As the UT Tower clock struck 6:30 p.m., a group of UT students held a vigil on the steps of the West Mall in honor of Zainab Ansari, a 7-year-old girl kidnapped and killed in Kasur, a city in the Punjab province of Pakistan.
Zainab was headed to a Qur’an recital on Jan. 4 and was reported missing after she did not return home, according to The Washington Post. Five days later, her body was found in a dumpster, and autopsy reports confirmed she had been raped and strangled. Her death, one of 12 similar cases in the past two years, caused widespread protests across the country demanding justice from Pakistani government officials and police officers, and the hashtag #JusticeForZainab circulated social media.
Syed Rizvi, president of UT’s Society for Islamic Awareness, said the organization decided to hold a vigil on campus for everyone to remind people that the Muslim community strongly condemns such crimes.
“Us holding this (vigil) at UT will give rise to the knowledge that these kinds of actions or crimes are not condoned by our religion, nor by our community,” said Rizvi, a government junior. “We just want to take a strong stance against such actions and try to hold the government of Pakistan accountable.”
Several students took the time to say a tribute to Zainab. Mah-Ro Khan is a cellular and molecular biology junior and president of UT Spitshine, a poetry organization on campus. Khan recited a poem and concluded with a call to end sexual assault.
“I’m sorry that no amount of mourning, no amount of news coverage, no amount of tears will ever, ever make this fair,” Khan said in her poem. “But I hope it can make this stop.”
Khan said such crimes take place as a result of victim-blaming and rape culture across the world.
“Whenever any of these things happen the first reaction is always, ‘Why was she out at night?’ … instead of ‘Why does this happen so much?’” Khan said.
English senior Rabab Zehra, who also recited a poem, said she hopes to see the same kind of unity and understanding among students as she saw during the vigil.
“I hope no events like this happen again,” Zehra said. “But if they do, I hope the UT community comes together to discuss what we could do as the future, as we are the new face of society and the next generation.”