Humanists UK issues urgent call to drop charges against Pakistani human rights activist Gulalai Ismail

Humanists UK has joined other humanist groups around the world in calling for domestic and international support in urging Pakistani authorities to drop charges against human rights activist and Humanists International board member Gulalai Ismail who has been charged with ‘sedition’ under terrorism laws in Pakistan.

Gulalai has been supporting justice for an 11-year-old Pakistani girl who was raped and murdered in horrifying conditions. Gulalai was charged with 'sedition' after attending protests calling for justice for the girl and is now facing arrest. The charges against Gulalai have been covered in The Independent.

Gulalai, who is currently in hiding, is a board member of Humanists International and has attended many events hosted by Humanists UK. She is featured in Humanists UK’s recently launched online course on humanism where she was interviewed sharing her story as part of the section on ‘Humanist Lives’ from around the world.

Last year Gulalai was arrested in Pakistan upon her return from London in which she spoke at Humanists UK’s Conservative Party Conference event. At that time she met with Humanists UK staff and the All-Party Parliamentary Humanist Group (APPHG) Chair Crispin Blunt MP. Humanists UK provides the secretariat for the group. She was subsequently released, but is now at risk again.

Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson said: ‘Gulalai is a fierce and brave human rights activist who has worked for the empowerment and protection of girls and others at risk in Pakistan. We have grave concerns about her welfare considering the seriousness of these charges. In the past we have worked with the British High Commissioner in Pakistan and the Foreign Office to alert them to the risks she faces in Pakistan as a human rights defender.

‘In light of these new charges, we are working with APPHG Chair Crispin Blunt MP to raise her case to the authorities. We are also urging the UK Government to intervene urgently to ensure her safety and to ensure the charges against her are dropped.’


For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK press manager Casey-Ann Seaniger at or phone 020 7324 3078.

Read our previous news item on Gulalai here:

Read Humanists International's statement on the recent charges against Gulalai:

Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by over 85,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.

More about Gulalai:

Gulalai Ismail is an award-winning Pakistani human rights defender. She is the co-founder and chairperson of Aware Girls, an organization which works to empower and educate women and girls on rights and leadership in Pakistan, and chair of the Seeds of Peace network. She regularly speaks at home and abroad on peace-building in Pakistan and women’s empowerment.

Aware Girls aims to challenge the culture of violence and oppression of women in the rural Khyber Pakhtunkhwa area (north-west Pakistan). The Seeds of Peace network, founded in 2010, trains young people in human rights and political leadership, encouraging the participation of women in politics in Pakistan, and encouraging tolerance between religions and beliefs.

Gulalai is a recipient of the Fondation Chirac Peace Prize, and won the International Humanist of the Year Award 2014. She has also been awarded the Democracy Award from the National Endowment for Democracy, the Commonwealth Youth Award for Excellence in Democracy, and the Anna Politkovskaya Award.

In August 2017, she was elected by member organisations from around the world to the Board of the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU). She has previously been on the Executive Committee of the International Humanist and Ethical Youth Organisation, and a Board Member of the Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights. She also works for the Gender Working Group of the United Network of Young Peacebuilders, and is a member of the Asian Democracy Network.