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Controversial Pakistani social media star dead in apparent honor killing

AP Photo/M. Jameel
By Thu-Huong Ha
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Fauzia Azeem, a Pakistani model and social media star who went by the name Qandeel Baloch, has died. The 26-year-old was allegedly strangled by her brother in an apparent honor killing.

Baloch died late Friday night (July 15). Pakistan Today reports that her brother Muhammad Waseem confessed to strangling her with a pillow. “She was bringing disrepute to our family’s honor and I could not tolerate it any further,” he said at a police press conference. Waseem was arrested Saturday night.

Baloch was known for her provocative, daring persona and frequent flouting of Pakistan’s conservative attitudes toward women’s sexuality. She frequently bared skin in photos on Facebook and Instagram, described herself as a feminist, and was openly critical of Pakistan’s patriarchal society.

In late June, Baloch attracted further controversy after posting photos of herself with a prominent cleric in his hotel, drawing sharp criticism from religious leadership. On July 7, she was featured dancing with singer Aryan Khan in a music video called “Ban.” Two million people have watched it in 10 days.

In a Q&A with English daily Dawn, Baloch told the interviewer:

Nothing is good in this society. This mardon ki society (patriarchal society) is bad. You probably know this already, think about the problems you face yourself.
Being a girl, think yourself, how difficult it is to move around as a woman in this society. How many men do you encounter who bother you?

Although they often go unreported, it’s estimated that 1,000 honor killings happen every year in Pakistan. A 2009 Pew survey found that 83% of the country supported stoning people for adultery.

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