Fatima Meer

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Fatima Meer
Born(1928-08-12)12 August 1928
Durban, Natal, South Africa
Died12 March 2010(2010-03-12) (aged 81)
OccupationWriter and academic

Fatima Meer (12 August 1928 – 12 March 2010) was a South African writer, academic, screenwriter, and prominent anti-apartheid activist.

Early life[edit]

Fatima Meer was born in Durban, South Africa, into a middle-class family of nine, where her father Moosa Ismail Meer, a newspaper editor of The Indian Views, instilled in her a consciousness of the racial discrimination that existed in the country. Her mother was Rachel Farrell, the second wife of Moosa Ismail Meer.[1] She completed her schooling at the Durban Indian Girls High School and subsequently attended the University of the Witwatersrand where she was a member of a Trotskyist group[2] and the University of Natal, where she completed a Masters degree in Sociology.

Political activist[edit]

In 1946, Meer joined many other South African Indians in a passive resistance campaign against apartheid, during which she started the Student Passive Resistance Committee. She also helped to establish the Durban District Women's League, an organisation started in order to build alliances between Africans and Indians as a result of the race riots between the two groups in 1949.

After the National Party gained power in 1948 and started implementing their policy of apartheid, Meer’s activism increased; she was one of the founding members of the Federation of South African Women, which spearheaded the historical women's march on the Union Buildings on 9 August 1956. As a result of her activism, Meer was first "banned" in 1952 ("banning" was a government practice that, among other things, limited the number of people a person could meet at any one time as well as a person's movements and also prohibited a person from being published).[3] She was one of the leaders of the Women's March in 1956.[4]

In the 1960s, she organised night vigils to protest against the mass detention of anti-apartheid activists without trial. During the 1970s she was again banned and later detained without trial for trying to organize a political rally with Black Consciousness Movement figure Steve Biko. She narrowly survived an assassination attempt shortly after her release from detention in 1976 when she was shot at her family home in Durban, but not harmed. Her son, Rashid, went into exile in the same year. She was attacked again and blamed the second attack on the Black Consciousness Movement.[5]

She was a strong supporter of the Iranian Revolution and boycotted Salman Rushdie's trip to South Africa in 1998 claiming that he was a blasphemer.[5]

Academic and writer[edit]

Meer was on the staff of the University of Natal from 1956 to 1988 and was also a visiting professor at a number of universities in South Africa, the U.S., India, Mauritius, the Caribbean and Britain. While at the University of Natal, Meer and her colleague Leo Kuper were subjected to surveillance by the apartheid government, and classes taught in the department were infiltrated by government spies, resulting in a chilling effect.[6]

Meer became a fellow of the London School of Economics, and received two honorary doctorates for her work for human and women's rights.[5]


  • Portrait of Indian South Africans
  • Apprenticeship of a Mahatma
  • Race and Suicide in South Africa
  • Documents of Indentured Labour
  • The South African Gandhi: The Speeches and Writings of M.K. Gandhi
  • Resistance in the Townships
  • Passive Resistance
  • Higher than Hope (the first authorized biography of Nelson Mandela, which was translated into 13 languages)



  • Union of South African Journalists Award (1975)
  • Imam Abdullah Haroon Award for the Struggle against Oppression and Racial Discrimination (1990)
  • Vishwa Gurjari Award for Contribution to Human Rights (1994)
  • Top 100 Women Who Shook South Africa list (1999)
  • #45 Top 100 Great South Africans (2004)


Fatima Meer died at St. Augustine's Hospital in Durban on 12 March 2010, aged 81, from a stroke which she suffered two weeks earlier.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Villa-Vicencio, Charles (8 September 1996). The Spirit of Freedom: South African Leaders on Religion and Politics. University of California Press. pp. 176, 325. ISBN 0520916263.
  2. ^ sahoboss (21 March 2011). "Fatima Meer Timeline 1928-2010". South African History Online. Retrieved 9 January 2018.
  3. ^ Banned persons law
  4. ^ "60 Iconic Women — The people behind the 1956 Women's March to Pretoria (11-20)". Mail & Guardian. 25 August 2016. Retrieved 8 September 2016.
  5. ^ a b c d Pillay, Taschica (12 March 2010). "Fatima Meer dies". TIMES Live. Archived from the original on 15 March 2010. Retrieved 5 October 2015.
  6. ^ van den Berghe 1989, p. 170.

External links[edit]