Well-known Kashmiri human rights’ activists Parveena Ahangar and Parvez Imroz will receive Norway’s prestigious Professor Thorolf Rafto Memorial Prize (Rafto Prize) for human rights for their unrelenting struggle for the rights of Kashmiris on Sunday.
Parveena Ahangar, nicknamed “The Iron Lady of Kashmir”, began to work for the protection of the civilian population after her 17-year-old son was abducted by Indian security forces 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 in Indian-held Kashmir.
Parvez Imroz, a lawyer and a leading intellectual, relies on legal means to ensure that citizens of Indian Occupied Kashmir (IoK) are provided with basic human rights. His organisation, Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS), which he also presides, works for human rights and non-violent solutions to resolve the prevailing Kashmir issue.
“Parveena Ahangar and Imroz Parvez have long been at the forefront of the struggle against arbitrary abuses of power in a region of India that has borne the brunt of escalating violence, militarisation and international tension,” the Rafto Foundation said in a statement late September.
Both Imroz and Ahangar addressed an international conference in Bergen on Saturday and stressed to the civilised world to help the oppressed people of Jammu and Kashmir who have been suffering brutalities since long.
While describing the atrocities she had witnessed in the beautiful valley, Parveena broke down and expressed that the voices of the Kashmiris are not being heard despite decades of struggle and sacrifice. She thanked Rafto Foundation for the award and acknowledging their efforts and said it is the first time that an international organisation invited them for an award on an international forum.
She necessitated that crimes against humanity in Kashmir be stopped and that Kashmiris be given their rights. She further pressed that disappeared people should be recovered and the Indian army personnel involved in the brutalities be punished.
Imroz in his address said that an alarming 8,000people in IHK are missing and their relatives are still waiting patiently for their return.
“They have no knowledge of the whereabouts of their loved ones. Questions are being raised constantly but nobody answers them,” Imroz told attendees.
He said that 700,000 security personnel in the valley have been deployed by India to oppress its residents and demanded that a stop should be put to all brutalities.
During the question and answer session, Imroz said that India’s attitude is not reconciliatory and it is not interested in a non-violent solution to the Kashmir issue. He added that an early, peaceful resolution looks distant to them because of India’s attitude.
The conference arranged by the foundation was attended by numerous intellectuals, professors, diplomats, researchers and human rights activists from different parts of the world, several of whom also spoke at the event.
The speakers highlighted the historical, cultural, geographical and social aspects of Kashmir and pointed out that Kashmir issue has been highly neglected and is one which requires special attention of the world community. They said that the award for two leading defenders of human rights would help raise the issue at international level. Furthermore, the world would understand the sensitivity of the issue and empathize with those suffering, leading to drafting a plan for peaceful resolution of the problem.
— Jostein Kobbeltvedt (@josteinhk) November 4, 2017
Prominent Dutch human rights activist Marjan Lucas expressed hope that the award would give more awareness to the condition of human rights in Kashmir.
On the esteemed occasion, Kashmir Council EU Chairman Ali Raza Syed who travelled from Brussels to Bergen said the Rafto Prize laureates have been struggling against the violation of human rights in IoK since a long time.
Ali Shahnawaz Khan, Executive Director of Norway-based Kashmir Scandinavian Council, said that this is the second most important achievement in the Kashmir issue after the UN resolution. He said that this will further highlight the issue at an international level.
Pakistan’s Ambassador to Norway Riffat Masood said the voice of the oppressed people of Kashmir has been heard and it will create more awareness on the issue.
Forced abductions and violence against men, women, and youth are rampant in IHK. A large number of people have been killed and thousands have disappeared so far. Thousands of women are waiting for their children, husbands and brothers, who are missing or abducted by the security forces in recent decades, the ambassador added.
Every year, the non-profit and non-partisan organisation Rafto Foundation for Human Rights selects the most distinguished individuals in the fields of human rights and democracy from around the world for conferment of the prestigious Rafto Prize.