welcome to the home of Iman Sultan

IMAN SULTAN is a Pakistani-American writer and journalist, dividing her time between Philadelphia and Karachi. Her writing and reporting interests include protest, community, politics, and culture.



Dawn January 21, 2017

Fifteen-year-old Sophia Qureshi may be too young to vote, but she is already more politically active than many adults. The Democrat party supporter interned for the Hillary Clinton campaign. In the run-up to the US elections, she proudly displayed a large Clinton sign in the window of her West Chester, Pennsylvania home. Living in a majority white neighbourhood, surrounded by Trump signs and many Trump supporters, her poster stood out.

One night, she woke up to her parents calling the police to report a break-in. She went back to her room and switched on the lights only to see glass shards everywhere; the window had apparently been broken.

Pennsylvania State Troopers ruled the incident was “criminal mischief”, but Qureshi does not buy the explanation.

“I know how tense the election climate was, and people often resort to things that are not exactly well thought-out,” she tells Dawn. “I do not think it was somebody throwing a rock just for the heck of it.”

Read full story here.


Kajal July 30, 2017

I won’t lie. When I first saw Qandeel Baloch’s life was being adapted into a biopic, I felt apprehension in my gut. My reaction was instant. Qandeel Baloch died in 2016 at the age of 26 years old. She died last summer while I was working in Dawn’s office, just a couple days after Dawn Images interviewed her about girl power, and I spoke to a coworker about Qandeel and feminism. Qandeel’s death felt sudden, visceral, and real. And that was exactly why I now felt aghast at the prospect of her life being adapted into a biopic, not even a year after her death.

That’s not to say biopics shouldn’t be made about people who are dead, or even those who are alive, to preserve their legacy respectfully. Nothing is sacred in the realm of the art world, where everything deserves to be portrayed, contemplated, and understood. As a writer, I understand the importance of positive representation onscreen. But I am also interested in ethics and impact. While the efforts of the film, Baaghi, appear to be sincere, it’s way too soon for Qandeel’s life and death to appear onscreen when we’re still in the dark about what exactly happened.

There has been journalistic investigation into who Qandeel was, and how she died. Sanam Maher’s biography on Qandeel is slated to come out this year. Maher, a longtime Karachi-based journalist, has done research and reporting from Multan and Qandeel’s hometown of Dera Ghazi Khan and spoken both to authorities and people who were close to Qandeel.

Read the full story here.


Media Diversified April 2017

I don’t normally get moved by music videos, but Swet Shop Boys’ internet-released video, “Aaja”, a track off their Cashmere album, released late last year, felt like salvation

A tribute to Pakistani social media star Qandeel Baloch, who was murdered last summer, and whose very death made her an icon, the video made waves on the internet. It was followed by Riz Ahmed’s timely speech to UK Parliament on why representation of minorities in media is important, and how seeing oneself in the looking glass can prevent the radicalisation of young Muslims. It echoes what Junot Diaz said eight years ago: “[I]f you want to make a human being into a monster, deny them, at the cultural level, any reflection of themselves.”

Growing up as a second-generation Pakistani in America, I was ridden with doubts, questions, and fears throughout the roughest of my adolescent years. There were no cultural mirrors for me to see myself, and the endless trajectories my life could take. I’d grown up during the heydey of Pakistani pop rock but in the 2000s the music I’d chosen to identify with during my childhood suffered a strange stagnating decline, alive only in the manually-downloaded mp3 files on my iPod. Artists like Vital Signs, the Sufi rock group Junoon, and Hadiqa Kiani—all fell to the wayside.

The brown cultural behemoth of Bollywood, too, became increasingly commercialised and sexualised in a way that retained the trademark corniness but renounced the starry-eyed sentiment which made flicks like Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham, Kal Ho Na Ho, and Dil Chahta Hai so great.

Then a few weeks ago, now long resigned to this state of affairs, I watched Swet Shop Boys’ “Aaja” and it felt like salvation. It wasn’t just the relief of looking through the mirror and finding my own reflection staring back at me, confirming my existence, it was the re-opening of all the possibilities of what desis can be and could be. The video’s depiction of regular life in diaspora is not a loaded political statement, and it’s not an aesthetic polemic of representation either. Its power comes from showing a mundane reality in full technicolour. I might have seen and lived the scenes since I was born but I’ve never seen our lives refracted through this medium before.

Read full story here.

US Elections: Pakistani-Americans have picked a side

The Express Tribune November 2016

Amara Chaudhry Kravitz was born and raised in the United States. Coming from a Pakistani-American family from Lahore, Kravitz, a civil rights attorney, spent all 40 years of her life in the US. Today, she says she has considered leaving the only country she has ever known because of the political rhetoric against Muslims in the presidential election.

“As a person living in the United States, I was looking for jobs overseas,” Kravitz says. “I was credibly considering relocating only to keep my family safe.” Kravitz is just one of many Pakistani-Americans who has struggled with the presidential election and its effects on the community. Donald Trump’s proposal to ban Muslims and immigrants from coming to the US has alienated the Pakistani-American community, who in their fear and distaste for Trump support Hillary Clinton, usually as “the lesser evil”.

“I was speaking to my husband, and our eight-year-old doesn’t want us watching coverage of the election cycle at all,” Kravitz says. “If Donald Trump comes on TV, she will actually leave the room crying. Because she’s very concerned Trump is going to ban all Muslims in the country, just expel us all,” she adds.

Read full story here.

Trump’s sherwani-clad opponent is a man on a mission

The Express Tribune May 2016

Pakistani-American student Saqib Javed made headlines when he spoke out against Donald Trump. Although he didn’t have any big plans to disrupt Donald Trump’s campaign, he knew he wanted to say something to the conservative candidate running for US President whose racist remarks against Muslims and other minorities have stirred controversy since the beginning of elections. And when he heard Trump was coming to his city of Warren, Michigan, he decided to attend the rally and challenge Trump’s racist fear-mongering.

 “The original plan was to go with a couple of people,” says Javed, the 22-year-old son of Pakistani immigrants. “But the rally was early in the morning. I don’t know why they didn’t come or what really happened, but I was alone,” he says.