Asma Jahangir — A Memorial


The Asma Jahangir Foundation, Asia Society, and Open Society Foundations host a memorial in memory of Pakistani human rights lawyer Asma Jahangir (1952-2018). Jahangir was an advocate of the Supreme Court of Pakistan; the founding chairwoman of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan; the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion; the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions; and the United Nations Special Envoy on the Situation of Human Rights in Iran.

This special event highlights Jahangir’s many contributions to the United Nations, where she served as UN Special Rapporteur on numerous occasions. Human rights activists, journalists, filmmakers, and scholars pay tribute to Jahangir’s legacy, accompanied by a screening of a short film about her life, and a reception. Speakers include: Samina Ahmed, South Asia Project Director, International Crisis Group; Philip Alston, New York University Law School and UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights; Steve Coll, Columbia Journalism School; Lyse Doucet, BBC Chief International Correspondent; Munizae Jahangir, journalist and documentary filmmaker; Ayesha Jalal, Director of Center for South Asian and Indian Ocean Studies, Tufts University; Hina Jilani, co-founder of AGHS Legal Aid Cell; and Ahmed Rashid, journalist.

Asma Jahangir founded AGHS Legal Aid Cell in 1987 to provide free legal assistance to the needy. She was an Advocate of the Supreme Court of Pakistan and was elected as President of the Supreme Court Bar Association (2010-2011). She was also twice elected as Chairperson of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), which was set up in 1986 and was instrumental in the formation of Punjab Women Lawyers Association (PWLA) in 1980 and Women Action Forum (WAF) in 1985.

In 1998 she was appointed United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Execution of the Commission on Human Rights and in 2004 she served as United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or belief of the Council on Human Rights. She also held the posts of Commissioner of the International Commission of Jurists since 1998, Council Member for Minority Rights Group International from 2002-2004, Chief Economist for the Advisory Council Member of World Bank since 2001, and Executive Member of the International Crisis Group since 2002. At the time of her death in February 2018, she was United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Iran.

Asma Jahangir was placed under house arrest and later imprisoned for participating in the movement for the restoration of political and fundamental rights during the military regime in 1983 and 2007. She was one of the leading figures in the campaign waged by the women activists against the promulgation of the controversial Hadood Ordinances and draft law on evidence. Jahangir represented several clients who were denied their fundamental rights. Notable amongst them are the cases she fought for brick kiln workers, who are mostly bonded laborers in Pakistan. She represented them and was subsequently successful in getting a legislation passed through the parliament in favor of bonded workers. She defended cases of discrimination against religious minorities, women, and children. In her effort to secure justice for the disadvantaged groups she was frequently threatened by militant groups.

She authored four books and five papers and received honorary Doctor of Law degrees from the University of St. Gallen, Switzerland; Queen’s University, Canada; Amherst College, U.S.; University of Zurich, Switzerland; and Simon Fraser University, Canada. She was the recipient of a number of international and national awards, among them the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 1995; the Bernard Simons Memorial Award of the International Bar Association in 2000; the Millennium Peace Price in 2001; UNESCO/Bilbao Prize for the Promotion of a Culture of Human Rights in 2010; the North-South Award (Portugal) in 2013; the Roland Berger Award (Germany) in 2013; the Humana Dignity Award (Poland) in 2014; the Rights Livelihood Award (Sweden) in 2014; and in 2018 she was posthumously awarded the Nishan-e-Imtiaz Pakistan, the top civilian award in the country.


Samina Ahmed

Samina Ahmed is Senior Adviser Asia and Project Director, South Asia, for the International Crisis Group. Her work focuses on political, security and stability issues in South Asia, including democratization, authoritarianism and governance; security sector and criminal justice reform; refugees and humanitarian crises; domestic insurgencies, militancy, and jihadism; and the risks of regional conflict.Ahmed has a Ph.D. in Political Science and an MA in International Relations from the Australian National University. Prior to joining Crisis Group, she was a research fellow at the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University and senior research analyst at the Institute of Regional Studies, Islamabad. She was a Peace Fellow at New York University, Abu Dhabi, and a visiting researcher at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington DC, the Stockholm Peace Research Institute, and Oxford University.

Philip Alston

Philip Alston is a professor at New York University Law School.  He is currently the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, and was previously the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions (as successor to Asma Jahangir). He chaired the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1991-1998), and from 1986 to 1992 was UNICEF’s Legal Adviser on the UN Convention on the Right of the Child.

Steve Coll

Steve Coll was appointed Dean of Columbia Journalism School in 2013 after serving as president of New America Foundation (2007-2012). He joined The New Yorker as a staff writer in 2005 and continues to write for the publication on politics, national security, and the media. Coll is also the author of eight nonfiction books, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, and a former reporter, foreign correspondent and senior editor at the Washington Post (1985- 2005). His latest book Directorate S, published in February 2018, is a follow-up to his 2004 Ghost Wars.

Lyse Doucet

Lyse Doucet (moderator) is the BBC’s Chief International Correspondent and Senior Presenter who anchors news programs for BBC World TV and World Service Radio. She is regularly deployed to present special news coverage from the field and report across the BBC’s domestic and global outlets. Lyse spent 15 years as a BBC foreign correspondent with postings in Jerusalem, Amman, Islamabad, Tehran, Kabul and Abidjan. Among her awards, Lyse received an Emmy Award in 2013 for news coverage from Syria, an OBE in the Queen’s Honours list in 2014 for services to broadcasting, the Columbia University School of Journalism Award for lifetime achievement in 2016, and a Trailblazer Award from Georgetown University in 2018. Lyse is an honorary patron of Canadian Crossroads International, and a member of Friends of Aschiana UK which supports working street children in Afghanistan. She is also a founding member of the Marie Colvin Journalists’ Network and a Senior Fellow of Massey College of the University of Toronto. She is a Trustee of the Frontline Club for Journalists and a member of the Canadian Journalism Forum on Violence and Trauma.

Munizae Jahangir

Munizae Jahangir is an award-winning TV journalist and documentary filmmaker, currently working at Pakistan’s media house Aaj TV, as a senior anchor of the flagship, prime time current affairs show called, ‘Spotlight with Munizae Jahangir’. She also writes for the Dawn newspaper and freelances for the British Guardian newspaper and India’s NDTV as their correspondent. Jahangir focuses on conflict areas and produced/directed an award-winning documentary on the war in Afghanistan, called “Search for Freedom” aired on ABC and NDTV. The film is being distributed by Women Make Movies in New York. Jahangir was honored as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum in 2008. She is on the board of the Asma Jahangir Foundation and the AGHS legal aid cell providing free legal aid to marginalized women, children and minorities. She is the founding member of South Asian Women in Media, an association that represents women working in media across South Asia. She is an active member of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.

Ayesha Jalal

Ayesha Jalal is the Mary Richardson Professor of History at Tufts University where she teaches at both the History Department and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.  Dr Jalal has been Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge (1980-84), Leverhulme Fellow at the Centre of South Asian Studies, Cambridge (1984-87), Fellow of the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars in Washington, DC (1985-86) and Academy Scholar at the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies (1988-90). Between 1998-2003 she was a MacArthur Fellow.  Her publications include The Sole Spokesman: Jinnah, the Muslim League and the Demand for Pakistan (Cambridge, 1985 and 1994); The State of Martial Rule: the Origins of Pakistan's Political Economy of Defence (Cambridge, 1990) and Democracy and Authoritarianism in South Asia: a Comparative and Historical Perspective (Cambridge, 1995). Her most recent book, based on the Lawrence Stone Lectures she gave at the Davis Center at Princeton University in April 2011, is called The Pity of Partition: Manto’s Life, Times, and Work across the India-Pakistan Divide (Princeton University Press, Spring 2013). Dr. Jalal’s most recent book is The Struggle for Pakistan: A Muslim Homeland and Global Politics (Cambridge, M.A: Harvard University Press, 2014).

Hina Jilani

Hina Jilani is the co-founder of  AGHS Legal Aid Cell, a human rights organization, focusing on women, children and minority communities in Pakistan. Jilani has over 30 years of experience defending and promoting peace and human rights and is a founder and board member of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. As an advocate of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, she has worked to protect and advance the rights of victims of domestic and fundamentalist violence, “honor killings,” and human trafficking. In 2000, Jilani was appointed Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General on the situation of human rights defenders. She has also participated in major human rights investigations, including UN inquiries and fact-finding missions in Darfur and Gaza. Jilani was awarded the Millennium Peace Prize in 2000, the first award of its kind to recognize women who have made outstanding contributions to building peace.



Event Details

Sun 30 Sep 2018
4 - 5:30 p.m.

Asia Society
725 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10021

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Free Admission; Reservations Required
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