Art as Advocacy: Highlighting Torture’s Impact

"All The King's Men" by Kamil Chima

At the intersection of art and advocacy lies a powerful tool for expressing pain: art itself. To mark the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, Justice Project Pakistan (JPP) and Olomopolo (OLO) recently curated an exclusive exhibit. Here, artists united to vividly portray the devastating impact of torture, aiming to deepen public understanding of its profound and lasting effects

Despite being illegal in Pakistan, this unjust and violent act continues to afflict many, particularly those who have faced incarceration, whether justly or unjustly. JPP and Olomopolo have taken up the mantle, making it their mission to educate society about the inalienable human rights that must be respected in all circumstances. They urge authorities to prioritize this issue and take concrete steps towards eradicating torture once and for all.

Taking Steps to Address the Deeply Entrenched Issue of Torture

Over the past weekend, Justice Project Pakistan (JPP) and Olomopolo hosted a significant event on June 29th, 2024, entitled “Reimagining Justice: Voices Against Torture” at the Annemarie Schimmel Haus in Lahore. This event was designed to enhance awareness regarding the illegal and immoral nature of torture in Pakistan, focusing on the poignant narratives of torture survivors and their families. The exhibition employed a variety of artistic mediums—including digital art, film, and music—to underscore the enduring impact of torture that continues to afflict the nation. Despite Pakistan’s ratification of the UN Convention Against Torture and the enactment of the Torture and Custodial Death (Prevention and Punishment) Act in 2022, the effective enforcement of these laws remains inadequate. Torture inflicts deep-seated wounds not only on its victims but also on society at large. The event served as a stark reminder of the inherent right to be free from severe physical or mental suffering, inflicted intentionally by public officials for purposes of punishment, intimidation, or information extraction.

“All The King’s Men” by Kamil Chima

Reimagining Humanity Through Art: A Medium of Expression to End Torture

Michelle Shahid from Justice Project Pakistan delivered the welcome address alongside Talha Mufti from Olomopolo, setting the stage for the powerful artistic presentations that followed. As they introduced the participating artists, each brought a unique perspective on the impact of torture through their creative works. Filmmakers and artists delved into various aspects of these cases, portraying the mental and physical toll on victims, the stigma they endure, and the broader implications for justice and human rights in Pakistan.

Poster for Muhammad Adam's Naqsh e Faryadi
Poster for Muhammad Adam’s Naqsh e Faryadi

The artworks featured included Saima Salahuddin’s piece titled “Disconnect,” which posed poignant questions about the long-term effects of torture on victims’ identities and the responsibility for their healing. Shakeeb Asrar’s “Unveiling The Tormentors” used AI-generated images to unmask the hidden perpetrators behind victims’ stories, emphasizing the impunity often enjoyed by torturers. Iza Rizwan’s “Unheard Knocks” depicted both literal and symbolic imagery of custodial torture, symbolizing the persistent, haunting echoes of suffering that linger indefinitely. Kamil Chima’s video installation titled “All The King’s Men” explored the systemic factors that perpetuate torture, exposing the roles of institutions and structures rather than solely individuals. Adam Butt’s film “Naqsh-e-Faryadi” vividly portrayed the physical and psychological anguish inflicted by torture, prompting critical reflections on the ethical and legal complexities surrounding its use. The presentations culminated in a poignant musical performance by Nimra Gilani and Ali Hamdani, underscoring the emotional impact of the
evening’s themes.

Unheard Knocks by Iza Rizwan
Unheard Knocks by Iza Rizwan

Light at the End of the Tunnel and Hope for the Future

The event concluded with reflections on the urgent need for systemic reform and the rigorous enforcement of existing laws to hold perpetrators accountable. JPP and Olomopolo reiterated their commitment to advocating for justice and healing for torture survivors, including compensation and support for rehabilitation. Real-life case files provided by JPP illustrated the ongoing challenges and the imperative to ensure justice and dignity for all.

See Also

Unveiling the Tormentors by Shakeeb Asrar
Unveiling the Tormentors by Shakeeb Asrar

Advancing the Fight Against Torture in Pakistan

JPP and Olomopolo emphasized that the consequences of torture extend far beyond immediate suffering. Survivors often face chronic pain, PTSD, and social stigma, impacting their families and communities. The ripple effects of torture disrupt lives and erode trust in institutions, demanding a comprehensive societal response.

Disconnect by Saima Salahuddin (Aimon)
Disconnect by Saima Salahuddin (Aimon)

In commemorating the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, JPP and Olomopolo have illuminated a path forward where art serves as a catalyst for healing, empathy, and advocacy. “Reimagining Justice: Voices Against Torture” not only raised awareness but also challenged societal norms and called for tangible action to end torture. Through collaborative efforts, they envision a future where every individual’s inherent rights are respected and protected, ensuring a world free from the scourge of torture

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