All photographs by Umar Riaz
All photographs by Umar Riaz

Hundreds of women and men gathered on Friday at the Lahore Press Club to participate in the Aurat March.

From little girls to teenagers to college students to their teachers...grey haired women, women in hijabs, women with disabilities, women on motorcycles, women from various NGOs all collected together to be heard, to be counted as they marched from the Press Club to Alhamra Arts Council.

Photographer Umar Riaz was on the spot and captured the beautiful movement, the people participating, and of course, the placards with powerful statements that comment on the sexism and misogyny that is rampant in our society. Here are his pictures and observations.

The imagery ahead was powerful

The camaraderie between attendees was invigorating

"There was no leader, per se. Everyone was encouraging of the other and, march they did, many in purple, many with placards, one or two with a megaphone and some with drums.**

Some key points were underscored

"All the people I've listed, marching, chanting, cutting across boundaries in our highly segregated society because at some point, or at many points, all had been leered at, harassed, subjected to another's standards, abused, mistreated, disrespected...the list is nauseously endless...simply because of their person. What they were born as...who they are," writes Riaz.

Members of AGHS paid tribute to late founder Asma Jahangir

The trans community came to be heard

"I was to the side of the procession when a very tall member of the transgender community saw me taking photographs. As I directed my camera at her, she stood still and raised a sign. 'ACCEPT MY IDENTITY' it said. She never say a word to me...she didn't need to."

The magnitude of the event left us speechless

Said Riaz, "I had a parallel idea to interview various women so as to capture their voices, concerns, reasons and more on social media yet I was not able to do this...for the sheer scale, magnitude and diversity of what I saw and experienced left me bound to my camera, pacing frantically to keep up."

The march was accessible for everyone

"Trying to get a shot from above with my arms outstretched, my neck craning upward, my foot bumped into something. I had bumped slightly into a wheelchair and the lady in it looked at me puzzled. I apologised profusely and instead of even a trace of negativity she simply smiled and wheeled herself forward, happy to be there, happy to be making a difference, content - as I mentioned earlier - to finally be counted."

The attendees were from all walks of life

Men attended to support the women

"To my surprise, many men just like like myself - fathers, brothers, sons who were there to show solidarity toward the women in their lives, who raised them, cared for them, and, whether they choose to admit or not, made many into who they are now."

For those who believe this is an event for the elite, it's not

"I saw a lady, walking sedately with her two young sons. He head was covered in a chaadar and her clothes were plain. She had her arm around one of her sons and their gaze was directed to the large, loud, throbbing collection up ahead. That was an image, not just a photograph. "

It was a grand day for the downtrodden

"I saw a sight, a vision if you will, of the great problem of patriarchy which needs to change. Equal rights, equal respect, equal dignity, equal pay, equal attention, equal access to equal opportunities. This is the great cause of our time...and that time is now."


All photographs by Umar Riaz

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