The progressive activist and organizer who ran Pakistan's first-ever hackathon and led a human rights and a peace-focused nonprofit known as The Second Floor (T2F) was shot dead today by unidentified gunmen in Karachi.
Sabeen Mahmud was leaving the T2F offices with her mother some time after 9pm on Friday evening, reports the Pakistani newspaper Dawn. She was on her way home when she was shot, the paper reports.
This is the last photograph on her Instagram, a snapshot from a meetup about human rights tweeted just two hours ago, right before her murder.
She died on her way to the hospital. Doctors said they retrieved five bullets from her body, which has now been shifted Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre. Her mother also sustained bullet wounds and is currently being treated at a hospital; she is said to be in critical condition.
T2F had on Friday organised a talk on Balochistan: 'Unsilencing Balochistan Take 2: In Conversation with Mama Qadeer, Farzana Baloch & Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur.' Sabeen had left T2F after attending the session, when she was targeted.
T2F, described as a community space for open dialogue, was Sabeen's brainchild. In an interview with Aurora, she referred to it as "an inclusive space where different kinds of people can be comfortable."
Conceived as a bookstore and café patterned after the old coffeehouse culture of Lahore and Karachi, The Second Floor — or T2F, as everyone calls it — says on its website that it was born out of a desire to enact transformational change in urban Pakistani society.
The "about" page on T2F's website:
Coffeehouse tradition is all about sparking conversations and we are passionate about providing a platform for people to engage with each other. A community space for open dialogue, T2F features a café and bookshop and hosts poetry readings, meetups with writers, talks, debates, theatre performances, film screenings, open mic nights, jam sessions, and standup comedy.
T2F, formerly known as The Second Floor, because it was housed on the second floor of a nondescript office building, is PeaceNiche's flagship initiative. A social entrepreneurship project that blends the best of business practice with the non-profit urge to make meaning, T2F is committed to social change through the liberal arts, creative expression, and open dialogue.
Since its inception in May 2007, T2F has hosted hundreds of events, ranging from poetry readings and film screenings, to vibrant debates on critical issues. With the support and participation of musicians, artists, writers, film makers, scientists, comedians, thought leaders, and engaged audiences, T2F has contributed to revitalizing Karachi's cultural landscape and has provided an alternative, independent, safe space for discourse.
Sabeen's Instagram bio described herself as a "Post Modern Flower Child, Unabashed Mac Snob, Pink Floyd Devotee, Tetris Addict, West Wing Fanatic, [who] Will Die for Hugh Laurie."
Judging from the many snapshots she posted to social media, she loved her mom, her cat, '80s music, technology, and peace and justice. She was one of us.
Some of her Instagram images follow, below.