Sabeen Mahmud, shine on you crazy diamond

This is a loss to our generation, to our voices, to our souls.

Zainab Abdullah April 25, 2015
When we think about death we often wonder what kind of eulogy we’ll receive. We wonder how we’ll be missed, if at all. How people will remember us, and if we’ve left anything behind that will survive our existence. We hope that we appreciated our friends and family, impacted the world through our work, and inspired someone in some way.

Sabeen Mahmud’s work and impact pays the greatest tribute to her beautiful and indomitable spirit. I don’t want to list her many, many accomplishments but instead echo a message I believe she passionately championed.

The times we live in have a profound and direct impact on the intellectual growth of each citizen. We have a unique responsibility in how we nurture our future generations, and as our responsibility it is our job to provide an enlightened and compassionate vision, one that hasn’t been damped by our own predispositions and misgivings. Pakistan is turbulent and hostile – and generations who have seen Pakistan through her worst atrocities and failings view civil liberties like freedom of speech, expression, debate and unabashed conversation as petty desires not worth defying authority that often endangers our survival.

And while it is the responsibility of the state to give voice to the voiceless and vulnerable, when the state fails, there are the lone rangers who shelter the voice of the voiceless. They reject a troubling choice – safety versus civil liberty. Sabeen Mahmud embodied courage, bravery, and faced this very dilemma. Should we speak even when it’s forbidding and dangerous? The answer is always yes. Sabeen Mahmud reminded us that these rights and liberties are the beacons of progress and liberation. She created a space needed for future generations to breathe fresh air uninhibited by fear or oppression.

As has been written into stone,
“Liberty will not descend to a people. A people must raise themselves to liberty. It is a blessing that must be earned before it can be enjoyed”.

We must speak up, fight for every liberty we rightfully deserve, because it is not without a fight that we can either triumph or concede. We are often fearful and scared of death – unfortunately the times we live in only present such a choice. Sabeen chose not to be silenced. She chose to fight. She not only spoke out herself but also provided a space for people to raise their voices. Sabeen was a humble but fearless soul - cherished and loved by all, her impact has been boundless and continues to grow. Through the years she lived, she fought and supported many movements and visionaries and brought them all together – forming a voice that could’ve been abandoned or silenced by tyranny. Her tragic and unjust death continues to fuel the youth she carefully and generously mentored.

I know that Sabeen loved Pink Floyd, and in fitting prose I’ll quote a line from a song in her memory:
“You reached for the secret too soon, you cried for the moon.

Shine on you crazy diamond.

Threatened by shadows at night, and exposed in the light.

Shine on you crazy diamond.”

This is a loss to our generation, to our voices, to our souls. I am shocked but once again reminded of the times we live in, and the fight we must stand up and join. Thank you, Sabeen, for your tireless optimism and for inspiring each and every one of us. You are a true hero. May you forever rest in peace.

To Sabeen’s friends, family and comrades I offer my deepest and heartfelt condolences.
Zainab Abdullah An attorney working and living in San Francisco, and graduate of Harvard law school. She tweets as @AbdullahZainab (
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


Neutral | 9 years ago | Reply Goes on to show how talking about the right of minorities is punishable in Punjab-istan. Extremely saddening and heartbreaking.May her soul rest in peace
Samir | 9 years ago | Reply Hamid Mir survived an attack but she was not lucky enough ...everybody knows who did it ..bullets came from Pakistan taxpayers money cant say othewise comment would be removed !
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