As we observe February 5th all across Pakistan and worldwide to demonstrate our solidarity with Kashmiris in the Indian Occupied Kashmir struggling for their right to self-determination, we cannot but appreciate the significance of the role played by the women of Kashmir in the Kashmiri freedom struggle. Kashmiris face life alongside a huge military presence and ongoing operations by Indian occupying forces but the sheer strength of will and character that is shown by these women serves as the backbone of the efforts that their men are making to realize the dream of freedom.
Kashmiri women from all walks of life – from students to housewives to professionals – have courageously and with fixity of purpose lent their support to the freedom struggle. They have not been deterred by the recurrent waves of violence and abuse that have become a norm in their lives. Many of them have been widowed, displaced, tortured, raped and jailed but they face this stoically and their resolve to play their part in the struggle for freedom remains unflinching.
Rape has been used as a weapon of war against the women and girls of the valley. This tactic, however, has backfired and has only served to further strengthen the determination of the women of Kashmir who suffer every day when bodies of their loved ones are brought home to them. They go through the agonizing wait to see their husbands, sons and brothers, picked up by the Indian forces under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act – that gives powers to Indian security forces to detain individuals for up to two years without presenting charges – fearing that they might never return to them. This has been criticized by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International with the latter arguing that it violates the detainees’ human rights.
Even the girl child is no exception to the atrocities being committed against Kashmiris with girls as young as 3-years-old having been raped. Since 2010, the use of pump-action guns, spewing high velocity pellets by the Indian forces, has killed dozens and maimed thousands, the youngest victim being baby Hiba.
The women of Kashmir, however, remain staunch and resolute in the face of the immense challenges that plague them every day. Their resilience in the face of flagrant aggression by the occupying forces is awe-inspiring to say the least. It is this courage, tenacity and persistence that will help the Kashmiri people realize their dream of freedom.
The collective conscience of the world is called into question as Kashmiri mothers hope for reprieve. While the conflict continues to wreak havoc in the lives of Kashmiris, the world looks on with criminal indifference. With so much stress being laid on human rights and right to freedom, the Kashmiri people of the Indian Occupied Kashmir continue their seemingly perpetual wait for the powers that be to pay attention to their sufferings and the obscene treatment being meted out to them. Freedom is Kashimiris’ inalienable right that Indian state terrorism shall have to give into an ‘Destiny Pakistan’ is a goal that is shared by all Pakistani and Kashmiri men and women alike.
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