Kashmiri women are subjected to unending sufferings, agony, miseries and atrocities such as outraging the modesty of women, stalking, acid attacks, attempts to rape, cybercrimes, dowry harassment, gender discrimination and scores of crimes at the hands of Indian forces in IIOJK. However, years of Indian atrocities, brutalities and violence have made Kashmiri women more resilient to sufferings. Indian Army has also not spared the innocent Kashmiri women living along Line of Control (LoC) in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) by consistently subjecting them to unprovoked, brutal and barbaric artillery shelling, rocket attacks, heavy caliber firing and long range anti-tank guided missiles. Barbaric shelling and firing across LoC by Indian Army had resulted in long-term inimical physical, psychological and mental consequences for women and young girls. There are many horrific stories of suffering of Kashmiri women residing close to the LoC. One such story is that of Amna Illyas.
Amna Illyas is a 23-year-old resident of Gujjar Mandi, Tehsil Khuirratta, District Kotli, AJK. She is one of the many victims of unprovoked ceasefire violations by India. On February 1, 2018, she was still an 18-years- old, – a teenage girl studying in Class 10. “Indian Army firing and shelling that began in the early hours of the morning was one of the heaviest Khuiratta Sector had seen. Civilians were targeted with heavy weapons, which was especially traumatizing for women and children,” says Amna. “I, along with my brothers Shah Nawaz, Ehtisham ul Haq, mother Fareeha, aunts Shahbeena and Tassaruf Begum, was having breakfast in our kitchen. Suddenly, a rocket hit the kitchen’s wall and exploded inside. All six of us received injuries. I was critically injured with burns on my whole face,” she recalled the horrific scene of the rocket attack that later turned out to be wire anti-tank guided missiles used against civilian targets. “I was unconscious and once opened my eyes, I found myself in Pakistan Emirates Military Hospital (PEMH), Rawalpindi,” says Amna. She could not believe that she was still alive. Face injuries and burns are extremely traumatic for young, teenage girls. No wonder this is something that has stayed with Amna as permanent grief. Amna was administered first-aid by a local Army Unit. She remained admitted for 12 days to PEMH Rawalpindi and underwent treatment for a complete year, where she visited PEMH every two weeks travelling approximately 250 Km each time, to and from Khuiratta to Rawalpindi.
Talking about trials, tribulations and challenges that she faced, she says, “The face burns, injuries and shoulder bone fracture made me think I would never look the same as before. But, I am grateful to Pakistan Army and the splendid work done by its professional doctors who made it possible through the best medical care and treatment spanning over a period of one year, that I look much like I did before.” It was, not easy for her to go for her doctor visits every two weeks. Her father, who is a driver by
profession and works in the UAE, had to come to Pakistan so he could take care of her during this period.
Amna’s family home was damaged by heavy Indian firing and anti-tank guided missile attack. Bullets and artillery splinter marks can still be seen on the walls of her house. “My father rebuilt the house facing a lot of financial hardship, using up the hard earned money that he had saved for 12 years while driving in the UAE. It was all destroyed during one brutal, barbaric and cowardly Indian attack on civilian population of our village,” says Amna. Her father left UAE soon after hearing about the brutal Indian attack across LoC to take care of Amna and the rest of the family, further aggravating their financial situation and miseries in the years to come.
Amna could not appear for her Matric exams due to serious injuries and lost one golden year of her education. However, she continued her education and passed her Higher Secondary School exams in 2021. She got married later at the age of 21 years after her recovery and now has a daughter.
Pakistan Army provided medical treatment to Amna free of cost at PEMH Rawalpindi for about one year as per its policy. Financial compensation of injuries to Amna and her family members was paid by the government of AJK and Pakistan Army. House building compensation/ financial assistance was also given by the government of AJK. Amna now lives happily in her house, which was rebuilt with government assistance. Amna commended the efforts of government of AJK and Pakistan Army for their all-out support to ease the sufferings and trauma faced by her and other family members, and all those who face the brunt of Indian aggression. She says, “I along with the other four injured family members were given first aid by local Pakistan Army Unit and evacuated to nearest medical facility run by AJK government in Seri. I was evacuated despite the of heavy Indian firing and shelling that was also targeting civilian vehicles and ambulances. Pakistan Army provided the best available medical and surgical, as well as psychological treatment that has greatly addressed both my physical and emotional suffering. Today, nobody would make out that I am the same girl who returned from the deathbed with critical face and bone injuries.”
“Women and girls are afraid to go out in the open to work or to school because they fear being targeted by Indian firing and shelling. Indian Army targeted Jagal Pal Middle School located 1100 meters from LoC with two anti-tank missiles on the same day. Luckily, the missiles missed the target,” recalls Amna.
Gujjar Mandi, Jagalpal and all other villages close to the LoC in Khuiratta Sector are constantly faced with livelihood insecurity. “Our local economy is based on cattle farming, agriculture, labor and local business activities. All are put to halt by the frequent Indian ceasefire violations. All schools, colleges, shops, transport, communication and movement remain suspended, thus, economically hurting all segments of Kashmiri society living on near LoC in AJK,” says Amna who now has to run a household and take care of the needs of her child.
“I usually get emotionally disturbed once the scene of missile attack and explosion runs before my eyes but each time it is replaced by the thought that we are Pakistanis and Pakistan is our country; we will never be suppressed by Indian tactics. Each ceasefire violation and shelling on my village strengthens our resolve and bondage to our motherland, Pakistan, besides deepening resilience against Indian atrocities, and support of our brethren in IIOJK,” says Amna. “We women stand firm against the face of indiscriminate firing by the Indian Army and are determined. We will never leave our homes and migrate. This is our land, our country and we will stand with Pakistan Army come what may,” added Amna’s uncle Nawaz.
“Global human rights organizations, women right groups, United Nations and other international organizations should not ignore the brutalities and human rights violations committed by Indian forces in IIOJK and AJK through unprovoked, indiscriminate shelling, and firing on innocent civilian population,” says Amna. It is time to hold India accountable for sustained heinous crimes committed against Kashmiri women. The unending sufferings of Kashmiri women and children would continue with long term physical, mental, emotional traumas and consequences, if India is not held accountable for its crimes against humanity. HH
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