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Fact-check: Ansar Abbasi and the Aurat March disinformation campaign

Why criticism against organisers is wrong

SAMAA | - Posted: Mar 11, 2021 | Last Updated: 1 month ago
SAMAA |
Posted: Mar 11, 2021 | Last Updated: 1 month ago
Fact-check: Ansar Abbasi and the Aurat March disinformation campaign

Photo: Twitter

Journalist Ansar Abbasi has posted a series of tweets against slogans and placards at Aurat March 2021. His comments emerged shortly after a disinformation campaign was carried out against the Aurat March organisers on Twitter.

Here are his tweets:

Screenshot: Ansar Abbasi

Abbasi made the claim that some “very dangerous” content has come out of Aurat March, and he asked the government to take action against those responsible for creating it. He did not, however, clarify what exactly was the dangerous content, but he quoted some tweets that have been accusing the march of blasphemy.

We fact-checked claims by some anti-march people, and found them to be incorrect.

Participants didn’t hold the French flag

Some people claimed on Twitter that Aurat March participants were holding a French flag, and accused them of subscribing to what they described as a “foreign agenda”.

The French flag has blue, white and red stripes. The participants at Aurat March were holding a flag with red, white and purple stripes. This is the flag of the Women Democratic Front, the main organisers of the marches in various cities.

Related: Fact-check: No, Aurat Marchers were not holding a French flag

There was no blasphemy

A photo of a placard about child abuse has gone viral. But in no time some people on Twitter labelled it as blasphemous. Aurat March has clarified that it was a placard that described the ordeal of a child survivor of rape questioning the lack of justice. It said, in Urdu, ‘I was 9, he was 50. I was silenced. But his voice is still heard as he delivers the call to prayer’.

There were no blasphemous slogans

A video of Aurat March participants chanting slogans but with wrong subtitles has gone viral on Twitter. Aurat March organisers were quick to share the original video, which asked for azadi from all forces oppressing women. The fake subtitles were written to make “Ansar” and “Orya” sound like something else. Ansar and Orya Maqbool Jan, who is a columnist and a guest on TV shows, routinely face criticism that they give sexist views on TV. Every year, they criticise this and accuse organisers of working on a foreign and anti-Islam agenda. They have provided no proof of their accusations yet.

To clarify, Aurat March wrote down the exact slogans.

Ansar Abbasi, based on tweets making these accusations, has asked for a ban on Aurat March. But the Lahore High Court dismissed a petition for exactly this last year.

Abbasi asked for the government to ask the FIA to investigate the march. Digital rights expert Farieha Aziz asked what authority the federal government had to tell the FIA to investigate something.

After criticism and a demand from Aurat March for an apology, Ansar Abbasi said that he didn’t share any “fake” & “heinous” content.

Previous criticism and reactions

Ansar Abbasi has repeatedly flagged to the government information or phenomena which he deems to be vulgar. Last year, for example, he asked the prime minister to take notice of a show on PTV in which a male fitness coach guided or coached a woman on the correct way to lift weights.

In 2019, he accused Aurat March of encouraging women to rebel against the family system in Pakistan, in response to a placard which read,”How would I know where your socks are”.

Activist and lawyer Jibran Nasir asked Abbasi how he could share unverified videos when otherwise he, being an investigative journalist, can report on “whispers in closed rooms”.

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