Dear Humans Of Pakistan, don’t make up fake stories, please!

One week after Humans Of New York (HONY) completed their series on Pakistan, Humans Of Pakistan (HOP) published a photograph of a woman named Sarah* sitting with her two young boys.

As per Sarah’s narrative, her husband had left for a job offer abroad, two years after their marriage while she was expecting her first child. He left them for five years and came to see her and the children only twice, that even on her insistence. Eventually, Sarah learnt that her husband had remarried and no longer intended to come back or financially support her or their children. Hence,she decided to stand against this injustice by filing for a divorce and finding a job for herself in order to support her children.

The aim of this post was to send a message to all the women in similar situations to stand up for their rights and not be silent in the face of physical and emotional abuse.

As expected, the story touched the hearts of the thousands of followers of the page and many applauded her strength. I personally also salute this lady for her courage  and absolutely agree with her message.

However, things took a turn when a few questions were raised on how the story and picture were irreconcilable. The story claimed that Sarah’s husband had not visited her for years but her picture showed her carrying a new born baby. Sarah’s response to these accusations was that HOP reworded her story and that the picture is old.

This was followed by Sarah’s bhabhi’s (brother’s wife/sister-in-law) friend, Sana’s post, where she questioned the irony of Sarah advocating for women’s rights when she herself was party to a similar case, the victim of which was Sarah’s sister-in-law herself. Sana went on to claim that Sarah’s brother physically abused his wife and how come Sarah didn’t take a stand against such injustice then?

One would think that this is where it ends, but were proved wrong when another character surfaced, Sarah’s ex-husband in question. He comes forward, although through someone else’s Facebook profile, and claims that the story is far from the truth as he is financially supporting both the children – something which Sarah herself admitted, but complained that the amount wasn’t sufficient. He further goes on to state that he hadn’t met her all these years because his Sarah kept nurturing unreasonable demands.

All in all, the comments became nastier every second, and created a debacle. HOP then stepped in and deleted all the negative comments and blocked some people from further commenting.

I personally contacted HOP and asked them to take down the whole post, their response to which was that whether the story is real or not, they will not take down the post as it “is as important as any other story”. I reasoned with them that they might be propagating false information, to which HOP stated that they would happily feature the story of the other side as well. Although, this is a very small social media feud, it raises a plethora of really important questions.

If the story is more important than the very humans in those stories, then why do we have issues when Ayyan Ali comes to Karachi University? Why do we have a problem when Veena Malik runs a program for redemption? Don’t social media activists or journalists need to carry out extensive research before presenting news to the public? Why is there a need to sensationalise stories and incidents? And most importantly, will HOP revise its policy and admit that they overlooked some important information or didn’t even bother to fact-check the details?

The question isn’t restricted to the woman in the photograph any more. I am really apologetic that her personal life was dissected on a public forum like this. But the question here is about the credibility of this page, along with many other such pages. Does this mean we will always need Brandon Stanton to expose the real and true accounts from Pakistan?

These pages have a huge impact on people from across the globe. They represent the true face of Pakistan and this cannot be done on the basis of forged narratives for the sake of likes, shares, comments or ratings. These pages represent humans that are real, therefore the stories have to be real, the effort has to be real, the policies need to be real and the content definitely needs to be real.

*Names have been changed to protect identities 

from The Express Tribune Blog http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/29167/dear-humans-of-pakistan-dont-make-up-fake-stories-please/

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