Kashmir’s human rights defenders Parveena, Imroz are Rafto Laureates

SRINAGAR: Kashmir’s two human rights defenders Parveena Ahangar and Parvez Imroz, who have worked immensely on the enforced disappearances, are Rafto Laureates now. They are in Bergen (Norway). They are receiving the respected award today.

Parveena Ahanger and Parvez Imroz responding to the questions after their key note speeches in Norway

“Today the Rafto Laureates Parveena Ahangar and Parvez Imroz held their keynotes in front of 200 audiences at the Universitetsaulaen i Bergen,” the Rafto Foundation for Human Rights, set up in 1986, said in a communication. “We got to hear Ahangar’s strong testimony and her personal struggle for human rights as a victim of the enforced disappearances in Kashmir.

“I believed then as I believe now, that it is only through collective struggle that we can find our loved ones,” The foundation quoted Ahanger saying. “With this recognition, I hope the international human rights community is more aware of the human rights violations in Kashmir – enforced disappearances, rape of women, torture, extra-judicial killings, and the daily injustices we face.”

Parveena Ahanger breaks down during the function

Lawyer Parvez Imroz spoke about his work as a human rights lawyer in a region which has the highest concentration of armed forces in the world, the Foundation said. The militarization is affecting every aspect of life, he said. In this context, a strong civil society is key. “Organising civil society is important. As we are witnessing that governments across the world do not prioritize protection of human rights as their agenda, the global civil society has to speak more loudly and boldly on rights of people across the world, Parvez Imorz said in his keynote.

Parveena started working for the protection of the civilians after her 17-year-old son was abducted by National security Guards (NSG) in 1991. She is the founder and chairperson of the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) which organises peaceful protests and provides assistance to the survivors of violence evry month.

Parvez Imroz, a lawyer, heads Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS).

Both Imroz and Ahangar addressed an international conference in Bergen on Saturday and stressed to the civilised world to help the oppressed in J&K. Parveena actually broke down during her speech and insisted that the voices of the Kashmiris are not being heard despite decades of struggle and sacrifice, media reports said. She necessitated that crimes against humanity in Kashmir be stopped and that Kashmiris be given their rights.
Imroz in his address said that arund 8,000 people have gone missing in custody with no trace anywhere. “They have no knowledge of the whereabouts of their loved ones. Questions are being raised constantly but nobody answers them,” Imroz was quoted by reports saying.

In the subsequent, question and answer session, Imroz has reportedly said that India’s attitude is not re-conciliatory and it is not interested in a non-violent solution to the Kashmir issue.

Prominent Dutch human rights activist Marjan Lucas expressed hope that the award would give more awareness to the condition of human rights in Kashmir.

A host delegate consoling Parveena Ahanger

The award that was given to the Burmese leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in 1990 for fighting the Junta, has earlier been given to three Indian citizens Vincent Manoharan, Dr. Vimal Thorat and Paul Divakar in 2007. They got it for their work on defending the rights of Indian Dalits under their orgamisation National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR). Last year’s award had gone to Yanar Mohammed (55), is awarded for her work on behalf of women and minorities in war-torn Iraq.

Announced in September, the Foundation said that both laureates are based in the city of Srinagar, in Jammu and Kashmir. “The Kashmir conflict occupies a unique position in international politics. Since the partition of historic Kashmir between India and Pakistan in 1947, the region has borne the brunt of a continuous territorial dispute. The population of historic Kashmir is today divided between the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir and the Pakistani territory of Azad Kashmir. The international border in Kashmir is disputed. In practice, India and Pakistan, both nuclear powers, face one another across the militarised “Line of Control” (LoC). In this conflict zone, which since partition has been impacted by constant geopolitical tension, religious conflicts and several wars, the civilian population has suffered and basic human rights have been violated by all parties to the conflict,” the Foundation said in its September announcement.

The award carries a cash prize of US $ 20,000.

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