|Biographical detail : ||Journalist and human rights campaigner.
Best known as the spirited wife of the well-known Pakistani poet, Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Alys Faiz was also a writer and human rights activist who fought long and hard in her adopted land.
Alys who was born in London, daughter of a bookseller, was drawn to radical politics at an early age and joined Communist Party of Great Britain at the age of 16 – an internationally minded campaigner who fought for anti-colonial cause in pre-war London.
Alys went to India in 1938 and met and fell in love with the radical Urdu poet Faiz Ahmad Faiz who was a legend, a dashing poet and communist and who wrote disdainfully about love and made the masses his muse. They got married in 1941 in Srinagar, and the simple ceremony was presided over by the Kashmiri politician Shaikh Abdullah.
When India was partitioned in 1947 they opted for Pakistan – Faiz was from Lahore. Alys helped resettle the mass of refugees generated by the transfer of Hindus and Muslims across the new borders.
Alys started working for the Pakistan Times, mainly looking after its sections on women and children with flair. Her regular column Appa Jan (elder sister) inspired a generation of young women into writing and human rights activism. She was a regular contributor to the progressive Pakistani weekly, Viewpoint, edited by the legendary Manzar Ali Khan.
When Faiz went into exile in Lebanon during the long stint of military rule in the 1970s and 1980s, Alys followed him but kept her journalistic writing, especially for Pakistan Women’s magazine, She. A collection of her dispatches from Beirut during the civil war was published as Over My Shoulder.
Alys, after the death of Faiz in 1984, joined Asma Jahangir and others – the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, which came into existence in 1986 and became a dedicated member. She became a familiar figure on the political and cultural landscape of Lahore.
Alys who had become a legend in Pakistan loved children and thus started a children’s theatre along with other young mothers and also worked for the United Nations Children Funds (Unicef).
Alys Faiz’s funeral in Lahore was attended by hundreds, from among the most powerful in the ranks of government to the small children of ordinary Pakistani.