Enthusiasm, solidarity and confusion were channeled into one space as the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture (IVS) in Karachi held a fundraiser and teach-in to raise funds and better educate the public on events unfolding in Palestine.
‘Stand with Palestine: Coming Together for Peace and Justice’ saw 150 people attend the teach-in, poetry recitation and documentary screening Friday afternoon.
Artwork for sale was generously donated by students, faculty and alumni for a cause that many Pakistanis have rallied behind since the Israeli bombardment of Gaza began on October 7.
The four panelists facilitating the teach-in were journalist Zarrar Khuhro, comedian Shehzad Ghias, academic Sabahat Zehra and activist Laila AlQilim.
“We added the teach-in component because there’s a lot of outrage, emotions but not a full understanding of what the history is,” said Dr Faiza Mushtaq, dean and executive director of IVS.
Speaking to Images, AlQilim echoed a similar sentiment, encouraging the audience to take the initiative to educate themselves on the history of Palestine, which was explained by Zehra, an IVS faculty member.
AlQilim is a young Palestinian activist living in Pakistan with her family, who were forced to leave Palestine during the first and second Nakbas in 1948 and 1967 respectively.
“So many people know that what they’re doing is right, but they don’t know why. And the why is so important, because our ignorance is a weapon that’s used against us,” AlQilim said.
The panelists debunked myths and false narratives about Israel and Palestine, using their time as a brief history lesson for the audience stretching as far back as the 19th century.
Khuhro affirmed to the audience that “critical mass becomes action,” acknowledging the various protests, sit-ins and marches happening across the globe in solidarity with Palestinians. He wove a timeline for the audience as he explained how history is repeating itself with the genocide of the Palestinians, alluding to the Holocaust.
Criticism of the media and biased narratives was highlighted by Ghias, writer and host of the popular podcast The Pakistani Experience.
“‘Do you condemn the circumstances [of the Gazan people]’ is what the media should be asking instead,” Ghias said, referring to Western media’s common question to Palestinian talk-show guests: “Do you condemn Hamas?”
He spoke in depth of the legacy of colonialism and resistance, praising the people of Palestine for their fierce resistance against Israeli occupation. “You cannot defeat the will of five million people who have withstood a military siege for decades and still say ‘Palestine will be free,’” he said.
Ghias also acknowledged how many Pakistanis conflate their pro-Palestine sentiment with anti-Semitism, explaining that the latter does not help the Palestinian cause.
Much of Palestine’s history, explained by the panelists, is the lived experience of AlQilim and her family, who have lived in four different countries before settling in Pakistan.
“No one wants to leave their land, and if they do, they want to be able to go back,” she said, explaining how her grandparents left Palestine for Kuwait and lost the right to go back to their homeland.
Friday’s event hit close to home for Maham Khursheed, one of the fundraiser’s organisers and an assistant professor of architecture at IVS. Khursheed has friends whose families were pushed out of Palestine during the Nakba, much like AlQilim’s family was. It was through them that she learned of the tragic history of Palestine, acknowledging that events like these are a small step towards helping a much bigger cause.
The turnout was much better than the organisers had expected, she said, expressing gratitude for the generosity of the alumni, students and faculty in putting together the fundraiser.
Zeal and generosity are no strangers to the IVS community. As floods destroyed housing and land across the country in 2022, IVS students set out designing environmentally sensitive housing structures which could reduce the devastation of the floods, Khursheed explained, adding that Engro served as a financial catalyst in transforming the designs into tangible structures.
The artwork for sale will continue to be on display at IVS till all pieces are sold, she said. Prices for the artwork start at Rs500, with the highest priced piece worth Rs150,000.