Karima Mehrab was a Balochi activist who was found dead in Lake Ontario in December 2020. She had been living in Canada as a political refugee as her life was threatened in Pakistan. Toronto Police Services ruled her death a suicide, but many people including her family members were dissatisfied with this assessment. Her death was not without precedent. Countless Balochi people within Pakistan have gone missing or been murdered by the Pakistani state and military. In April of last year, a Balochi journalist named Sajjad Hussain was found dead in a river in Sweden. The province of Balochistan is rich with natural resources, as well as a major new site for China’s imperial developments.

In the absence of any thorough investigation into her death, I turned to Twitter, which was full of accusations including blatant misinformation.  A popular conservative response across the internet was the declaration that she was murdered by the Indian intelligence agencies because she was actually an Indian agent. While this is meant to discredit her work as an activist, an incriminating YouTube video from 2016 in which she appealed to Prime Minister Modi complicated her position. Can one identify and sympathize with a so-called figure of a revolutionary, if that revolutionary is in fact a double agent and also works for fascism? I reflected on these questions through different methods of analysis, hoping that through the accumulation of my research, a latent and elusive truth would emerge.

Having moved to a new city in the midst of the pandemic, and living minutes away from another Great Lake (Lake Michigan), I spent many of the winter months grieving while looking to the lake for answers. Existing in relative isolation, I became transfixed by this event. At one point, printed stills from the YouTube video adorned an entire wall of my apartment. While the pandemic raged, I lived with the memory of someone who was dead, amongst the countless other deaths that were taking place all over the world. Within this schema, I experimented with tracking online conversations as a method of making sense of what had happened, and deliberated on how information is structured and circulated.

The deterrent to presenting this work for Desktop Archives is the knowledge that extrajudicial assassinations are not hampered by international borders, and that someone may always be watching. What I present here is framed as much by the need for opacity as the desire to share.

All images of Toronto Island are courtesy of Raphaële Frigon, who generously shared her image archives with me.

Thank you to Joshua Schwebel, Kayla Anderson, John R. Ladd, Ann Uyeda and Sinclair Shigg for thinking with me in developing this work.
Desktop Archives is an online publishing initiative and event series that showcases webworks from 10 different artists. The project is DIY and works outside of institutional networks. Together, the platform documents and archives unrests from the pandemic and the asynchronous, unequivalent emergences.

The platform is a growing archive and will have two editions in
June and November 2021. It will be accompanied by a series of artist talks.

Dates: June 30th 2021-February 28th, 2022
Online | Warsaw | Berlin 

contact: Desktop.archives.platform@gmail.com
© desktoparchives