KARACHI: Canadian-Pakistan actor Armeena Khan has urged UNICEF to distance itself from Bollywood star Priyanka Chopra for “deprecating peace in favour of her patriotism at any cost”.
In an open letter to the UNICEF Executive Director, Armeena expressed her disappointment at the continued relationship between UNICEF and its goodwill ambassador Priyanka, who she said had “brought the core values of UNICEF, care, respect, integrity, trust, and accountability, into disrepute”.
Social media was abuzz with criticism aimed at Priyanka earlier this week after video surfaced of a Pakistani fan who confronted the Bollywood star for tweeting in favour of a war between Pakistan and India during escalating tensions earlier this year.
Priyanka had tweeted “Hail India #IndianArmedForces” with an Indian flag on February 26 in response to an escalation in hostilities between India and Pakistan, two nuclear-armed nations, over the disputed territory of Kashmir.
The Pakistani, Ayesha Malik, called the UNICEF goodwill ambassador a ‘hypocrite’ during the BeautyCon panel talk in Los Angeles, questioning her tweet in advocating a possible nuclear war whilst acting on behalf of UNICEF.
In the open letter, Armeena questioned UNICEF’s continued relationship with Priyanka.
“At the time, many people around the world flagged this up to UNICEF as a concern and asked you to reconsider your relationship with this individual in light of the belligerence of the tweet at a time when many including your parent organisation the UN was calling for cooler heads to prevail. A petition was circulated to this effect. Unfortunately, UNICEF did not respond or issue a statement addressing the concerns of hundreds of thousands, choosing instead to award this individual with the Danny Kaye Humanitarian Award,” she wrote in the letter.
Armeena also questioned Priyanka’s ‘condescending’ response to Ayesha Malik, whose microphone was snatched before she could complete her question.
“In response, your Good Will Ambassador stated: ‘War is not something that | am really fond of but | am patriotic” (the full reply is in the public domain). The interaction was condescending and used the same lexicon e.g. ‘I have many Pakistani friends”, used by racists the world over.
“The situation was manipulated to make Ms. Malik appear as an irrational, aggressive individual and her legitimate question was dismissed as ‘venting’. This was about power, reflecting exactly the response that the Kashmiri people meet from the Indian State. It is clear Mrs. Chopra- Jonas deprecates peace in favour of her patriotism at any cost, including human rights, children, war or UNICEF’s values,” she wrote.
Armeena further asked UNICEF if it endorses Priyanka’s stance on patriotism. “Do you think it acceptable for you to work with partisan partners who support war?”
She urged UNICEF to distance itself from ambassadorships that are incongruent with its organisational values and culture.
“Mrs. Chopra-Jonas will be tarnished by her stance going forward, as will those associating themselves with her. Ultimately it is your responsibility, as Executive Director, to act promptly in safeguarding the reputation of UNICEF.
“If you are not prepared to act upon our legitimate concerns then it will leave us with no option but to distance ourselves from UNICEF, encouraging our elected representatives and others to work toward the same,” she added.