Finding success in the face of tragedy with Fatima Bhutto

How openly would you be willing to speak about anxiety? Although it may not seem like it, everyone suffers from this at some point in their life but, for some reason, it is something that has not been spoken about enough. At Glamour’s empowerment series talk Fatima Bhutto said: “Everybody has it but when you’re suffering from anxiety you feel that you’re the only person who can’t do things.” She shed a light on this by relaying her own issues with anxiety and the ways to overcome them.

Photo Credits: Caroline Issa

Photo Credits: Caroline Issa

Bhutto was in conversation with Glamour’s editor Deborah Joseph at the Empowerment Talk Series where Hankies supplied a substantial banquet of tapas-style Indian from paneer skewers to lentil dumplings. Bhutto spoke to us about how she moved away from a place she felt at home to a place where “terrorism drills” were the norm and how her life took a tumultuous turn after the death of her father. 

Bhutto is an inspiring author, writer and speaker who has recently published her fifth book entitled The Runaways, which, through fiction, provides an insight into the lives of three young Muslims who were radicalised by different motivations including love, fear, humiliation and power. In her novel, she expresses her views on how and why society should empathise and understand radicalisation rather than trying to condemn terrorists. Her liberal views are the product of her turbulent life. 

Born in Kabul, Afghanistan during the nine-year period in which the county was being invaded by the Soviets, Bhutto moved to Syria at the age of three after her father, Murtaza Bhutto, a Pakistani politician, was exiled. “I grew up thinking I was Syrian,” she said, as she explained how growing up in Syria was a safe, quiet place to grow up. However, the peace and quiet soon came to an end when her father successfully contested the elections to the Sindh Provincial Assembly and moved them both back to Pakistan. Her father followed in his father’s footsteps and founded the Pakistan People Party in 1995, a socialist and anti-imperialist party that is still represented today in provincial assemblies. He was arrested for terrorism by order of his sister, then Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in 1993 and three years after his release he was shot dead in a police encounter; an account told by Fatima in her book Songs of Blood and Sword, where she opens our eyes to the brutal and corrupt world of Pakistani Power politics. 

Bhutto was very close to her father, and because of him she grew up to be the strong, empowering and inspirational figure she is today. Although M. Bhutto lived a life of political instability, she said he “made everything bearable even when things got scary and frightening”. He taught her to be strong in the face of the difficult, oppressed lives women lead in Muslim countries. However Bhutto raised an interesting point, that even though Pakistan is considered to be one of the most oppressive Muslim countries in the eyes of women, it was also one of the few to have had a woman as head of state: Benazir Bhutto, Bhutto’s aunt. 

Photo Credits: Caroline Issa

Photo Credits: Caroline Issa

Bhutto’s father was gunned down when she was only fourteen years old, but she got through it thanks to the “surge of adrenaline” that kept her from crashing and motivated her to complete her studies and get on with her life. It was only when she settled into New York that she began to suffer from anxiety. After months of trying to overcome this fear, Bhutto discloses that the way to get over it is to listen to your body and learn to cope with it, because, she said: “What if one day you just accept it, you can let it happen...then it will just stop.” These encouraging words should serve as a lesson to every woman who is currently suffering or has suffered from fear and anxiety. She said: “Observe fear, start to understand triggers,” and you will feel strong and empowered, because after all, what we can learn from Fatima Bhutto is that the way to empowerment is finding success in the face of tragedy.