Celebs, netizens rally behind Ayesha Omar after Naumaan Ijaz criticises her for opening up about harassment
There is no time limit on when you have to speak about sexual harassment. In fact, many people do not share their own experiences right away because of a variety of reasons such as trauma, lack of support or just not being comfortable speaking about it. That's what makes Naumaan Ijaz's comments to Ayesha Omar so horrible. Omar had spoken up about being sexually assaulted two years ago, however, for Ijaz it's best to keep such experiences to yourself.
Omar appeared on Ijaz's show G Sarkar on April 3 where the Sang-e-Mah actor questioned her experience of being sexually assaulted when she had just entered the entertainment industry. Ijaz observed during the show that Omar did "controversial" things and asked if she did them intentionally. He also mentioned "bold shoots" as a part of the 'controversial things' he was referring to and then, rather amazingly, included her experience of getting harassed in the past.
According to Ijaz, if something has happened in the past then it's not necessary to 'imitate' someone and speak up about it later. He said that such things end up damaging one’s image. In response, the Bulbulay star said that a person doesn't only share their experience because they are inspired by someone else who has come forward. I need to follow my own truth, she said.
"What's the point in sharing [your experience]," he asked, when "you know what your position is and the kind of society we live in. Surviving here is difficult and people do not take these things well or even positively." In response, Omar said she speaks according to what she thinks is right and what she believes is the truth.
Disregarding her experience, the host implied that Omar might've been "supporting someone or a movement" to which she denied this and told him that whatever she said was for herself. In return the host retorted and questioned whether anyone expressed the "need" for her experience to be shared with the world, to which she responded that many had asked her to come forward.
Ijaz interrupted Omar and said, "Jahan zindagi ke itnay saal guzar gaye, to guzarne deti, ghalat tasur ko develop kerne ki kya zaroorat thi [when so many years have passed, you should have let it be. What was the purpose of developing a wrong impression]?" In response, the actor said seeing someone else speak up emboldened her to tell her own truth and if she inspired others to do the same, then so be it.
Fashion industry moguls Frieha Altaf and Maheen Khan along with netizens have called Ijaz out online and said that he is using Omar just to "gain attention".
Altaf had commented under Niche Lifestyle's Instagram post about Ijaz's behaviour with Omar during the show. The PR guru wrote that most people in Pakistan believe a woman, a man or transgender person should shut up about sexual harassment, rape and domestic abuse. "This is most of our society. Chup raho kuch na bolo. Abh kya zaroorat hai, ho gaya, bhool jao [stay quiet, don't say anything. What's the need for it now, it happened, forget about it]."
She also said that the narrative has to change and that a victim or survivor can speak "whenever they are ready".
"Noman is from the school of society that believes in 'shut up, don't speak'," she said, praising Omar for her strength.
Designer Khan retweeted Altaf's comment and wrote, "Mr Noman Ijaz is a disgrace to his family". She also said that using Omar to "gain attention" is pathetic.
Twitteratis had a lot to say about Ijaz as well and wrote that the actor "gaslighting" Omar in the show was triggering to watch. One user wrote that the actor leaves no opportunity in shaming women who have the courage to come out with their tough stories and that there is "zero accountability" for celebrities like him.
This user said Ijaz's previous statement about marital affairs was apparently okay but Omar speaking her truth is questionable for the actor.
This user called him out for being "tone deaf" for saying that Omar should have let bygones be bygones.
Another just expressed how as a fan even though she loves Ijaz's work, every time she has to try to forget about every "stupid thing" he has ever said and done.
Ayesha Omar's story
Omar had shared her story two years ago and said that she had been harassed for years. "A huge powerful man, twice my age. I had just entered the industry, I was this young 23-year-old, fresh out of college, and bam, this started happening. And it went on for years," she said in an Instagram live.
She said that she didn't wanted to process it and had put it "in a box" and didn't wanted to deal with it. Omar confessed in the Instagram live session that she didn't want to share it with anybody and wanted it to stay there for 15 years, until she finally spoke about it to someone.
People who have been harassed or assaulted are allowed to take as long as they want to speak about their experiences and trauma. They don't owe any one any explanations on why they didn't speak up earlier nor should they be questioned about it.
For Ijaz to try to invalidate Omar's experience and question why she spoke up in the first place is disgusting and cruel. Omar handled his downright cruel interrogation with far more grace and dignity than we would have. She answered his questions calmly and with a level-head and it's horrible that it was even required of her.
Ijaz needs to learn that not everything is fodder for jokes and lame comments on his Tv shows. His terrible probing questions and foolish remarks said a lot more about him that they did about Omar's supposedly "controversial" nature — whatever that means.