The single most visibly distinguishing factor which identifies the Baloch nation is the Balochi Gud or female attire. At its best, it is a work of sheer wonderment to behold, unique in the world in its design.
The Baloch woman will gather several rolls of coloured thread and a base pattern in her mind's eye and then does she begin to weave with meticulous care the Balochi dress. She does so piece by piece, every segment, be it the 'asting' or 'guamtam' requiring a slight alteration in technique to adjust for its place on the dress albeit with the same coloured threads for that specific 'gud'. Attention to detail which can cause severe straining of the eyes over a prolonged period of time eventually gives rise to what are often simply described as masterpieces of artwork. It is the trade in the Balochi dress that has kept afloat many a Baloch family through difficult financial times and made the Baloch woman the backbone of the economic life of many families across Balochistan.
One need only look at the exquisite designs to acquire a hint of the sheer creative potential of the Baloch woman, a creativity which has thrived with the passage of time. But there is something which sets the Balochi dress apart from other attire and which not only puts it in league with all the best clothes designers in the world but perhaps surpasses them somewhat, for although many a dress is a unique design made by hand, something of the heart and well wishes of the Baloch woman has entered the very fabric and is inherited.
The best of dresses is not made simply of thread and canvass but something far more substantial which lies at the heart of the identity of the Baloch woman. It takes patience, perseverance, foresight, spontaneity and imagination to achieve the final outcome and of course a great many heartfelt prayers. These are now the very skills that Baloch female activists are being called upon to practise in a different setting, the struggle for freedom and the return of their loved ones for whom they now demonstrate on a daily basis across Balochistan, at great risk to life and limb.
Let the occupying forces be foretold that the Baloch women shall not stand idly by and witness the slaughter of kin and kith. Be it the Balochi 'gud' or Balochistan, she will employ all the above attributes, alter her technique and weave more deftly a greater vision. One cast upon a larger canvass and with many more colours, the base pattern of which will be a Free Balochistan, where equality shall be prescribed for all her children, men and women alike.
The full creative potential of the Baloch women if contributed to every level of Baloch societal life would no doubt prove invaluable in an independent Balochistan. For a Baloch woman does not only weave the Balochi dress into being but the very Baloch nation and the Baloch man is also ultimately an offspring of that creative endeavour.
It is tragic however that right now all over Balochistan, in the midst of so many violations of human rights, many a Baloch mother, wife, daughter and sister is also weaving bitter tears unto that canvass and thread, tears of longing for justice, equality and freedom which are the birth right of every human being.
The great guiding vision of a United and Free Balochistan for which so many of our brethren are being daily martyred by the Pakistani and Iranian regimes has at the centre of its struggle now - the Baloch woman whom lies at the very heart of the Baloch identity.
We cannot forget, we shall not forget our sisters, numbering almost 300 in Eastern Balochistan alone, who lie languishing in the prison cells of the occupying forces. We shall continue to weave this greater vision and we shall struggle until victory has been achieved.
The writer is the UK Representative of the World Baloch Women's Forum – Negar Hossein Bor