Women’s rights activist Gululai Ismail is one of Pakistan’s most prominent human rights defenders and critics of the Pakistani security services. Authorities in Pakistan have falsely accused her of a litany of serious offenses including sedition, financing terrorism and defaming state institutions as a result of her advocacy for a grassroots Pashtun rights movement.
Ismail was forced to go on the run in 2019, managing to escape to the U.S. despite significant efforts to capture her. Pakistani security services have since targeted Ismail’s parents, recently throwing her 65-year-old father into jail on charges of sedition and terrorism financing, which human rights defenders say are bogus and thinly-veiled revenge against the family for embarrassing the state security services.
Ismail is well-known in the global human rights community for spotlighting the rampant abuse of women and girls in Pakistan, especially gang rapes perpetrated by government soldiers. She is the founder of a leading organization called Aware Girls, which focuses on women’s empowerment, peace-building and countering violent extremism.
Ismail has over 13 years of experience in human rights and peace work. Her work has been focused on drafting policies and implementing projects on the empowerment of young women, young women’s human rights issues, legal advocacy, gender-based violence, girls’ education, countering violent extremism, peace-building, governance, organizational strengthening, and setting up helplines to help vulnerable women across the region.