Social media has been rife over the last month with young girls (and boys) sharing their stories of sexual abuse and harassment at the hands of their teachers, religious instructors, van drivers and peers.
Hashtags like #TimesUp and #MeToo seemed to have taken over the internet as students came out in full force to complain about this rampant but taboo issue in society. However, Saba Ali’s post on Facebook literally set the issue on fire when she accused Sadat Bashir, a Federal Board of Intermediary and Secondary Education invigilator of harassing more than 80 girls while they were giving their Biology practical. Saba, a student of Bahria College, shared how Bashir inappropriately touched and groped all these female students and threatened to lower their grade if they spoke out.
Apparently senior students had warned these students about Bashir’s unwanted advances but none of them realised the seriousness of the warning or the audacity of the invigilator. Their teacher was not allowed inside the lab which is an anomaly considering that they were all girls and the invigilator was a male. According to Saba,
“He groped almost 80 students and passed sleazy comments. He groped me twice, once when I went for the model recognition, he touched my butt and second when I was making the slides. He came behind me and traced my bra strap all the while pretending he was just examining my slide. After that, when I was doing my frog dissection he came up to me and asked what kind of a frog it was. I got extremely nervous and told him it was a male frog to which he very inappropriately replied “It’s a female frog can’t you see the ovaries, you have them inside you too!”
All of this made me extremely uncomfortable and I had no idea what to do. None of us said anything to him because he kept threatening to deduct our marks.”
My biology practical was held on 24th May 2018, I was in the first batch of the bio practical. I came to school at 8.00…
Another student, Zohaa Muneeb, who was with Saba at the time, shared that the students made a Facebook group after the incident and decided to talk to the principal the next day. Some students, however, were hesitant because Sadat Bashir had allegedly threatened to give them an ‘F’ in their Physics practical which had yet to take place. According to Zohaa,
“The next day Saba and I went to Bahria only to find out that none of them had shown up which only shows the ‘chup raho’ stigma deeply rooted in our society. Most of the girls were too scared to open up, those who were willing did not have family support. Whatever the reason those girls did not feel safe enough to show up yesterday. After some time 2 more students showed up and one of them had her mother with her. We waited for some time but when no one else showed up we finally went to talk to the principal ourselves.”
The principal asked the students to wait outside and spoke to the mothers only. The mothers were assured that the college would file a complaint to blacklist Bashir for his conduct. Zohaa added,
“Talking to the students who actually faced this made him (the principal) uncomfortable but he did not stop once to think about how uncomfortable those students must have felt when they were touched against their will! He didn’t even have the courage to listen to what happened from the students themselves! He just told the mothers that a letter is being written and that they will blacklist Sadat Bashir.”
According to Zohaa, the Vice Principal revealed that even a teacher had been harassed by the sleaze. She posted,
“Her attitude was a lot more encouraging than the principal. She told us that she had not been aware of the incident until yesterday and that the students should have come directly to her. She even said, “Beta, ussne tou aap ki teacher tak ko nahi chora. You guys were obviously the easy targets.” Yes, that’s right. He didn’t even spare the teacher.”
Following Saba and Zohaa’s post and the meeting with the principal and vice principal at Bahria, many students took to social media to share their incidents anonymously. And most posts emphasized the fact that they had been threatened with failing marks if they dared to speak out.
Interestingly, in spite of re-assuring the parents and students that strict action would be taken against him, Bashir continued to invigilate exams and allegedly his inappropriate activities as well. Some students posted on social media about other teachers who turned a blind eye to his antics and a deaf ear to the students’ complaints.
But the damage had been done. The hashtag #PunishSadatBashir caught fire as people expressed their rage and disappointment and demanded Bashir’s dismissal as well as the establishment of policies, student bodies and unions to help protect vulnerable students from such predators. Celebrities like Osman Khalid Butt and Meesha Shafi expressed their solidarity with the victims and Mawra Hocane, who is an alumnus of the college, expressed her grief and encouragement towards the victims.
18 testimonies (a thread). And what is heartbreaking is, knowing they'll be met with the usual disbelief and victim-shaming, some of these brave girls have to add disclaimers that they were appropriately dressed and not, you know, 'asking for it.' During an FBISE Bio Practical. https://t.co/CUpTcfsLlC
— Osman Khalid Butt (@aClockworkObi) May 29, 2018
All strength and power to this brave sister for sharing her disgusting and alarming experience. #BahriaCollege kindly take immediate action. We are all watching and we are all waiting! #TimesUp https://t.co/lMdAVm5Csz
— MEESHA SHAFI (@itsmeeshashafi) May 29, 2018
Later, Bahria College issued a statement stating,
“With regards to information appearing on Facebook, Bahria College Islamabad regrets the unfortunate incident where an external examiner appointed by FBISE harassed the female students during their HSSC practical exams. The college administration has taken serious notice of the incident and has lodged a complaint with the FBISE as well as the Ministry of Education against Sadat Bashir, practical examiner for biology.”
Bashir, meanwhile, has denied the accusations, claiming to have been mentally tortured since the issue had gone viral. According to him,
“I might have bumped into someone in the lab where many students were performing dissection but that does not mean it was deliberate or I wanted to harass students. I’m a struggling teacher with 12 years of experience and my family is in shock after this malicious campaign against me.”
Perhaps, the best thing to have come out of the incident is that professionals are approaching the students to help them file a legal investigation into the matter.
please share the individuals details here. Will try to take to Federal Directorate of Education. You shared details of HEC while its directly under the FDE
— Raza Sukhera (@RazaAhmedSukher) May 29, 2018
There is no doubt that after the home, schools are considered a safe haven for children. We hope that this incident and the bravery of all the victims, particularly Saba and Zohaa, will help stop predators like Sadat Bashir from using their power to coerce and traumatise students. It is men like him AND those who protect him that bring shame to an otherwise noble profession.
More power to Saba, Zohaa and all the victims!