Remembering Sabeen on Valentine’s day, a day that she died for

It seems that there are certain levels and conditions on which history determines how you will be remembered in the future.

While history is full of stories eulogising ‘martyrs of love’ who sacrificed their lives and embraced death defiantly for their beloveds on the face of persecution, there are people whose love transcended beyond individualism and narrow meanings of conventional love and the legacy continues manifesting itself on the broader spectrums.

The former category includes pairs like Romeo & Juliet and Layla & Majnun while the latter includes the creators of larger worlds and legacies including Mansur Al-Hallaj and Socrates. Our Sabeen Mahmud is one of them.

Sabeen Mahmud was killed for campaigning against religious fundamentalism, obscurantism and for promoting love and enlightenment through her campaign called “Pyaar hone dein” (Let there be love). Ironically, Saint Valentine – after whom the day has been named – was executed for promoting and encouraging love as well.

Her killer Saad Aziz confessed to killing her for holding a Valentine’s Day rally.

She held demonstrations outside Lal Masjid, initiated ‘Pyaar ho jaane do’ on Valentine’s Day and talked about missing persons.

She was different because she didn’t let the pressure of “log kya kahenge” (“what will people/ society say”) stop her.

Sabeen was all about celebrating life. She did things others would only dream of. She broached subjects that made people uncomfortable. If she wanted to play street cricket, there was nothing that could stop her. A disapproving glance could not dissuade her from riding a scooter on the road.

She was a strong person with strong opinions and boldly expressed views. For Sabeen, numbers didn’t matter, the principle of a cause did.  “Fear is just a line in your head,” she once said during her interview.

Valentine’s Day, for Pakistanis, holds significance also because a woman like Sabeen, amidst terror and hate, was talking about love and peace.

It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that while Socrates died for campaigning against obscurantism and darkness of ignorance and Saint Valentine died for encouraging love, our Sabeen Mahmud gave her life for both!

The ban on Valentine’s Day is only moral credence for her killer and disgrace to her martyrdom.

Happy Valentine’s Day Sabeen Mahmud! Your legacy will reflect in love, enlightenment, peace, justice and freedom.

Hamza Rao

Hamza Rao

Hamza Rao is a member of the staff at Daily Pakistan. He can be reached at He tweets at @HamzaRaoxxx