TW: The following piece contains material and details pertaining to domestic violence and abuse. Reader discretion is advised.
Recently, Pakistani actor, musician, and presenter, Mohsin Abbas, has come under intense scrutiny after his wife, Fatima Sohail released a public statement detailing the physical abuse she endured at the hands of her husband. In a lengthy Facebook post, Fatima spoke about finally having the strength to come forward and speak about what happened to her. She alleges that Mohsin Abbas physically assaulted her whilst she was pregnant with their child and released photographs that showed her bruised and swollen face and hand. Below is her full statement
“Zulim Bardast kerna bhi Qunah hai!
I am Fatima. Wife of Mohsin Abbas Haider & here is my story.
On 26th Nov 2018, I caught my husband cheating. When I confronted him, instead of being embarrassed he started Beating me. I was pregnant at that time!
He pulled me from hair, dragged me on floor, kicked me several times, punched me on face & threw me on the wall.
I was brutally beaten by my husband. My caretaker!
Traumatized me contacted a friend instead of family & was rushed to hospital.
Doctor initially refused to do checkup as it was a police case. I needed some time to digest the shock & not file a complaint.
I was able to get my ultra sound where the sight of relief was that my baby was not harmed!
Societal Pressure or my own confidence. I do not know what ..but I decided to make my marriage work for my own child.
On 20th May 2019 I was blessed with a beautiful boy.
I had a surgery due to complication.
While I was in operation theater in Lahore, my husband was in Karachi sleeping with his GF, Nazish Jehangir, an emerging model/actor.
He later posts depressing statuses to get public attention.
My family stood with me but my better half chose not to.
Mohsin visited after 2 days of delivery just to take images and gain some publicity.
He did not bother to check on his son. It was only a drama for social appreciation.
On 17th July, I went to Mohsin’s Home & asked him to take our son’s responsibility where he started beating me again! He refused to do anything for his son!
Now I had Enough!
I am posting this to tell this to all girls! Look at me!
Societal Pressure or not but there is a limit to put a full stop!
No 1 else will do it except us for ourselves.
I have no idea how I will raise my child on my own …but I know Allah will help me!
I had enough of verbal & physical abuse. I had enough of Divorce threats! Enough!
Proves are attached.
Truth Told! Now I will see you in court Mr Mohsin!”
In the days following the release of this statement, Mohsin rebuked the claims and took to the media to clarify his side of the story. In a lengthy video press conference, Mohsin talks about how his marriage to Fatima was a forced marriage. He said it was clearly from the very start that they were not a good match for one another and that they were mentally incompatible. He spoke of how the couple never even lived together for the majority of their marriage and in the occasion that they were in the same town, he had been living in a separate complex to his wife. He went on to mention how manipulating and deceptive Fatima and her entire family were. He explained instances where Fatima supposedly would enter the house he was staying in and create a ruckus outside and force him to let her in. She apparently would extort her husband and cause herself physical harm in an attempt to threaten Mohsin to do as she willed. He spent the entire conference going through these instances and speaking of how conniving his in laws were. He went on to address the photos of a bruised and battered Fatima and explained that these were in fact, old photos and he encouraged her to put forward new, more recent photos; he neither confirmed nor denied the allegations that he abused her physically.
Both parties went to the extent of holding and swearing on the Quran during their testimonies for the media and public. Pakistani celebrities were quick to offer support and encouragement to Fatima and condemned Mohsin, calling for justice. Many people began stepping forward as witnesses to the abuse and allegations. Mohsin was accused of having an extra-marital affair in Fatima’s statement and the internet began a verbal assault on the woman involved.
Whilst not much is clear yet regarding the details of why and how it happened, it is undeniable that the photos Fatima produced of her bruised and swollen face and hands are disturbing to say the least. Domestic violence is often brushed under the rug in our communities.
Women are often encouraged to remain steadfast and patient during turbulent times. In times of difficulty, a women’s silence is seen as honourable. This is absurd and really highlights the inter-generational misogyny that is inherent within our Pakistani culture. Women, despite being the matriarchs of most homes, are relegated to the sidelines and encouraged to remain silent in times of trouble so as not to break up the household. This culture of silencing women is producing generations of men that are entitled, and women who are fearful to speak their truths.
Whilst Islam encourages women to leave unhealthy and violent homes and apply for divorce, culture warps that escape mechanism for women and tells them that they can’t and shouldn’t leave. It’s disturbing to say the least. But as Pakistani all-rounder, Mahira Khan elaborated on recently, this issue can only be resolved by educating the younger masses. It involves talking about taboo issues like domestic violence and consent. Talking about misogyny and cultural manipulation of our faith.
We need counsellors in schools for children going through issues at home (And truth be told we have all been there). Girls and boys in school should be taught about consent, domestic abuse, sexual abuse etc. These should be subjects as basic as math and science.
— Mahira Khan (@TheMahiraKhan) July 21, 2019
The allegations against Mohsin Abbas are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the #MeToo and #TimesUp movement that is slowly gaining momentum in Pakistan. Women are no longer being silenced to the same degree that they once were. Although the fact that these allegations are being made very public and matters that are normally between two families are out for the world to see, perhaps one positive implication for this is the fact that women all over Pakistan can now see that silence is not always the only option. Change, hopefully, is imminent.