Samar Minallah

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Samar Minallah
Islamabad Pakistan
Occupationdocumentary filmmaker, and human rights activist

Samar Minallah (Urdu: ثمر من اللہALA-LC: S̱amar min Allāh IPA: [ˈsəmər mɪn əlˈlɑːh]) is a documentary filmmaker, and human rights activist from Pakistan.[1]

Background and education[edit]

Samar Minallah is a Mishwani Pashtun, from Haripur District, Hazara, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, and a filmmaker termed by the media as a ‘crusader with the camera’.[2] She is a pioneer in using film for social change in Pakistan.[3] Her films have broken the culture of silence around various women and children's rights violations[citation needed]. With a degree in Anthropology and Development from the University of Cambridge[citation needed], she focuses on a culturally relevant approach to advocacy.[citation needed] Her films target local audiences and are screened locally to generate dialogue around issues related to women and children.[4]

The primary focus of her advocacy is against culturally sanctioned forms of violence against women and girls. She has also been termed by the media as a ‘filmmaker with a cause’ .[5][6][7][8][9]

Film for change[edit]

Samar's lens has led to the inner stories of Pashtun women and their lives. She is from the school of filmmakers who believe they are empowered to challenge norms and change mindsets through films.[10][11]

Dar-Pa-Dar Where the Heart lies[edit]

‘Dar-Pa-Dar Where the Heart lies’ is a film of conversations with Afghan Refugee women living in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province of Pakistan. They speak their hearts out regarding displacement and conflict. Physically, these women may be repatriated back to Afghanistan but for most, their heart lies in a foreign soil which cradles their loved ones. They are torn between the choice of returning home and of leaving the bodies of their loved ones in a foreign land. The film tries to go behind the reportage about reconstruction, to the heart, which cannot be rebuilt with bricks and mortar alone, to express what it means to live a life full of uncertainty, to be forced to reconstruct it over and over again. ‘Where the Heart Lies’ is about an issue that is ignored by the mainstream media in the scramble for ‘more important’ stories.[12]

Bajaur Gooloona - Homeless at Home[edit]

‘Bajaur Gooloona Homeless at Home’, highlights the pain of tribal women and children displaced from their homes due to conflict.[13][14][15]

Bibi Shireenay - Where Honor Comes From[edit]

‘Bibi Shireenay Where Honor Comes From’ is a folk song video that highlights the economic and social contribution of Pakhtun women.[16]

Allah - A Lullaby for You My Daughter[edit]

‘Allah- A Lulluby for you my daughter’ is the first lullaby dedicated to Pakhtun girls. Filmed in Afghanistan and Pakistan it highlights the importance of education for girls.[17][18][19][20][21]

Poles Apart--Chains do not keep marriages together[edit]

Europe is home to immigrants from different parts of Pakistan. A large number of people have emigrated from the province of Punjab in search of better prospects of life. At times people try to get out of poverty by arranging a marriage with a person living in the West for the sake of pulling the entire family out of poverty.‘Poles Apart’ brings forward voices of survivors of forced marriages, religious scholar, legal expert and community members on an issue that has rarely been addressed. The 30 minute short film highlights different aspects of forced marriages among the Diaspora community.

Shot in Oslo, Jhelam, Gujrat and Lalamusa, the documentary also brings forth voices of people who are bringing about change from within their communities. ‘Poles Apart’ has been dubbed in Norwegian, Urdu and English. It is being disseminated in Pakistan, UK and Norway for advocacy and awareness raising.[22][23][24]

Kuch Khaab Hain Mairey - I have a dream[edit]

‘I have a dream’ or ‘Khuch Khaab Hain Meray’ is a 35 minutes long documentary highlighting different aspects of Child Domestic Labor in Pakistan. According to ILO, Child domestic work is performed throughout the world but it is estimated that Asia is home to about 60% of child domestic workers. In Pakistan, there is an estimated 10 million children employed as laborers. However, many fragile hands are cleaning and scrubbing homes that do not belong to them. There is much more that is screaming to be heard behind the fancy facades and closed doors. Alienation and isolation of the children belonging to rural areas tend to be greater in the urban areas. Children are not only cut off from there surroundings but separated from their loved ones.

Asma, as seven year old domestic servant from Mardan narrates in the documentary,[25] “I was always unhappy. Especially at night, I would miss my sister and remember how she would sleep by me at night and remembering her made me cry. When I arrived home, my sister came running towards me calling me “api api”. (Sister) I couldn't have been any happier that day. Every time my sister would call me “api” I would laugh with joy and remember how much I missed her there.” Several of the tasks are not hazardous under normal circumstances however when they are undertaken in a state of fatigue due to long hours of work and interrupted sleep even simple tasks become hazardous.[26]

Waqar (8) from Clifton, Karachi says, “I would wake up early in the morning and begin working again. They would never give me a holiday and would tell me I had to keep working. On Saturdays and Sundays they would be fast asleep. Those were the only days I would get a chance to rest.” Physical and emotional abuse are synonymous to this form of exploitation as Waqar, further confirms. “They used to slap me as a punishment for bringing less grocery. If they told me to bring a kilo of potatoes, I would bring four or five large potatoes and they would scold me for not bringing more. I would think, my father doesn’t own a grocery store? How do I increase the amount? I would make sure that if there were objects in the house with which she would hit me as a punishment, I would make sure to either hide them away or throw them somewhere in the river.”[27]

For many, children are a commodity. An investment. More children more salaries. There is a demand created by us, as a society. The documentary has been filmed in all four provinces of Pakistan. The dream that all children interviewed in the documentary share is that of going to school.

Sumbul 9, from Mardan, with a sparkle in her eyes says, ‘Education is Life. I want to become a doctor. Then I will be able to treat poor people.[28][29][30]

The Dark Side of Migration[edit]

“The Dark Side of Migration” highlights various aspects of Human Trafficking and Human Smuggling in Pakistan. Filmed in different parts of Pakistan, the aim is to create awareness at different levels within our society. It sheds light on different facets of human smuggling and trafficking in Pakistan.[31]

Documentary on 'Swara' that challenged mindsets and lobbied for legislation in Pakistan[edit]

Swara--A Bridge Over Troubled Waters[edit]

'Swara' or 'Vanni' are marriages where girls, often minors, are given as compensation to an enemy family to end disputes, often murders.[32] Very often when there is a murder or a dispute, girls are given as compensation to the aggrieved party as reparation. The murderer gets away with his crime and one, or even more girls have to pay the price of the crime for the rest of their lives. Compensation marriages are largely accepted as a way of keeping the peace between tribes and families. However, under-aged girls torn from their homes in this manner often end up systematically abused and forced into a life of virtual slavery in the homes of their enemies.[33][34][35][36]

Samar's first documentary was on the custom of 'Swara'.[37] She used film for advocacy and change. Anthropological activism in Pakistan with lullabies.[38] The film helped to break silence around a sensitive issue by showing various dimensions of the practice and bringing voices of little girls and women to a larger audience . Shot in Darra Adam Khel, Khyber Agency, Mardan, Swabi and Peshawar the documentary[39] brings forth views of tribal elders, Swara victims, religious scholars and a Federal Shariat Court Judge. The audience of the documentary was the people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

Awards and Other work[edit]

Samar was awarded the "Perdita Houston Human Rights Activist Award" for her contribution in advocating change on this issue. The award was presented by well-renowned feminist and author Gloria Steinem.[40] Samar has also won a UNESCO-sponsored regional documentary-making competition[citation needed], addressing the issue of HIV and AIDS. Other countries participating were Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan[citation needed]. Samar was selected as one of the "Young Leaders of Asia" by Asia Society New York in 2007[citation needed].

Some of her more recent documentaries are ‘Allaho: A Lullaby for You my Daughter!’[citation needed] ‘Warawae-e-Lasoona: The Song of Unity,’[citation needed] ‘The Missing Link,’'Da Bajaur Gooloona',[citation needed] ‘The Hidden Colours of the Northwest Frontier Province,’[citation needed] 'Land of a Thousand Colors' and ‘The Dark Side of Migration.[41][42]


  1. ^ "Samar Minallah Khan «  Women Have Wings". Retrieved 13 April 2016.
  2. ^ "Samar Minallah Khan - Pashtun Crusader with a Camera". Retrieved 13 April 2016.
  3. ^ "Pakistan Today Paperazzi issue N 131 March 06th 2016". Issuu. Retrieved 13 April 2016.
  4. ^ "Samar Minallah Khan: a vital voice - The Express Tribune". The Express Tribune. Retrieved 22 March 2016.
  5. ^ "Filmmaker by cause - TNS - The News on Sunday". TNS - The News on Sunday. Retrieved 18 February 2016.
  6. ^ "Special Report, NOS, The News International". Retrieved 18 February 2016.
  7. ^ Amir, Intikhab (3 March 2012). "Documentaries make social change happen". Retrieved 18 February 2016.
  8. ^ "Samar Minallah Khan: a vital voice - The Express Tribune". The Express Tribune. Retrieved 18 February 2016.
  9. ^ "Profile: Documentary Filmmaker Samar Minallah Khan | Arts & Culture | Newsline". Retrieved 18 February 2016.
  10. ^ "Special Report, NOS, The News International". Retrieved 22 March 2016.
  11. ^ "Samar Minallah: Challenging the Norms!". Masala! - Bollywood Gossip News, Indian Celebrities and Pictures. Retrieved 22 March 2016.
  12. ^ "Documentary portrays plight of Afghan DPs". 6 August 2005. Retrieved 22 March 2016.
  13. ^ "Da Bajaur Guloona Homeless at Home". DailyTimes. Retrieved 22 March 2016.
  14. ^ "Touching film on Bajaur homeless screened". 1 November 2008. Retrieved 22 March 2016.
  15. ^ "Dialogue, NOS, The News International". Retrieved 22 March 2016.
  16. ^ "Profile: Documentary Filmmaker Samar Minallah Khan (Arts & Culture - Newsline)". Retrieved 22 March 2016.
  17. ^ Kundi, Asma (11 March 2016). "'Creativity of rural women must be recognised'". Retrieved 22 March 2016.
  18. ^ "Documentary on female education launched". DailyTimes. Retrieved 22 March 2016.
  19. ^ "A lullaby for you, my daughter – The Express Tribune Blog". Retrieved 22 March 2016.
  20. ^ "Anthropological activism in Pakistan with lullabies". Retrieved 22 March 2016.
  21. ^ "How important is girls' education". Retrieved 22 March 2016.
  22. ^ Reporter, The Newspaper's Staff (17 April 2014). "Filmmaker exposes flaws of forced marriages". Retrieved 25 April 2016.
  23. ^ "Documentary screening: There is a way out of forced marriages says activist - The Express Tribune". The Express Tribune. Retrieved 25 April 2016.
  24. ^ "Call for implementation of pro-women laws - Pakistan Gender News". Pakistan Gender News. Retrieved 25 April 2016.
  25. ^ "Violence, death stalk child domestic help". Retrieved 25 April 2016.
  26. ^ "PAKISTAN: Violence, Death Stalk Child Domestic Help | Inter Press Service". Retrieved 25 April 2016.
  27. ^ "The unending plight of child domestic workers in Pakistan - Exploitation, abuse, torture, rape and murder" (PDF). THE INSTITUTE FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE. The Child Rights Movement (CRM) Punjab, the Institute for Social Justice (ISJ), Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child and Pakistan Institute of Labour Education & Research (PILER). THE INSTITUTE FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE. Retrieved 25 April 2016.CS1 maint: others (link)
  28. ^ Report, Bureau (15 December 2011). "Documentary depicts a child's dream". Retrieved 25 April 2016.
  29. ^ "Shatter dreams: Robbing childhoods and calling it charity - The Express Tribune". The Express Tribune. Retrieved 25 April 2016.
  30. ^ "Violence, death stalk child domestic help". Retrieved 18 May 2016.
  31. ^ "Samar Minallah premiers `The Dark Side of Migration`". 9 October 2009. Retrieved 25 April 2016.
  32. ^ "Swara: The Price of Honour". Khyber.ORG. Retrieved 26 April 2016.
  33. ^ Intikhab Amir. "Documentaries make social change happen". Retrieved 24 November 2014.
  34. ^ [1] Archived 25 October 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  35. ^ Declan Walsh. "15 child brides used to settle Pakistan feud". the Guardian. Retrieved 24 November 2014.
  36. ^ Retrieved 27 July 2013. Missing or empty |title= (help)[dead link]
  37. ^ "Enslaved by tradition". IRIN. Retrieved 25 April 2016.
  38. ^ "Anthropological activism in Pakistan with lullabies". Retrieved 25 April 2016.
  39. ^ "Documentary depicts tortuous life of Swara victim". 19 August 2003. Retrieved 25 April 2016.
  40. ^ "Steps ordered against anti-women jirgas". Retrieved 24 November 2014.
  41. ^ "Documentary screening: There is a way out of forced marriages says activist". Retrieved 24 November 2014.
  42. ^ "Touching film on Bajaur homeless screened". Retrieved 24 November 2014.

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