‘Sulli Deals’ row: ‘Auctioned’ Muslim women call out Islamophobia, sexism

The term “Sulli” is an offensive slur used against Muslim women and has made the rounds time and again in communal pogroms.

Hyderabad: “My first emotion was one of powerlessness. I wondered why these men viewed me, viewed us as an object which could be auctioned off,” said Nabiya Khan, a 25-year-old poet, and an activist.

Khan, along with countless Muslim women found their pictures on an application named “Sulli Deals” on the open-source platform Github. When an individual opens the app, a photo of any of these women is randomly generated and offers the viewer their ‘sulli deal of the day’– which is supposed to hint at the fact that these women are available to satisfy a man’s needs.

The term “Sulli” is an offensive slur used against Muslim women and has made the rounds time and again in communal pogroms.

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Abeeda, (name changed) a 22-year-old graduate from Jamia Millia Islamia said that she was unable to get over the incident. “Seeing myself there as someone’s ‘Sulli Deal of the day’ was traumatizing and humiliating. I don’t know if I will ever feel the dignity needed to put up a picture of myself on Twitter again,” she said.

When asked if she was willing to file an FIR with the police, Abeeda said that she is unsure as the “system supports men like them.”

Talking about the perpetrators, Abeeda also said that she was once added to a private group chat on Twitter named “Abeeda Sulli Sale” where she was being auctioned off. 

Other women also mentioned some Twitter handles from where they received trolling/threats but were unwilling to officially comment on the same. But the one thing they all agree on is that they are fairly certain as to where the hate was coming from.

Abeeda’s photo was uploaded because she regularly tweeted about hate crimes that affect Muslims. Nabiya Khan’s story isn’t any different either. As Khan herself remarked, “Men, in general, are threatened by powerful women. A confident Muslim woman, however, is the highest threat for right-wing Hindu men and when faced with this ‘threat’, they will resort to any form of sexual violence, even if it is vocal sexual violence,” she added.

Adding weight to Nabiya’s argument, Hana Khan, a commercial pilot at an Indian airline expressed her rage.

“The amusing part of this is that I rarely write about politics on social media. This wasn’t a political attack. The only thing which seems to bother the perpetrators is that I am a successful Muslim woman,” she said.

Hana Khan has filed an FIR with the police and is ready to take action. “I was briefly worried at the thought of my photographs being morphed onto a nude body. But I realized that either way they are going to continue being abusive, so I might as well deal with it and hold on to my dignity.”

Hana Khan has spoken to the police at Noida and the Delhi cyber crime cell is currently working on getting a hold of the perpetrators.

Anas Tanwir, a lawyer, and his sister have been aiding the women by correcting the language of the FIR to ensure the lack of discrepancies. He also sent a notice to Twitter yesterday altering them about the hate crime and asking for the situation to be dealt with accordingly.

“This is not the first time this has happened and the attempt is to try to nip hate crimes of this kind,” he said, “Pakistani Muslim women were auctioned off by Indian right-wing trolls on social media during Eid in the month of May.” 

Tanwir told siasat.com that legal action for a crime of this nature would be to look at Sections 509, 509 A of the Indian Penal Code alongside Sections 66 and 67 enshrined in the IT Act. However, when asked about the same, none of the women were willing to comment on taking legal action.

As things stand, the Delhi Police has registered a First Information Report, but no arrests have been made as of yet.

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