Cambridge event Standout for Peace in solidarity with #StandWithKashmir

Demonstrators at MIT, part of a series of peaceful world-wide protests in solidarity with Kashmir on the weekend of 21 September, International Peace Day. Photo: Beena Sarwar

Published in Cambridge Chronicle, September 24, 2019.

Sunday, 22 September, Cambridge MA: “Resist to exist” proclaimed a placard on the steps of MIT. The placard featured the picture of a woman in a red pheran, the long woolen tunic traditionally worn by Kashmiris from the Himalayan region in India’s north-west tip.

Visual by Zarina Teli, based on a photograph by Sumaya Teli.

The woman holding the placard also wore a red pheran, her mouth taped shut like the others in the pheran-clad group she stood with to symbolize the communications blackout in her home state since 5 August this year. The pheran reflects an iconic image that has become integral to the Kashmiris’ resistance movement, as covered by NPR news recently (Finding resistance in fashion, Kashmiri creator turns to the pheran).

The color red, taken up by thousands in their social media profile images, has come to symbolize the Kashmiris’ spirit of resistance and defiance.

The woman and her companions stood with other peace-loving South Asians and friends on the steps of MIT this past Sunday at noon, to demand that the Indian government “immediately restore communication in Kashmir, remove the draconian measures enforced in the name of security and order, and respect Kashmiris’ right of self-determination”.

Boston event – Global Standout for Peace in South Asia. Photo: Beena Sarwar

The next day, Monday 23 September, marked Day 50 of “the unprecedented and total communications blackout for 8 million Kashmiris enforced on them by the Indian government. Kashmiris, living in the most militarized region on earth, now fear that the present communications blackout is part of a larger plan to ‘ethnically cleanse’ Kashmir,” according to the statement read out at the event.

The event at MIT was part of a series of peaceful protests that weekend in solidarity with the Kashmiri people, coordinated by a small coalition called the Global Standout for Peace in South Asia.

Besides Boston, the Standouts took place in the San Francisco Bay area, Kolkata (India), Gotenburg (Sweden), Islamabad (Pakistan), and Kathmandu (Nepal), on the same weekend as Indian Prime Minister Modi shared the stage with U.S. President Trump in Houston. Solidarity with Kashmir protests took place in Houston also, as well as Seattle WA.

Standout for Peace in solidarity with Kashmir, Goteburg, Sweden

Nuclear-armed neighbors India and Pakistan both lay claim to Kashmir. The Global Standout protestors showed their rejection of these territorial claims by not carrying the flags of any nation or state.

Supporting organizations in Boston included Massachusetts Peace Action, CODEPINK: Women for Peace, MIT Students Against War, Stand With Kashmir, Coalition for Democratic India, Alliance for a Secular and Democratic South Asia, and Boston University Students for Justice in Palestine.

Addressing the participants, Cambridge City Councillor Sumbul Siddiqui encouraged them to keep ‘speaking out for justice’.

The event ended with a drum sounding 50 beats, one for each day since the communications lockdown up to that point.

(ends)

Muna’s ordeal

Wom-violence-Pakistan-Getty-2010

Women mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, Lahore, November 25, 2010. (Getty)

Found this old report I wrote about a young woman who miraculously survived horrific domestic violence, published in The News on Sunday, 18 January 2004. What has changed in Pakistan since I reported on it and what hasn’t? Posting it here as I couldn’t find it online.
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Asma Jahangir: A meaningful life, an inspiring legacy

I wrote this piece for a web dossier produced by Heinrich Boell Foundation for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights‘ 70th anniversary 2018 – Asma Jahangir – ein bedeutungsvolles Leben, ein inspirierendes Erbe. Sharing now, a year after Asma Jahangir has passed on. This piece doesn’t include her role for peace in the region and in the UN system that I’ve written about earlier and also detailed in a longer essay to be printed in an anthology titled Voices of Freedom from Asia and the Middle East, co-edited by Mark Dennis and Rima Abunasser, TCU, is under publication by SUNY Press. Above: Asma Jahangir at her office; still from my documentary Mukhtiar Mai: The struggle for justice (2006)

By Beena Sarwar

The field on the outskirts of Lahore was full of workers waiting to hear the woman from the city speak. They squatted on their haunches with dull hopeless eyes, the drab greys and browns of their clothes at one with the earth they fashioned into bricks to bake in bhattas — kilns that dot the rural landscape of Punjab and upper Sindh. For their back-breaking labour they were paid in kind, leading to generations of indebtedness as the traditional informal economy transitioned into a cash-based system.

Brick kiln-Shehryar Warraich:News Lens-2015

Brick kiln workers, Pakistan. Photo: Shehryar Warraich/News Lens, 2015

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New Bhutto fellowship at Harvard accepting applications

Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto Returns To Pakistan

Benazir Bhutto, arrival in Karachi, 2007. Photo: Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images

A new fellowship at Harvard University to honor the late Pakistani political leader Benazir Bhutto, member of the Harvard College class of 1973, is now accepting applications.  Continue reading

Pushing forward the cart that says “Educate Pakistan!”

My piece about the TCF fundraiser in Boston last weekend, published in The News on Sunday, May 15, 2016

Adil Najam, Nargis Mavalvala-Ateed Riaz-Beena Sarwar

Adil Najam, Nargis Mavalvala, Ateed Riaz at the speakers table. Photo: Beena Sarwar

Pitching in for education in Pakistan from Boston and beyond

Beena Sarwar

The Citizens’ Foundation is doing an amazing job, and I’m honoured to be here,” said Nergis Mavalvala, giving the keynote address at the sold-out Third Annual The Citizen’s Foundation (TCF) Boston Fundraiser on Saturday, 7 May, 2016.

Propelled to celebrity status by her role in the recent breakthrough on gravitational waves predicted by Einstein, the Pakistani-American astrophysicist at MIT added, “TCF is fantastic – give generously”. Continue reading

Afridi’s googly and CII’s no ball

Afridi kitchenUpdated version of my PERSONAL POLITICAL column published in The News op-ed and TOI blogs on Friday

Beena Sarwar

Shahid Afridi’s googly lobbed at women’s cricket in Pakistan in an interview, dismissing women as just good cooks, went viral on social media over the past few days.

And recently, the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) decreed that Pakistani laws that prohibit under-age marriage and place conditions on a married man’s attempts to take another wife are ‘un-Islamic’.

Ostensibly very different, both stem from the same patriarchal mind-set that sees women as inferior to men, justifying itself by invoking religion or cultural traditions. Continue reading

Those demanding ‘Sharia’ in Pakistan, FYIP

Why I do not want Shariah in Pakistan

The Pakistan government is trying to hold talks with the Taliban, who should really be referred to as Fasadis*. There are no women in the government committee, and of course none on the Taliban side. One of the Taliban negotiators pulled out, refusing to participate until the agenda includes the imposition of Sharia law. Here’s a note posted by The Traitors of Pakistan and  Pakistan Votes  on Facebook, ’10 reasons why I do not want Shariah in Pakistan’. I have an additional question to the reasons they listed: 11. Whose Sharia? Each religious sect has its own version. Many of us reject the one propagated by the Fasadis and the Saudi-patronised Takfiris**. Here’s the note, for your information please, as desis say:

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