News Analysis |
Pakistan’s first and only recipient of the prestigious Oscar Award, Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy has finally spoken up on the crisis that followed the rustication of her sister’s doctor from the Agha Khan University Hospital (AKUH). Chinnoy, 38, took to Twitter to give her belated version on Tuesday. She said: “The conversation has unfortunately steered far from the safety of women, unchecked unethical practices, and harassment.”
Chinnoy, however, admittedly conceded that her words were not appropriate and were uttered in the spur of the moment. “Some of the words I used have disappointed people and I agree they were poorly chosen in a time of heated emotion,” her statement that was attached to the tweet which read.
On tweeting, doctor-patient privilege, women and harassment pic.twitter.com/2HoCK36wjb
— Sharmeen Obaid (@sharmeenochinoy) October 31, 2017
Why term “harrassment” was not believed?
Chinnoy is being berated left, right and center for using her stardom for throwing out the doctor on what many assert are frivolous charges of harassment through sending her sister a “friend’s request”, on Facebook. Critics who heavily outnumber the sympathizers assert that though one can deem a doctor sending a friend request to a patient as a unethical, and unprofessional, it cannot and does not constitute harassment that merits dismissing someone. “Harassment” most people understand is something that keeps on happening, is repeated, does not stop despite being protested and has a certain intention or mentality behind it – defined as “mens rea” in law.
They point out that Facebook provides several options to users for keeping their privacy, and if Sharmeen’s sister – Hadeel Obaid Rangoonwalla – had kept her “Friends Request” open to all, then she cannot object to any one sending her “Friend’s Request”
Detractors were miffed with her two previous tweets. One of those tweets seemingly gave the impression that the award-winning filmmaker used her celebrity status to “teach someone a lesson”. She had tweeted last Monday: “Unfortunately, the doctor messed with the wrong women in the wrong family and I will definitely report him! Harassment has 2 stop!”
— Sharmeen Obaid (@sharmeenochinoy) October 23, 2017
she could have complained directly to the hospital but instead she used hashtag #Pakistan, in order to fit herself in the ongoing “Me too Campaign” running globally after the recent “Weinstein Affair”.
Was Sharmeen looking for an International controversy?
Civil society was thus infuriated with the unjust exercise of her power. Sharmeen has now, in her latest tweet, tried explaining that her above mentioned tweet meant that she and her family were different and would not stay quiet on “harassment”. But most people, familiar with the conventions of Facebook, reject her definition of “harassment”. They point out that Facebook provides several options to users for keeping their privacy, and if Sharmeen’s sister – Hadeel Obaid Rangoonwalla – had kept her “Friends Request” open to all, then she cannot object to any one sending her “Friend’s Request”. GVS has found that apparently now Ms. Hadeel has taken off the “Friend’s Request” for strangers.
Many of her critics think that Sharmeen had deliberately tried creating an international controversy around Pakistan. They point out that she could have complained directly to the hospital but instead she used hashtag #Pakistan, in order to fit herself in the ongoing “Me too Campaign” running globally after the recent “Weinstein Affair”.
Many notable figures of society, including journalists, politicians, and actors from media industry expressed their solidarity with the victimized doctor.
Prominent TV Anchor, Moeed Pirzada, who often retweets Sharmeen’s tweets and her news was visibly upset by her attitude.
Sharmeen using influence to get a doctor fired from Agha Khan Hospital, for FB friendship Request to sister, is an over-reaction, Not Fair
— Moeed Pirzada (@MoeedNj) October 27, 2017
Iman Mazari, the daughter of the popular politician Shireen Mazari from Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, said Chinoy has made the mockery of the real and terrible harassment women face every day.
Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy got a doctor sacked for sending a friend request. While unprofessional, that is NOT harassment. Lets be clear.
— Imaan Mazari-Hazir (@ImaanZHazir) October 27, 2017
Hamza Ali Abbasi, a television actor but also a proactive member of PTI advised Sharmeen to rethink her definition of “harassment”.
Sharmeen Obaid ppl look upto U, lets realize wht sexual harassment really means be4 getting a doc fired by a public fiasco for a fb request https://t.co/RUhNZvypck
— Hamza Ali Abbasi (@iamhamzaabbasi) October 27, 2017
In her Twitter post, Chinnoy clarified about that tweet. “My tweet about the wrong women in the wrong family was not meant to suggest a sense of privilege or power, what I meant to say was that the women in my family are strong and stand up for themselves and always have.”
Why Sharmeen complained for her sister?
This answer has given rise to more questions. Chinoy’s claim that women in her family stand for themselves is apparently in contrast to what actually panned out. Nothing seems to suggest that Hadeel Obaid Rangoonwalla, the victim of the alleged harassment, stood for herself.
If it was all about Hadeel feeling “harassed” by doctor’s “Friend’s Request” on Facebook then Hadeel should have herself complained quietly to the hospital like any other citizen, in any other part of the world and Hospital would have acted the way it should have with an internal show cause. There would have been no national debate.
Most, despite this huge national debate still don’t even know her name. If anything, critics say that isn’t it strange that in a family that asserts and lectures on feminist values has behaved like a typical patriarchal family, where elder powerful sister, a member of the global elite club, Sharmeen Chinoy has batted for Hadeel – who is herself an adult.
But feminists and western media – with whom Sharmeen identifies – have always condemned the patriarchal society for fathers and husbands speaking or making decisions for women. But how is Sharmeen making a fuss for her sister – who remains silent – any different? If it was all about Hadeel feeling “harassed” by doctor’s “Friend’s Request” on Facebook then Hadeel should have herself complained to the hospital like any other citizen, in any other part of the world and Hospital would have acted the way it should have with an internal show cause. There would have been no national debate.
Critics are pointing out to a conspicuous discrepancy, a ridiculous situation: Sharmeen is complaining of a breach of sacrosanct trust, of privacy of her sister, by telling it to the whole world.
This is exactly what didn’t happen. Sharmeen Obaid took to Twitter and turned it into a national debate which fitted in well with the ongoing international debate over the scandalous U.S. filmmaker, Harvey Weinstein. Critics are pointing out to a conspicuous discrepancy, a ridiculous situation: Sharmeen is complaining of a breach of sacrosanct trust, of privacy of her sister, by telling it to the whole world.
“But Sharmeen saw an opportunity for an international debate” critics believe and “sexual harassment” was a convenient ploy, an excuse for her own publicity – to connect with the ongoing debate, “Weinstein Affair” world wide.
The second tweet which drew a great deal of ire from the Twitteratti saw Sharmeen extrapolate the matter saying that “there are zero boundaries in Pakistan.”
Read more: ‘Saawan’ is a message of hope from Pakistan
Sharmeen’s clarification lead to more questions?
Chinoy’s clarifications leave many unanswered questions. The recipient of the coveted Oscar Award is sticking to her claim that “Friends Request” on Facebook was harassment. She also asserts that AKUH suspended the doctor and investigation, is pending but GVS has spoken to sources inside the Hospital who on condition of strictest confidentiality told GVS that Doctor’s contract was terminated summarily, without a proper show cause. He, a senior Medical Officer, was from a village in Sindh and has gone there.
Doctor who sent her the “Friends Request” did not have any such complaints before – quiet contrary to what Sharmeen’s supporters had claimed on social media; painting him as a creepy sleazy character. The only time, in his one year plus stay at the hospital, he ever faced questions was about a drug prescription, by a House Officer-under his supervision
There is a tremendous climate of fear inside the Hospital, amongst doctors and nurses, and they think that Sharmeen has the support of powerful interests – from amongst the donor community – which support Hospital. Doctors have told GVS that Hospital has never notified or trained doctors that sending “Facebook Friends Request” will be considered unethical. Doctors in general have little interest in their patients; Hadeel was perceived as a celebrity and perhaps a cricketer as well – thus sparking a curiosity amongst doctors and nurses to visit her facebook page.
Doctor had complaints before?
Doctor who sent her the “Friends Request” did not have any such complaints before – quiet contrary to what Sharmeen’s supporters had claimed on social media; painting him as a creepy sleazy character. The only time, in his one year plus stay at the hospital, he ever faced questions was about a drug prescription, by a House Officer. While doctors are upset about the management’s abrupt decision making, regarding a collegue, they are afraid. Salaries, working atmosphere and prestige at AKMU Hospital are better than most other hospitals in Karachi and no one wants to lose his or her job – by taking the risk of talking to media on record.
The most pressing questions that are yet to be answered pertains to whether a “facebook request” fits in the definition of harassment? Does a single act, without any insistence or repetition, which has no intention to hurt can be considered “harassment”? Cyber Experts, police officers and lawyers are clear that this is not by any stretch of imagination. They point out that Sharmeen’s claim and the argument of all those who support her that “woman should not stay quiet” and “woman should speak up” is on very weak ground in this case.
This was a poor doctor seeing a very rich patient from a very powerful family; he was not accused of “improper touching” or misbehaving, Sharmeen’s sister – Hadeel – had no reason to fear him, if she was later upset on his “Facebook Friends Request” then she could have complained to the hospital. Doctor was always in a weak situation; Sharmeen never needed to turn that into a national debate to enlist support of society against a poor and weak doctor from a small town in Sindh. Hospital would have disciplined him anyway on a simple complaint. Hollywood debate of young actresses, needing role in movies, remaining silent on abuse by powerful film producers and directors like Harvey Weinstein cannot be applied here to powerful Ms. Hadeel, sister of Sharmeen. Perhaps the winner of two Oscars failed to see her “logical fallacy”
when in Jan 2017, children of a patient, who died suddenly in ER after an injection, protested, Hospital had dealt strongly with them
Facebook is a new entrant into the social interaction possibilities and medical community has not factored it into their guidelines. this violation of the “Doctor-Patient Privilege” as Chinnoy puts it was so serious that it merited a doctor’s immediate sacking? Would Agha Khan Hospital reacted in the same fashion if Hadeel Obaid Rangoonwalla was not Sharmeen’s sister? (most doctors in the Hospital doubt that very much; they point out that when in Jan 2017, children of a patient, who died suddenly in ER after an injection, protested, Hospital had dealt strongly with them) Why Sharmeen had to make it into a national debate? There is much evidence to suggest that her actions of using #Pakistan were deliberate and calculated. Many such questions will continue to shape this debate for next several days and weeks.
Note: News Analysis was updated in view of the fresh inside information available from doctors and staff in the Agha Khan Hospital.