Irfan Ali’s death impacted countless lives and gave a face to the tragedy.
Irfan was buried on January 14 along with more than a 100 members of the Shia Hazara community who lost their lives in a series of bomb blasts on January 10 in Quetta. Though the dead were mostly unknown to most apart from their friends and family, Irfan Ali’s death impacted countless lives and gave a face to the tragedy.
A human rights and peace activist from the Hazara community, Irfan’s zeal was infectious. He was able to inspire every colleague and acquaintance with effortless ease. The brave man’s only aim was to salvage innocent lives from the clutches of tyranny and injustice. The irony of his death in the Quetta blasts can therefore not be emphasised enough.
It was after the first blast that he, along with several other young men of the Hazara community, fled to the carnage site to rescue people – only to add to the number of casualties as another blast rocked the area. Irfan died saving lives, literally.
In losing him, it wasn’t just the fraternity of peace activists that lost a salient member: his young wife lost a husband, his parents lost a son, his younger brother, who is battling injuries received at the blast, lost a brother. An entire family is grieving, as is a community, as is a nation.
Social activist Anthony Permal, a close friend of Irfan, still can’t get himself to talk about the loss. After mustering some courage, he only managed to repeat some words said to him by Irfan: “Thank you for your work, brother Anthony. People like us can only find support in each other when everyone else decides it’s too dangerous for them to raise their voices. It is unbelievable how people are turning a blind eye. But brother, we have to keep talking about it. If I go silent, then what will be the point of being alive?”
His Twitter followers mostly knew him as Khudi Ali. Iqbal’s philosophy of Khudi resonated with the young man – he wanted the self to rise above the pettiness and ego that results in human violence, which explains why he added the word “Khudi” as a middle name.
In compliance with strong implications of his middle name, Irfan’s work was not Hazara-specific. The man fought for peace and justice for all communities. With this in mind, he formed, in early 2011, the ‘Human Rights Commission for Social Justice and Peace’. With this he wanted to increase awareness about human rights violations, the causes and solutions.
Journalist Shiraz Hassan, who had worked with Khudi Ali, is still in denial. “This is heart-wrenching. I cannot forget the smiling face of Irfan Ali. He gave a voice to his voiceless community and his words are still echoing in this gloomy atmosphere and asking the government and security agencies to protect its citizens.” To Hassan, Irfan’s tweets “continue to haunt us”. Irfan had tweeted shortly before his death, some of the last words he left behind. The words were, of course, about the struggle of the Hazara community.
Huma Fouladi, a human rights activist from the Hazara community, lost a fellow comrade and friend when she lost Irfan, and is still grieving. “I have lost my strongest ally. He was like my family,” said Fauladi, hours after Irfan was finally laid to rest.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 15th, 2013.