Unity Across Continents: Calling for Human Rights in Kashmir: Imam Teslim Afghali
Washington, DC. September 11, 2023 (tarkeen e watan) Leadership of the Kashmiri American diaspora, led by the World Kashmir Awareness Forum, and leadership of the African American diaspora led by the Sierra Leone Muslim Jamaat co-hosted an interactive panel discussion under the title of, “Unity Across Continents”, calling for Civil Rights Actions at the local and global levels to alleviate the suffering inflicted on the people of Kashmir by the Indian occupation forces during the last 76 years.
Imam Teslim Afghali expressed his appreciation to the leadership of World Kashmir Awareness Forum for choosing Sierra Leone Muslim Jamaat for the Kashmir awareness event. Imam Afghali said ‘I believe it will be very interesting interactive discussion this evening. Let me begin by emphasizing the significance of the topic of the discussion this evening. Let us listen to our guests from Kashmiri American community with open mind and give them utmost attention. As we know that Kashmir dispute is an old issue which began in 1947. Kashmir is known as paradise on earth because of its beauty, natural scenery, snow covered mountains, diverse forestry, historical monuments, handicrafts and local hospitality.
Imam Afghali added that both India and Pakistan have recognized the right of the people of Kashmir to decide their future. It will not be difficult for us coming from African heritage to understand the pain and suffering of our Kashmiri brethren. We are here to discuss various facets of the issue of Kashmir from human rights and cultural perspective and historical context. We want to foster an understanding among our communities. Recognizing the similarities between African experiences with of Kashmiri American diaspora is essential. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. famously said, ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’
Imam Afghali informed the audience that Prince George County has unanimously adopted a resolution, calling it, ‘Kashmiri Muslims Remembrance Day.’ We need to thank the members of the County Council for their support. Imam Afghali urged the audience to become the part of the peaceful struggle of Kashmir because human rights are universal right, they are Islamic rights, Christian rights and above all they are God given rights. Let us join hands with our Kashmir American diaspora community.
Dr. Ghulam N. Mir, President, World Kashmir Awareness Forum & Chairman, Kashmir Diaspora coalition and its Board Member Dr. Imtiaz Khan, Professor of the George Washington University expressed their deep gratitude to the host community and its remarkable leadership for hosting the event and showing solidarity with the Kashmiri Muslim community. Dr. Mir recounted the historical Poonch Massacre and the most horrifying Jammu Genocide of 1947 in which Indian military along with the Hindu Dogra forces of Maharaja Hari Singh killed 237,000 Kashmiri Muslims and forced over half a indigenous Muslims across the border into the newly created Pakistan. Dr. Khan recounted the horror of massacres and gang rapes, including the most heinous gang rape of Kunan-Poshpora in which 70 women of two twin villages were gang raped by Indian soldiers for which they were never accountable to the Indian government or the international community.
Dr. Mir drew the attention of the audience to the atrocities and denial of the basic human and political rights in Jammu and Kashmir by the Modi Government since it abrogated Article 370 and 35-A on August 5, 2019. With such unconstitutional and illegal actions, the Modi government abolished Kashmir’s internal autonomy, abrogated all freedoms of the state of 13 million residents and reduced the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir into the so-called Union Territory governed by a bunch of draconian laws meant to silence the Kashmiri Muslim majority.
Dr. Khan enumerated and condemned the Indian occupation, the illegal land grab and repression of political leaders and human rights defenders like the most renowned Kashmiri human rights defender, Khurram Parvez who has been imprisoned for over two years in an Indian jail purely to silence his and other voices in Kashmir.
The Kashmiri leaders present in the dialogue proposed to strengthen the ties between the Sierra Leone Jamaat and the Kashmiri American diaspora going forward with frequent communication and sharing of social and religious ties to advance the cause of peace, harmony and social justice here in the diaspora and back home in Sierra Leona and Kashmir. There was a warm reception to this proposal from the host community. The WKAF considers the Sierra Leone Muslim Jamaat as its first Ansar brothers and sister community in Maryland USA.
Dr. Mir also mentioned that Mr. Andrew S. Jacobson, main organizer of the event could not eb here due to his unscheduled important meeting in New York City.
Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai, Secretary General, World Kashmir Awareness Forum who was also present said later that this unity across continents is a totally new experience which will prove helpful to get our point across to an entirely different audience. African Union, Dr. Fai added comprises of 56 countries, with GDP of 3.6 trillion dollars. How can Kashmiri diaspora ignore such a vast continent? The people of Kashmir need to benefit from the experiences of our African brothers and sisters.
Dr. Fai mentioned to take a leaf from the wisdom of Nobel Laureate, Bishop Desmond Tutu who prayed in October 2008 for peace, justice and stability in Kashmir. Bishop Tutu added that peace in Kashmir will not be established through the barrel of gun but through dialogue and negotiations.”
Two distinguished guests from Turkey also attended the event. Dr. Cihangir Irisbilir, President, Istanbul-based Divan Research and Education Association (DREA) & Brother Sinan Celikkol, Businessman and Vice President of DREA & Chairman, Ship and Construction Investments, Istanbul. Dr. Irisbilir said that the event proved to be a captivating session, spotlighting the long-standing plight of the people of Kashmir. I felt very happy to see the African community in Washington pleading the case of Kashmir, Dr. Irisbilir added.