Indian, American, European Rights Activists Ask India To Respect Kashmir Women
By News Desk
GENEVA/ISLAMABAD—The United Nations witnessed an important moment today when politicians from Britain and Europe joined worldwide rights activists to question India’s treatment of women in Kashmir. The event was so emotional – with documentaries and TV testimonies – that even a woman activist from New Delhi appeared to take a stand against her country policy in Kashmir.
A long list of speakers paid tribute to Kashmiri women: Shabana Mehmood, a Member of British Parliament; Ms. Lois A. Herman, Coordinator Women’s UN Report Network; Farhana Qazi, a former US military adviser and scholar; Sadia Mir, EU Gender Policy expert; and Shagufta Ashraf, lecturer at AJK University. They were among a galaxy of politicians, experts and rights activists who spoke at a seminar titled, India-Kashmir Women’s Challenges for Security and Peace in Kashmir.
Veteran women’s activist, Mrs. Shamim Shawl, representing International Muslim Women’s Union (IMWU), organized the event at Palais des Nations, the UN headquarters in Geneva. A young scholar from Indian-occupied Kashmir chaired the event.
Ms. Mehmood, MP, UK, said Kashmir was important for British politicians and especially for those of Kashmiri descent and heritage. She called on the British government to adopt a bolder policy on Indian rights violations in Kashmir.
An American rights activist, Lois A. Herman, ran the audience through a slide presentation that showed women rights violations in both Kashmir and India.
Farhana Qazi participated in the event through a video message. She has acted as adviser to US military and is an author of an upcoming book on Kashmir. In her touching ten-minute long video message, recorded in the United States where she lives, Ms. Qazi emphasized her Kashmiri roots. She recalled her visit to Indian-occupied Kashmir, which she referred to as ‘Indian side of Kashmir’. For several minutes, Ms. Qazi offered a touching portrait of Kashmiri women as she has seen them, highlighting their suffering and pain.
Dr. Krishna Ahooja Patel, founder of the India chapter of WILPF—Women’s International League for Peace & Freedom, clearly did not endorse Indian government’s view of Kashmir. She showed her support by joining her longtime Kashmir activist Mrs. Shamim Shawl, and defended Kashmiri women. She even defended Chinese Muslims when a representative of World Uighur Congress, a Washington-based group, tried to suggest that China is stopping Kashmiri Muslim women and Chinese Muslim women in Aksai Chin from prayers. Ms. Patel said that this was not possible because Aksai Chin has a predominant Buddhist population. Moreover, she said that she was certain that Chinese Muslim women have the right to pray across China, and questioned the motives of the representative of the American-based group.
For her part, Mrs. Shawl made a strong appeal for global support for Kashmiri women. Being herself a native of Indian-occupied Kashmir, she recounted the difficulties that Kashmiri women face in the disputed territory where India maintains one of the largest ratios in the world of military presence compared to indigenous population.
The organizers screened a short film in English. It contained powerful testimonies from western and Indian rights activists condemning India’s behavior in Kashmir.
The Kashmir Delegation to the 29th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) Geneva consists of Altaf Hussain Wani Delegation leader and senior APHC leader, Sardar Amjad Yousaf Executive Director Kashmir Institute of International Relations (KIIR), Mrs. Shamim Shawl senior APHC women leader, senior APHC leaders Syed Faiz Naqshbandi and Ishtiyaq Hameed, Ahmed Quraishi Executive Director Youth Forum For Kashmir (YFK) and Shagufta Ashraf Assistant Lecturer AJK University.
YFK is Pakistan’s first pro-Kashmir, registered and nonpartisan International lobbying group led by young Kashmiris and Pakistanis working to ensure justice to Kashmiris living under Indian-military occupation.