Today, the Asian Federation Against Enforced Disappearances (AFAD) paid tribute to the life and work of Aasia Jeelani who was a foot soldier of human rights in conflict-ridden Indian Administered Kashmir.
Born on 9th of February, 1974 Aasia laid down her life in the pursuit of truth and justice for the people of Kashmir. She was martyred on the 20th April 2004 while on assignment in the remote district of Kupwara in Indian Administered Kashmir when an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) was detonated that blew the car carrying her and her colleagues and killed her.
She is the first woman human rights defender from Indian Administered Kashmir who died in action while unravelling the truth behind subjugation of Kashmiris by the Indian State.
14 years have passed since Aasia passed away but the work that she accomplished in her lifetime continues to inspire Kashmiris, who remember her as a courageous woman with fearless determination and unbending resolve to alleviate her people. She worked to ensure that human rights were guaranteed to the people of Kashmir and were allowed to live a life of dignity and freedom.
Aasia worked at that time in Indian Administered Kashmir when very few women chose to get confrontational with the highly repressive Indian State. Despite having trained as a journalist, she decided to work with the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) and sought answers about disappeared members of 8000 families – a fact which the Indian State continues to deny. She supported the cause of 1600 half widows in Kashmir and helped them in fighting the legal, economic and social as well as psychological battles.
“Aasia was a woman of courage who was killed while monitoring the elections in Kashmir which have never remained free, fair and inclusive. She showed a great commitment in documenting the human rights issues particularly of women, in the highest militarised zone of the world”, said APDP Patron Advocate Parvez Imroz.
One of her biggest contributions was to create a space for women to talk about the on-going conflict. She founded the Kashmiri Women’s Initiative for Peace and Disarmament (KWIPD), an organization that endeavoured to make known the plight of women in Indian Administered Kashmir and garner global support to ensure human rights for them.
The KWIPD published a quarterly magazine called Voices Unheard to bring to the fore those voices which the Indian State sought to systematically censor. She travelled widely across Indian Administered Kashmir to uncover the realities of living under a repressive regime.
Her work inspired young women to claim a space in the resistance movement of Jammu & Kashmir and work in the perilous field of human rights. Many young women in Kashmir are following the path and space created for them by Aasia.
AFAD remembers Aasia Jeelani today and will continue to be inspired, motivated and encouraged her work and sacrifice for her people.
KHURRAM PARVEZ MARY AILEEN D. BACALSO