Teenager Aneesa Nabi came to UN Human Rights Council in March 2011. When she returned back to Pakistan, her brother and family in Indian-occupied Kashmir were threatened.
By Our Special Correspondent
Sardar Amjad Yousaf, Executive Director of Kashmir Institute for International Relations (KIIR), shocked the audience at a seminar in the UN building in Geneva when he revealed that the family of Kashmiri teenaged girl Aneesa Nabi was threatened by the Indian army if she visited the UN again or interacted with international investigators.
Amjad was speaking to diplomats and representatives at a side panel discussion at the Palace of Nations in Geneva.
He said Aneesa, who was 14 years old when she visited Geneva in March 2011, had seen her parents killed by the Indian army. Her mother was an activist for enforced disappearances by Indian occupation authorities. Aneesa, he said, attracted a lot of attention by diplomats, the media and the NGOs for her story. She was able to register a formal complaint against India for killing her parents.
She escaped to Pakistan fearing for her life, where an independent Kashmiri organization, the KIIR, took her to participate in a UN Human Rights Council session and tell her story to the world.
Amjad said after returning home, Aneesa was forced to stop pursuing her complaint against India at the UN because the Indian army contacted her extended family members in Srinagar and threatened to harm her younger brother who stayed back in the occupied territory.
Aneesa Nabi address a side panel at UNHRC:
The following is a refresher on the story of Aneesa Nabi and how it impacted international delegates at Palais des Nations in Geneva in March 2011.
FROM 2011: A Kashmiri Teenager Moves UN Diplomats And Activists In Geneva
The tears of Aneesa Nabi, whose parents were killed by Indian soldiers, even shook the Indians, as activists rushed to console her; several embassies sent observers to witness her testimony, including US government’s permanent mission to Geneva.
SPECIAL REPORT | Friday | 11 March 2011
GENEVA, Switzerland—Her parents would have never thought their little girl would go this far, but a Kashmiri teenager smuggled by an NGO across the ceasefire line in Kashmir landed in Geneva today to a grand start, shocking world diplomats and activists with the story of her father and mother long after their death.
Aneesa Nabi, 17, drew the attention of diplomats and human rights activists and NGOs that have descended on Geneva this month for the 16th session of Human Rights Council, which is UN’s highest rights body designed along the lines of the UN Security Council in New York, minus the powers.
Representatives of a Kashmiri NGO based in Pakistan, the Kashmir Institute of International Affairs, KIIA, were seen lobbying world diplomats and NGO representatives in the main hall of the Palais de Nations, or Palace of the Nations, which is the focal point of UN operations in Geneva.
“She really moved all of us,” said Altaf Hussain Wani, director programs at KIIA. “We’ve been with her for the past week but today she left us in tears.”
“You could see the interest in her,” said Shagufta Ashraf, a KIIA activist, as she distributed flyers and pamphlets in the main lobby of the Palais. “The diplomats and NGO types got really interested in this story.” African human rights activist Micheline Djouma arranged for Aneesa’s appearance at a seminar today on the sidelines of the Human Rights Council meetings. The council was busy dealing with issues as diverse as Iran’s human rights record and a proposal to outlaw denigration of religions. But this didn’t stop rights activists and some diplomats from attending Aneesa’s appearance.
What boosted Aneesa’s case was the fact that Kashmiri groups spread worldwide occupied a square in front of Palais de Nations, known as Broken Chair, where an exhibition of museum of Indian Army genocide against Kashmiri people was set up inside a tent, surrounded by banners and hoards depicting the situation in Indian-occupied Kashmir. Before Aneesa started her speech, an Africa-based rights activist Mrs. Colette Samoya, president of Bangwe organization, delivered a speech in French, where she mentioned Kashmir five times as she gave examples of violations against women and children in conflict zones. Building anticipation, Samoya kept reminding the audience, saying “We have a girl from Kashmir here to tell her story.”
Aneesa began her speech in a normal way, but her voice began choking when she mentioned her father, who was arrested by Indian Army on 24 July 1996 when she was four. By the time she mentioned her mother, she was in tears, sobbing involuntarily as she recalled how the Indian occupation authorities warned her not to join NGOs lobbying for disappeared persons. In 2003, the Indians barged into her house and opened fire on Aneesa’s mother from automatic guns as she fell to the ground. Amazingly, she was carrying a toddler, Aneesa’s younger brother, in her arms and never let him ago despite receiving fatal injuries. The boy’s leg was shattered by bullets but he survived.
“She had been repressing her emotions,” recalled Ahmed Quraishi, a representative of OIC’s World Muslim Congress and a Kashmir activist. “In the past, she would only smile when asked if she remembered her parents or missed them. She would ignore it. But today, all the repressed memories, all the repressed pain, came out naturally. She really believed this was her last chance to do something to help free her father if he is still alive.”
– When Aneesa began talking, the entire hall went silent, which is rare in United Nations Human Rights Council side events.
– She couldn’t control herself when she mentioned her father, and was unable to continue after mentioning her mothers
– A known Indian lobbyist linked to the Indian government, who is a Kashmiri Hindu, couldn’t control himself and hurriedly left the hall in tears
– On the stage, an Indian academic, Dr. Krishna Ahoojapatel, tried to express grief, and an African panelist stood up from her chair, walked up to Aneesa and hugged her like a mother would hug a daughter. Someone else brought her a glass of water.
– The moderator repeatedly interrupted a sobbing Aneesa to ask her if she wanted to take a break or continue telling her story. Aneesa tried to continue but couldn’t. She failed to read out the last portion of an appeal to the international community and to the United Nations to help force the Indian government and military to reveal the fate of her father.
– A senior UN official, whose name is withheld, was so moved by Aneesa’s tragedy that he conveyed to her that he will do everything possible to hold the Indian government and military accountable for any harm done to her father and for serious human rights violations in Kashmir.
‘I Saw Them Execute My Mother, I Was Seven’
Tale Of A Kashmiri Girl From Srinagar Who Lost Her Parents, Escaped The Indian Army And Found Her Way To Geneva To Tell Her Story
STAFF WRITER| Thursday | 11 March 2011
GENEVA, Switzerland—Meet Aneesa Nabi Khan, a bright 17-year-old studying at a school in the part of Kashmir liberated from India. Her mild demeanor, big eyes and a warm smile set her apart from other students in her school. But very few of them know her real story. Someday soon she will graduate and do something to impact the lives of her people. Her parents will never know how their little girl, the eldest of three kids, has grown up to be a precocious young lady.
Today she is in Geneva to tell her story to politicians, activists and the media from all over the world. She came here to speak. She wants the world to know her story because she made it to this place. Others like her can’t. And she wants to represent them.
She has a story. It is a compelling tale of fear, courage, tragedy, and a people’s quest for freedom from the tyranny of one of the biggest armies in the world.
Where Does Aneesa Come From?
She comes from Kashmir, a paradise nestled in the grand Himalayas to the north of Pakistan, bordering China and India. One of the world’s most scenic lands is also home to the world’s biggest concentration of armed soldiers—more than half a million regular army from the world’s largest democracy: India. Aneesa’s people want freedom from occupation. India does not want to grant it or heed United Nations resolutions calling for a settlement.
But for 63 years, Kashmiris did not take foreign occupation lying down. Aneesa’s father was one of them. That’s how her tragedy begins.
Where Is Aneesa’s Father?
Ghulam Nabi Khan was in his mid-thirties in 1996 when he was last seen by Dilshad, his wife, and daughter and her toddler brother Raees.
Ghulam left his house in the morning. He was what his people call a freedom fighter, oppose to the forced Indian occupation of his homeland. The Indian military saw him as a ‘militant’.
The Indians laid a trap for him. One of his friends was recruited by Indian intelligence. Ghulam was lured into a meeting at his friend’s house. They swooped on him as soon as he entered the house.
By evening the news reached his wife. So many Kashmiri men have ‘disappeared’ in similar circumstances. Dilshad’s brother took her to the local police station, manned by Indian police. They refused to register a case of forced ‘disappearance’. Days and months passed without any record of what happened to Ghulam. Fearing a similar fate, Dilshad took her children to her village to live with her parents. Somehow they managed to contact the mission of the International Committee of the Red Cross in the Indian capital. Red Cross is the only international organization that is allowed limited access to a few jails in Indian-occupied Kashmir. Most of the jails and detention centers remain closed to the world. When a Red Cross delegation visits Kashmir, the Indian government and army only allows Indian citizens working for Red Cross to enter the occupied territory. The Red Cross searched for Aneesa’s father but to no avail. This is because Indian military is authorized by law to arrest and detain Kashmiris for long periods without charges or trial.
Indian army is desperate to eliminate Kashmiri men and women who actively participate in the independence movement. Once any Kashmiri, man or woman, is dubbed a ‘militant’ by the Indians, he or she is never seen again.
How Was Dilshad, Aneesa’s Mother, Executed?
After her husband’s ‘disappearance’, Dilshad moved with her three children to the village, where her own parents and her in-laws lived. She joined a group formed by Kashmiris called the Association of the Parents of Disappeared Persons [APDP]. The group is one of the largest civil society organizations formed by Kashmiris to peacefully resist Indian occupation. It organizes peaceful protests in Srinagar against excesses by Indian occupation forces and keeps the cause of the ‘disappeared’ persons alive. The exact number of the missing is not known.
Dilshad became an active member of the APDP, frequently seen in television news footage from Srinagar organizing peaceful protests in front of Indian and international media. These protests caught the attention of some foreign diplomats based in New Delhi, local and international media, and rights organizations. They turned into an embarrassment for the Indian military. Indian occupation officials were remanded by the Indian government in New Delhi for failing to stop the activities of Kashmiri women like Dilshad.
One day in 2003, Indian soldiers entered the house of Aneesa’s mother. Some of them were in uniform and others were in plainclothes. The Indian soldiers asked everyone in the house to line up in the center of the front room. Dilshad, her brother, an unmarried younger sister, and her parents and some visiting relatives did what the soldiers told them to do. There was some shouting. Aneesa was nine. She too stood in the line. The soldiers were asking Dilshad about her activities with APDP when tempers flared and one of the Indian soldiers began firing indiscriminately. He took it out on Dilshad, which gave everyone else enough time to run toward the rooms behind them to hide. Nine-year-old Aneesa slipped under a bed. She could see an Indian soldier emptying his weapon into her mother.
The soldiers ran out of the house soon after.
Aneesa rushed to her mother. She remembers vividly how her mother was breathing her last. She says her mother wanted to say something but couldn’t. Blood started coming out of her mouth and she died in her nine-year-old daughter’s arms. Amazingly, Dilshad was still carrying Aaqib, who then was a toddler. Bullets hit his left thigh and tore the flesh apart. He was unconscious and his uncle rushed him to hospital. He survived the injury.
Aneesa’s Journey To Pakistan?
With her mother killed and father kidnapped by the Indians, the male members of Aneesa’s family worried about her safety and her future. By 2008, five years after her mother was killed, Aneesa’s two younger brothers had adapted to a life without parents. Raees was 13 and was looked after by his maternal grandmother. But Aaqib was even younger. So her mother’s unmarried sister took his custody. That left Aneesa. She was the only one among them to have a passport, an Indian passport. Apparently, her mother was planning to get her out of India anyway, most probably to travel to Dubai and then take a flight from there to Pakistan, where most of Kashmiris have taken refuge, escaping the harsh Indian occupation of their homes and fields. India is more than happy to issue Indian passports to Kashmiris because it sees that as Kashmiris accepting Indian citizenship. But over the years, most Kashmiris have preferred to reach Pakistan without passports—trekking the tough route through the mountains to Pakistan.
How Is Her New Life Like In Pakistan?
Aneesa is living with her mother’s cousin and her husband and three children. They all come from the same extended family so she feels at home and her family is very close to each other. She was in class 7 in Indian-occupied Kashmir. In Pakistan she was admitted to class 8. But she was weak in two subjects: Urdu, the Pakistani official language, and Islamic studies. The schools in occupied Kashmir have no choice but to follow the Indian educational system where the two subjects are not taught. But Urdu and Islamic studies were not alien to Aneesa and she quickly mastered them. She stays in touch with her brothers back in Indian-occupied Kashmir through telephone. She doesn’t remember her father at all. She was two when the Indians kidnapped him. She was nine when they killed her mother. She hardly experienced their love. She says her family now gives her love and affection and the sense of security that her tormentors denied her.
Still Looking For My Father
Aneesa and her new family continue to stay in touch with the International Committee of the Red Cross in the hope that someday they might find him in one of the Indian jails. Her relatives back in Indian-occupied Kashmir keep their ears to the ground, collecting any information or rumors about anyone sighting Aneesa’s father in Indian detention centers. They pass on the information to her so she could forward it to Red Cross.
Why Is She In Geneva This Year?
Her answer is simple: “I hope it helps me find my father.” She wants the international community not to abandon people like her. She wants the powerful democracies to heed her call. And she intends to make her voice heard. She couldn’t do anything for her mother. She couldn’t save her mother. But in case her father is alive, she wants the satisfaction of knowing she did all she could to save his life. Her activism brought her message to the world, and now Aneesa wants to take the world to occupied Kashmir.
Her mother and father would have been proud of the work done by their daughter today.