In the war-torn area, Tehsil Dasht, of district Kech in Balochistan’s Makran region, where other than corpses and unrest situations, the people witness an 18-year-old young girl with a bike in Bal Negwar’s (Dasht) main market at 12pm in a Sunday afternoon. She takes groceries for home, ties them at the back of her bike and leaves for her home at Kaleero village, some ten minutes distance from Bal market. People of the town look at her deeply because she is observed breaking taboos with the ‘induced’ customs and putting efforts to mirror the original Baloch society it was back in the past before the British imperialism.
Amber Baloch (18) opened her eyes in the home of Baig Mohammad in a less-populated village of Kaleero at Dasht in 2004 where human rights crisis turned into its ugliest form after 2013. The wave of repression and revolt prevailed across the province, especially in Dasht. It made the lives of the people miserable. It was extremely difficult for Amber Baig Muhammad to chase her dream in a conflict-hit region. But she never gave up on her goals of riding bike.
After her primary and middle school in her town in Bal Negwar, she turned to the provincial capital, Quetta, for her higher education. Currently, she is a student of first year in medical and is preparing for the medical seat at Quetta. When she was ten, her elder brother noted her interests in riding bike. He, eventually, made her learn riding bike. Her brother stood by her in difficult times not listening to the taunts of conflict hit society until she got to know her dreams are her strength. Then she became unstoppable.
In a normal Baloch society in this era, girls are often restricted to few household works while all the outside-the-home tasks are kept reserved for boys/men. Going out for girls, in certain regions of Balochistan, is deemed ‘immoral’ and ‘unethical’. “I faced no resistance from my family, in fact, they encouraged me and were very happy that I was learning riding,” Amber narrates, adding that she was also tasked to take the bike and bring every necessary thing her family needed from market or the nearby villages.
In Balochistan where things are made very controversial, if a character as Amber emerges, reactions certainly follow. When she newly took responsibilities, she was criticized and messages were sent to her family asking them to halt her from riding bike. Some others even told her at her face that she was a girl and that riding bike outside was depraved for girls. “My father refused everyone that he was not going to cease me from riding for something as they were saying,” Amber told me feeling blessed for the support her family granted her. “Even though, most of my society mates favor my riding and keep boosting me other than only few who do not know what the Baloch traditions actually are.”
“I do not know if it really disturbs the Baloch traditions, but I cannot intervene in my child’s (Amber) growth just because she is a girl,” says Amber’s father joyously. He believes in impartial behavior among his children and says will continue to remain her shoulder each time she needs him. “Time has changed. Gender no longer is an issue these days. And if along with the sons, Amber adds a helping hand in family, why would we have an issue?” he tells me looking dearly his daughter.
Zakia Baloch, a member of Baloch Women Forum (Sammo Raj), reacts on Amber’s rise and articulates that sometimes some acts educate the people. “Amber’s riding is cultivating equality in a society as ours which needs more practice to become a trend,” she says, adding that such acts, if maintained, can ensure that both the genders are seen and treated with the same eye.
No doubt, the world at large is presently dominated by patriarchy where the advent of a teen girl in a society which has impacts of religious and induced-cultures of other nations resembles a new and lively morning for the society as a whole. “Amber’s growth in such a patriarchal society is a welcoming and delightful step for the other girls of the province,” Zakia notes.
The most beautiful thing about Amber’s escalation is changing the directions on her favor as a person and as a nation. After her courageous step, two other girls of her area have learned driving cars which marks the beginning of a new trend for progress in the Baloch society. “I am happy girls are thinking to do new things,” Amber tells me with spark in her eyes.
We must admit that facing a psyche of patriarchy, despite the fact that Amber is blessed with an optimistic family, is never as easy as we may speak of. “If Amber was not brave enough, things would have been different no matter in what sort of a family Amber got birth in,” Zakia adds, considering the other factors influencing the traditional Baloch society.
On a similar note, Amber says she knew she would be ‘taunted’ by some in her society, but that fear never froze her from getting out of the ‘proclaimed’ customs which had never been of her ancestors. “Some girls of my area, when I was in the village, asked me to teach them driving and I was very happy,” Amber illustrates with both, hope and despair in her eyes, as she continues. “But then they were forbidden by their families.”
On the occasion of International Day for Girl Child on October 11, 2022, BWF (Sammo Raj) released a documentary on Amber Baloch calling her ‘an inspiration’ for the girls of Balochistan. “We selected Amber as a tribute to her courage and boldness,” Zakia says. She admits that it was not even possible for her, after all her political experiences, to take a bike and ride it in open. “But Amber, as a young girl, is showing a lot of courage, that is something so unique and bold.”
Emerging stories as Amber’s in a conflict zone like Balochistan is a sheer blessing. In circumstances where we usually get harsh things to experience, Amber renders and ignites a ray of hope among the masses by bringing smiles on the faces of the marginalised community. “Amber is our hope who we expect will do great things in future for herself, her family and nation,” her father maintains.
While, Zakia finds it their responsibility to uplift Amber so that they may get positive outcomes from her courage. Amber has some alike wishes that every girl in her society must ride and drive same as the counter gender. Amber is definitely introducing a new dawn in the Baloch society, but how we, as a nation, endorse her will be a testing time for us, Zakia concludes.