have also incorporated side impact bars that increase the stiffness of the doors and provide tougher resistance to crashes.

CRUMPLE ZONES: Invented in the 1950s, crumple zones are softer vehicle sections that surround a safety cell that houses passengers. In a crash, these zones deform and crumple to absorb the shock of the impact. In the visual, the safety cell is depicted in red, while the crumple zones of the car surround the safety cell.
CRUMPLE ZONES: Invented in the 1950s, crumple zones are softer vehicle sections that surround a safety cell that houses passengers. In a crash, these zones deform and crumple to absorb the shock of the impact. In the visual, the safety cell is depicted in red, while the crumple zones of the car surround the safety cell.

Post-collision technology

While engineers try to mitigate the effects of a crash in the first stage itself, there are also safe guards for the second stage, when after a collision the passengers are in danger of hitting the interiors of the car as it rapidly comes to a halt. The most effective of these post-crash safety engineering solutions is the seat belt that can reduce the risk of death by 50%.

In the third stage of an actual crash, the rapid deceleration and shock caused by the colliding vehicle can cause internal organ damage. Manufacturers have created airbags to reduce this risk. Airbags are installed in the front of the car and have crash sensors that activate and inflate it within 40 milliseconds. Many cars also have airbags integrated in the sides of the vehicles to protect from side impacts.

SEATBELTS: Wearing seatbelts first became mandatory in Victoria, Australia in 1970, and is now common across the world. Modern seatbelts absorb impact more efficiently, and are equipped with ‘pre-tensioners’ that pull the belt tight to prevent the passenger from jerking forward in a crash.
SEATBELTS: Wearing seatbelts first became mandatory in Victoria, Australia in 1970, and is now common across the world. Modern seatbelts absorb impact more efficiently, and are equipped with ‘pre-tensioners’ that pull the belt tight to prevent the passenger from jerking forward in a crash.

Safety first

In the West as well as in emerging markets like China, car accident related fatalities are much lower than in India. Following traffic rules and driving while fully alert remain the biggest insurance against mishaps, however it is also worthwhile to fully understand the new technologies that afford additional safety.

So the next time you’re out looking for a car, it may be a wise choice to pick an extra airbag over custom leather seats or a swanky music system. It may just save your life.

Equipped with state-of-the-art passenger protection systems like ESP and fatigue detection systems, along with high-quality airbags and seatbelts, all Volkswagen cars have the safety of passengers at the heart of their design. Watch Volkswagen customer stories and driver experiences that testify its superior German engineering, here.

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This article was produced on behalf of Volkswagen by the Scroll.in marketing team and not by the Scroll.in editorial staff.

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