The Feminist Collective pens open letter decrying inclusion of pro-Israel speaker at Karachi Literature Festival

The Feminist Collective pens open letter decrying inclusion of pro-Israel speaker at Karachi Literature Festival

Activists, writers and several others have spoken against Ronya Othmann's attendance at the festival; KLF removes her name from its website.
Updated 17 Feb, 2024

The Feminist Collective, a leftist feminist group, has penned an open letter protesting the Karachi Literature Festival’s (KLF) decision to invite Germany-based author Ronya Othmann — a known supporter of the state of Israel — as a guest speaker to its 15th iteration. The festival has since removed her name from the list of speakers mentioned on its website.

Othmann, who has a history of problematic, anti-Islam and anti-Palestine comments, was invited for two talks, the first on February 17 for her book The Summers, and again on February 18 for a poetry reading titled “Beyond the Seas”.

In their open letter — which at the time of publishing was signed by 199 signatories, including actors Sarwat Gillani and Rasti Farooq — The Feminist Collective highlighted that during a panel by the German newspaper TAZ, Othmann, along a fellow panellist and the interviewer, claimed that Muslim immigrants, including Palestinians, are “jihadists” and “terrorists” for expressing sympathy with Palestinian resistance to a 75-year-long occupation.

Other instances, as detailed in the letter, include an article written by Othmann wherein she targeted German-Palestinian journalist Alena Jabarine “as well as other writers of colour for pointing out that what Israel is doing to Palestinians in Gaza is a genocide”.

The Collective also maintained that Othmann attacked the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which aims to “end international support for Israel’s oppression of Palestinians and pressure Israel to comply with international law”. The Feminist Collective stated that Othmann claimed the BDS was “a form of violence against the state of Israel, and was lacking political legitimacy” as well as “global support for terror”.

On her X (formerly Twitter) account, Othmann has reshared several tweets likening support for the Palestinian resistance to anti-semitism and calling for its penalisation. Her tweets against pro-Palestinian rallies include claims that there is an “Islamism problem”.

Moreover, the author has perpetuated Israeli narratives that Hamas uses Gazans as human shields. Her language and sentiments are described by The Feminist Collective as “in essence a right-wing dog-whistle targeting vulnerable Muslim and Arab immigrant populations in Europe, especially Palestinians”.

Othmann also has a history of sharing content that is Islamaphobic, including a tweet that states: “If you as a Muslim do not get involved in Islamist ideologies…you will pay for it with your life”.

“As Pakistanis, we find KLF’s choice of Othmann as a speaker unacceptable — indeed, obscene — and especially so given that the Israeli genocide of Palestinians is in its 6th month, with over 28,000 Palestinians dead, more than 10,000 of them children,” the Collective stated in their letter. They maintained that “the International Court of Justice, in its provisional measures order, has declared that the South African case charging Israel with genocide has validity”.

The Feminist Collective demanded that “KLF immediately cancel this event and issue a public apology to the Palestinian people and to all Pakistanis of conscience”. They further asked the festival to “stop engaging in ‘two-siderism’ when it comes to the 75+ year occupation of Palestine by Israel and the current genocide and refrain from inviting Zionists and giving legitimacy to Zionist discourse under the false premise of ‘neutrality’.”

They further said that “if KLF does not cancel this event, and issue a public apology, we [the Collective] will mobilise a boycott of its festival this year and in the years to come”.

In an exclusive comment to Images, a spokesperson for the Feminist Collective said they were “horrified that they [KLF] invited someone like this, especially at this particular moment in history”.

“They should do their due diligence and make sure they are not inviting people whose views are abhorrent. There is this unfortunate tendency that not taking sides is the more progressive and evolved position… I’m not saying that is the case here, I’m just saying that is something we often see in Pakistan,” the spokesperson added.

They said, “We felt it was so important to write this letter to put KLF on notice and to ensure this speaker is disinvited, but also to send a general message to educate our own public about why we are taking this stand and why it is important to take a stand against people who have zionist views. To ensure that people understand that when we say Zionism we don’t mean Jewish people, we mean a particular ideology”.

Othmann’s name has been removed from the official speaker list on the festival’s official website as well as the online schedule for the event.

UPDATE: On Saturday, the KLF added a banner to its website stating, “Ronya Othman will not be attending KLF and her sessions, therefore, have been cancelled. We apologise for any inconvenience caused”.


Moud Feb 16, 2024 04:48pm
Inspite of the Israëli Zionism's imported and partisan rabidness, there is no way to avoid the formation of Palestinian State in Palestine.
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Asad Feb 16, 2024 05:19pm
Not sure why she was invited in the first place. Also, not sure why Pakistan needs to have any literary/cultural festivals. Pakistanis are more inclined towards fake news and made up stories on Facebook, Twitter for gossip, LinkedIn to date and use TikTok for entertainment and local news.
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Masood Habib Feb 16, 2024 05:52pm
Well done KLF for acting promptly to remove this Islamophobic lady
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Khan Feb 16, 2024 06:30pm
They should have done their homework well bfr inviting someone for the festival lol
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Anonymouseee Feb 16, 2024 07:16pm
Zionism is a threat to all mankind.
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Ehsan Feb 16, 2024 07:31pm
If we ban each other how will we have dialogue, how will we learn about each other
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Shan Ali Khan Feb 16, 2024 07:49pm
Pakistan should be a place for all viewpoints to be heard and debated. Instead of what it is doing with regards to Pro Palestine and Pro Israel.
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Michael Feb 16, 2024 10:05pm
It begs the question, why did the KLF committee members even think of inviting such a poisonous woman! Something very disturbing about this devious decision to invite a known supporter of Zionism. More thin edge of the wedge signalling?
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Nighat Feb 17, 2024 12:23am
Well Done Ladies! KLF website says "Othman is unable to attend!" Perhaps she should try reading poetry in Gaza. Thank you KLF - No apologies necessary.
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Hasnain Shah Feb 17, 2024 01:37am
Good decision. Eo called intellectuals ignore 30,000 civilians murdered Infront of whole world
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Neil Feb 17, 2024 04:25am
While I empathize with the decision to disinvite her, another constructive approach would have been to challenge her through dialogue. I come from a post-Partition Hindu family that left Lahore and Bahawalpur for India. My trips to Pakistan and meeting Pakistanis - not to say of their hospitality - challenged me to reconsider stereotypes of Pakistanis. I now work for peace between both countries. We know in psychology that contact between peoples dispels misunderstandings. Who knows if she could have reconsidered her views by meeting the witty, cosmopolitan people of Karachi who could have hels her accountable with erudition and grace?
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Farooq Feb 17, 2024 05:26am
This is excellent news and a great display of responsible activism
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Emp Feb 17, 2024 06:00am
Kudos KLF, you either seem to have absolutely nil clue about current affairs or are couldn’t care less. In either case, you definitively proved a point by infusing this woman in the first place.
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Zak Feb 17, 2024 06:21am
KLF needs to chose their participants more carefully,as anti pakistan Indians, pro Israel characters all manage to get invited and spew their venomous thoughts.
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Asad Feb 17, 2024 06:27am
Two worst occupations in modern history are ; Indian occupation of kashmir, IOK and Israeli occupation of Palistine. Both under UN resolution to withdraw illegal occupation.
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Lalit Feb 17, 2024 07:57am
Only people who share your viewpoint should get a platform. No different ideologies are permissible and yet you protest that India and the western world is increasingly becoming nationalistic. Aren’t you doing the same? Is this not hypocrisy?
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Mohsin Feb 17, 2024 08:01am
It's a literary festival, not a morality festival. How can it be damaging to have a controversial author be asked questions on an open debate. And who is this feminist collective? Why are they deciding who the organisers should invite?
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Yasmin Adhami Feb 17, 2024 09:57am
Is the KLF mad ?! People should boycott the entire festival in protest . This insensitivity is indefensible
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Afzal Feb 17, 2024 12:46pm
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Taj Ahmad Feb 20, 2024 02:34am
Let’s make a Free Palestine State for all Palestinians-Jews-Christians and live in peace and harmony with respect towards each others.
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