Hundreds of protesters have held a demonstration outside the United Nations headquarters in New York City to express outrage against the killings of Shia Muslims in Pakistan, Press TVreports.
On Friday, demonstrators carried pictures of their deceased loved ones – some of whom were doctors and clergymen – and placards bearing slogans reading, “Stop the violence. We are people of peace” and “Pakistani Shia have the right to live.”
The Ten Thousand Souls March on Friday had been endorsed by over a hundred academics, scholars and Muslim organizations. Protesters said they must get the word out about the “genocide” in Pakistan.
“Tens (of) thousands Shia Muslims have been massacred. They have been targeted. They have been involved in attacks by the Taliban. They have been targeted in their offices, in their clinics, in their hospitals, at their homes,” said Wijah Rizvi, a protest organizer.
“This has to stop. It cannot continue. It is inhumane.”
Protest organizers also stated that they are looking for signatures on petitions, which will be handed over to Permanent Pakistani Representative to the UN Masood Khan to demand direct action from Islamabad.
“Hopefully, the Pakistani government will hear us. We have not got the response that we should have. That is why all of us have gathered… to protest,” a female protester said.
“We are hoping to get as many signatures as we can. We want the awareness to be out. We want people to know what we are out for,” said another demonstrator.
According to Human Rights Watch, the Pakistani government has failed to stop violence against Shias, who account for around 20 percent of the 167-million-strong population of the country.
“If we can encourage people who are interested in peace to stand up, and actively give their voice to a peaceful, civil and respectful society, then hopefully the table can turn, and those who are interested in sectarian tensions and violence will not be able to achieve their objectives,” said a clergyman attending the demonstration.
The pro-Taliban militants have been involved in a violent campaign against Shia Muslims in Pakistan over the past years.
Shias living in Kurram tribal region have been facing a humanitarian crisis since November 2007, when the pro-Taliban groups cut off the area from the rest of the country.
Local sources say hundreds of Shia Muslims have been killed in the region since the start of the campaign.
Several Shia religious gatherings have also been targeted in different parts of the country over the past few months.