A young woman who attended Lahore's Solis Festival recounts molestation, sexual assault

A young woman who attended Lahore's Solis Festival recounts molestation, sexual assault

She says around a gang of 30 men molested and tried to undress her
Updated 18 Apr, 2019

A young woman who attended Solis Festival, a music and arts fest held at Lahore's Oasis Golf & Aqua Resort on April 13, has alleged that she was sexually assaulted at the event.

The woman named Lila took to Instagram to share her and her sister's ordeal of being attacked by scores of men who molested and tried to undress them.

She has asked for accountability from the event organisers, whom she identifies as Full Circle Agency, and the event security company SSB Bouncers. Full Circle Agency has yet to respond, while the security company SSB Bouncers has issued a response on Instagram. The organisers of the Solis Festival have spoken to Images, and say they are investigating the incident.

Lila began her account by saying, "When I got there [at the Solis Festival], I noticed there were a lot of guys. That really didn't surprise me because in Pakistan, the male community outnumbers the girls in public all the time. People were staring, people always stare. It wasn't a big deal."

But the harassment escalated very quickly, she says.

"As soon as we got there, I had issues with people trying to touch me and my male friends would deal with it. Towards the end of the event, an incident happened that made it really scary. It felt like a life and death thing. That's what I felt like."

Lila shares, "A security guard had grabbed me... physically, sexually, aggressively. I turned around and noted who it was. I told my guy friend who talked to him and the guy pretended to be an actual security guard and asked me if everything's alright."

She says that when she stressed to her friend that it was the guard who had harassed her, he confronted the guard again who asked both to step to the side.

"As soon as I turned around to face my friend, I don't know where my other friends went, there were so many hands grabbing me below the waist. Like, millions of hands. It seemed like it was planned. I don't know if these people knew each other but they acted like they did. It was really gross, really disgusting."

She added that her sister was dealing with a harasser at another part of the venue but came to her aid when she saw she was in trouble. She claims both sisters were molested by the crowd then.

"We both started screaming. People kept touching us. We didn't know what to do. At first, I thought I was going insane. I did a 360 turn and felt hands touching me at every turn. I realised it wasn't me [imagining things]."

She added that she and her sister's friends tried to shield them with their bodies while other friends fought with the crowd who tried to isolate the women from their friends. She estimates that the crowd of harassers consisted of about 30 men aged 30 years and above.

"I tried self defence, I tried hitting them, but there were too many of them. The guys who were holding on to my sister and me were being hit so much, the crowd wanted to tear them away from us. You could see hatred in their eyes. It was a proper mob attack.

"Their intention was much worse than touching and feeling two girls. The way they were aggressively trying to pull our pants down, also hitting us too, it was quite obvious what they wanted to do," Khan says.

Lila recounts that her sister fainted, at which point she realised that she had to get out of the crowd.

"I put my head down, I put my arm out and hit everyone I possibly could. I ran at full speed just to get out of the crowd. It seemed like it was neverending. It seemed like I was stuck in one place. It seemed like I was so vulnerable and there was nothing I could do."

As she fought her way out, her friend went in and brought her sister out too, she says.

"I instantly threw up. I felt so disgusted with the people who did it and with myself. I'm so embarrassed. My friends tried to tell other security guards, they said there was nothing they could do. [They said] you have to talk to the heads about it."

Lila shared that when she first posted about her experience, a lot of women told her that other security guards and male attendees harassed them too.

In her video, Lila expressed her disappointment at the state of security at the event. "First, stags shouldn't have been allowed. Second, the security should have been proper. The Solis team didn't not have proper security, which is very bad. It was a guard who initiated the [mob attack] on me and my friends."

She added, "I want the DJs to know who they were playing for. Because if I was a DJ I definitely wouldn't want to play for a crowd like that."

She stressed to her female viewers her opinion that women aren't safe in any public space in Pakistan and that they should not go anywhere alone.

She says she decided to speak up "because everyone already knows what happened but not exactly the whole story".

"I don't want to feel embarrassed about it even though I do and it sucks. I don't want [harassment, sexual assault] to be such a normal thing. It's been three days since it happened, it already feels like it's my fault, I already feel like it's a normal thing, which is so sad. I don't want it to feel like that. I want other girls to be careful and know that it does happen and that they're not alone."

The Solis Festival was pegged as "Pakistan’s biggest international music festival ever" and featured international musicians and DJs such as FDVM and Burak Yeter.

Speaking to Images, the Solis Festival organiser clarifies: "We do events all over the world under the brand Solis. We get the talent and then it's executed by a local team in Pakistan. We were alerted about this incident by our local representatives, and we reached out to the woman in question. She hasn't responded to us yet."

He adds: "We will take all the action we can from our side. But it's also the Pakistani people's responsibility to end this stuff. How can we keep bringing international music to Pakistan if people don't know how to behave?"

In response to Lila's story SSB Bouncers, the company that was handling security for the festival, has questioned her claims, saying "if that happened other security guards or people amongst the crowd would've taken action against that there and then as it is the nature of of us Pakistanis to offer a hand at the slightest of incident taking place."

Incidents of harassment at concerts and musical events in Pakistan have been called out before. In 2017 a woman was harassed at an Atif Aslam concert in Karachi, after spotting the harassment the singer stopped his show to make sure she was safe.

This is a developing story.