International Council for Human Development

facebook Email
Home » 2013 » March

Exhibiting the cultural depth of Kashmir

by: Ali Raza Syed 

Dear friends,

I welcome you all on the occasion of the launch of this extra-ordinary exhibition of the paintings, photographs, handicrafts and books depicting the beauty of the paradise on earth and the situations that have turned it a hell for its people. More than anybody else, one again, I am happy to express my gratitude to the host of this event, Mr. Sajjad Haider Karim who is the sole inspiration and basic strength behind this event. Indeed, he has proved himself as one of the most worthwhile and praiseworthy Pakistanis living in Europe. 

As a native Kashmiri myself, I am always extremely proud of the great cultural heritage of Kashmir, which was made by the collective living of many religions including Budhism, Hinduism and Sufi Islam. I must say that it was the peaceful and trustful collective living that reflected itself at the time of partition as no single event of brutality was seen in Kashmir.

On the other hands, extremely peaceful, respectful and creative people of Kashmir had suffered long periods of dictatorial regimes during thousands of years of their history. Unfortunately, the larger part of the Kashmir is still undergoing sufferings of the worst injustice, torture, rape, humiliation and slavery perpetrated by Indian security forces and armies. The stories of misery are horrendous. In fact, it is shameful to every peace loving and humanist individual of the world. It demands all of us to stand up and struggle for the realising of their rights thorough all the peaceful and legal manners.

I am proud of the fact that this exhibition is one of such events. Without uttering many cliché words, these exhibitions depict the history and the present of hapless nation of Kashmir. The future, however, we have to make ourselves. We have to make this future with the help of humanist forces present in all the societies of the world. I feel satisfied to see that the region of Europe, represented by great institutions such as EU, is an example of the fact that positive thinking and sincere efforts can achieve remarkable goals. We have this glorious human heritage of EU at the back of our struggle for justice, peace and equality. 

I am extremely thankful to Ms. Jamila Saghri who took pain to travel and exhibit here work of passion to all of us. Indeed, her work is the source of inspiration for all of us. And once again, I express my gratitude to distinguished MEPs, diplomats, intellectuals, scholars, journalists and peace activists that have giving us the honour of enjoying their presence here. 

The people of Kashmir want and must have the freedom of movement, freedom to earn a decent livelihood, the freedom to educate their children, in short, they want their basic human rights including right to self determination. 

European Union follows the developments in Kashmir

The Vice President of European Union, Mrs. Baroness Catherine Ashton said that the Union was following the developments in Kashmir very closely. She was responding to a recent letter by the Chairman of the ICHD, Ali Raza Syed, which drew attention of the Union over the current critical situation in the Indian held Kashmir. In the letter, he had urged the Union to take serious notice of the situation in the Indian Held Kashmir especially recent killings of youth by the Indian forces. 

She said that the Union had been a longstanding supporter for the reconciliation process between India and Pakistan with the involvement of Kashmiris themselves. Mrs.Ashton who is also high representative of the Union on external affairs and security policy said that the EU was aware of the situation and that the EU ambassadors in Delhi had held many visits to the vulnerable region. She said that they had developed over the years, a dialogue with Indian authorities over the human rights, which allowed raising any human rights related issues. She said that the EU was deeply committed to making the best possible use of that dialogue to advance cases of human rights in the region. 

EU role should be significant

The ICHD demanded significant role of the EU institutions in the current situation of the Indian Held Kashmir especially related to the human rights violations. In a letter addressed to EU High Representative for foreign Affairs, Ms. Catherine Ashton, Vice President of EU Commission, Mrs. Viviane Reding, Chair Subcommittee on Human Rights, Ms. Heidi Hautala and EU parliament Chair of the delegation for relations with South Asia, Mrs, Jean Lambert, the ICHD urged active EU involvement in bringing the positive change in the circumstances that were shocking for every peace-loving citizen of the world.

“We are writing to express our concerns over the recent increase in human rights violations in Indian held Kashmir. We would urge the EU intervention in the affair”, wrote the ICHD in the letter. The letter also indicated the fresh statement of UN Secretary General in which Mr. Ban Ki moon described the situation as a security risk.
The letter further mentioned that, “the operations such as those carried out on the 25th of July 2010 lead to the deaths of Tariq Ahmad Dar and Farooq Ahmad Bhat in police custody. Their killings raise serious concerns and questions as we see this pattern repeated over the last year. We also bring to your notice that in the last three months the figures of young innocents targeted by the troops has reached over 100. The EU has the moral responsibility to play a role to stop the killings of innocent unarmed Kashmiri youth”.
Meanwhile, the ICHD chairman, Ali Raza Syed, in his statement said that appalling human rights abuses and atrocities had been committed against the civilians. He said that according to recently published Human Rights report, between 1989 and 2010, the number of Kashmiris killed at the hands of Indian security forces stood at 93,274. He said that the actual number could be much higher considering the lack of the right to information and speech in the Kashmir. The facts and figures show the reality. For example, there had been 6969 custodial killings, over 107,351 children had been orphaned, 22,728 women had been widowed and 9920 women had been gang raped during the period. He said that thousands of Kashmiris had been arrested on fake charges and a large number of houses and other buildings were devastated.

He said that the discovery of 2900 unnamed mass graves in the three districts of the occupied territory in the recent years had proved that all of these innocent people were killed in the different fake encounters by the Indian army. “The current situation shows that freedom movement of Kashmir is taken up by the Kashmiri youth and they are not ready to accept continuation of occupation of their homeland by the Indian forces. The youth started to protest in the streets over the Indian atrocities but Indian forces started to conduct crackdown against the innocent and peaceful demonstrators” said Ali Raza Syed.

Campaigning for truth and justice

Campaigning for truth and justice

by: Marjan Lucas 

Before engaging in support to the lobby for truth & justice of the families of the disappeared in Kashmir, I was working – for over a decade – with the survivors of the Srebrenica-genocide of 1995 in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Anno 2012, so almost two decades after the war in Bosnia, most of the ca. 10.000 disappeared and killed persons have been identified by name, place of birth, sex and age, profession and hobbies. Years before, their remains were dumped in, and revealed from mass graves on the slopes of Bosnian forests but their families could finally bury them in the cemetery of Potocari, close the small town of Srebrenica and in the region where the massacre took place in 1995, despite UN surveillance. The Potocari Cemetery is nowadays an open-air-memorial-centre: a place to mourn the dead, and to reconcile the living. 
Families of the Bosnian disappeared persons persisted in their struggle for truth and justice despite political discouragement, if not harsh obstruction, by national and international power enters. However, international donors, e.g. the Dutch government, granted millions of dollars to the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) for DNA analyses to identify of the remains of the victims in Srebrenica and set up judicial investigations. The survivors’ truth- & justice campaign did produce results indeed.

 The Kashmiri families of the disappeared, organised in local NGO’s as e.g. the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP), show a likewise persistence and courage in their own specific struggle for justice and truth. Kashmiri human rights defenders and civil society activists reported to have revealed 2.000 unmarked graves, in detail described in ‘Buried Evidence ‘(2009) and ‘Facts Underground’ (2008). They want the remains in these unmarked graves to be identified and to analyse if, and if yes how many, of these corpses are the remains of the 8.000 enforced disappeared as previously registered by lawyers as Advocate Parvez Imroz c.s. 
And yes, of course: the plight of the Bosnian victims is a different story then the one of the relatives of the enforced disappeared persons in Kashmir. But what is similar for all of them is their need to know the truth and that perpetrators of crimes will not be simply set free. And that a past and presence of fear and injustice, can be transformed in a future of justice and peace.

But, how far from that future are the Kashmiri i.c. the families of the disappeared and the human rights defenders who revealed the mass graves? A milestone is that India acknowledges indeed the existence of the thousands of bodies in the thousands of unmarked graves. However: India strongly refuses identification. Why? What does India fear for? And can Europe play a role? This week here in Brussels, a seminar is planned to elaborate on this issue. 

Let’s meet again then. 
As for now, I wish you well and hope (and am sure) you enjoy this unique event! 

Briefing the Media

Dear friends, 

I welcome you and thank you all for giving us a positive response to our request of receiving your attention to our humble deliberations. In fact, the sole purpose behind this press briefing is to inform Pakistani nation about our efforts towards attaining international attention and support for the cause of right to self determination for Kashmiris of IJK. We have no big claims. But we can proudly say that our banner, International Council for Human Development (ICHD) and Kashmir Council-EU is today the face of the Kashmiris just struggle in Europe.   

Needless to say, the European Union is so full of lobbyists from all across the world that it is very difficult to attain the attention from parliamentarians, policy and opinion makers, think tanks, civil society institutions, and above all, the general masses and media. This daunting task is possible only through transparency, honesty, spotless integrity and undeniable justness of the cause. I am extremely contented to say that above-mentioned virtues constitute the values of our organization. We are a self-financed group of human rights activists and peace lovers. We are struggling only with the confidence in the justness of our cause.  
I can count many of our events during last three years that became the milestones of our struggle but here, considering the limited time that we have, I will mentioned only few of our recent activities that symbolize the nature and pattern of our past and future journey. In fact, we are lobbying at the highest levels of the European Union, we are pleading at the highest levels of the international human rights organizations and we are building awareness at the highest level of European academia. And through local media, we are making inroads into the general masses as well. This multi-layered approach is reflected through are activities.   
For example, we started an unprecedented and unique campaign; One-Million Signature Campaign in 2011. As evident from the title, this campaign has set the target of receiving one million signatures of the European citizens for bringing the Kashmir at the agenda of EU. I feel immense pride to tell that we have already received around half of the targeted signatures. This happened only through the relentless efforts from our volunteers and friends especially of Kashmiri and Pakistani origins. We took our camps of numerous big cities of Europe. We contacted human rights organizations, social forums, trade associations, lawyer’s bodies, students, teachers, commuters and general masses. And in all this, we received immense support from the local European human rights activists and local European media. Today, this campaign resounds in every heart and mind of Kashmiri and Pakistani Diaspora.  

Our recent Kashmir-EU week in the European Parliament was fourth event of its kind. This event is an example of our consistent advocacy and lobbying in the highest levels of the decision making forums of the EU. The Kashmir-EU week included high-level debates and dialogues including an exhibition, in EU parliament, of arts, crafts and intellectual resources from and about Kashmir. For painting exhibition, Ms. Jamila Saghri sent her works from Pakistan. Intellectuals, writers and researchers like Laura Schuurman came from Beijing University to attend the seminar. The acclaimed activists including Farooq Siddiqui came from Canada, well known passionate researcher and activist, Marjan Lucas came from Holland and policy analyst Sadia Mir came from UK. And amongst parliamentarians, there were Jean Lambert, MEP, Ivo Vajgl, MEP, 
Tunne Kelam, MEP Timothy Kirkophe MEP and members of the committee of foreign affairs, Human Rights sub committee and Sajjad Haider Karim MEP, the host of the event. In fact, I must say that, it was astonishing even for us to see how passionately and clearheadedly those influential personalities spoke in favor of Kashmiris. I am in no mood to claim that these events shall give freedom to Kashmir but I will certainly claims that these are very important steps towards the achievement of our goal. We have a long journey ahead but every journey is consists of small steps and these steps constitute the real story of any struggle.  
The third layer of our awareness building efforts is at the level of European academia that had been ignored by all of us for many decades. In fact, the real fight for the international influence is fought in the academia. Last month, we organized first ever symposium in the great university of Leuven, on the topic of Kashmir languishing under the brutal forces of India. I will not narrate here the story of how powerful Indian lobby did its best to get this event canceled or failed. But I will tell with my head high that we succeeded in doing one of the best organized symposium attended by a large number of students and media from different countries. The symposium was organized by the ICHD, Pakistani Students Forum and Politika International. Again, our friends Marjan Lucas, Sadia Mir, Gie Goris, the scholar on South Asia affairs and editor of the MO magazine and myself addressed the students. In the future, we shall definitely organize such events in other major universities of the Europe.  
Even under duress, the IJK media gives huge coverage to our activities, which reflect how the look towards us to carry their aspirations, demands and dreams to the international agenda. The AJK media is always our strength as we are wielded in one single passion for truth and justice. But my real thanks go to the Pakistani electronic and print media. I must say that in the short time span of just three years, the Pakistani media has fought our war more than us. In fact, ICHD cannot exaggerate its gratitude to the Pakistani media. On behalf of our volunteers, supporters and fellow workers, I thank you all for magnifying our voice at unprecedented levels.  

In the end, I have a little request to the present government. Being peace activists, we plead for the peace in South Asia and we make it the corner stone for our argument for the Kashmiri’s right to self determination. We are very happy that India and Pakistan are again coming closer and trying to sort out their conflicts on the table. We request you that in this fervor of friendship, please don’t forget the cornerstone of your struggle of last seven decades. Please don’t forget thousands of martyrs, thousands of rapes, murders and disappearances. And please don’t forget that Pakistan is the great support of hope for us, Kashmiris. I hope that the present government shall realize what I am saying on behalf of millions of my fellow Kashmiris at the both sides of the borders. I must say that we should not lose hope and trust in the justness of our cause and we should not abandon our historic struggle for this. Today, if Scottish people can achieve their goals, then Kashmiris also have the same rights as equal human beings.         

Translate »