Kashmir activists win Rafto Prize for human rights

Indian police detain a Kashmiri 'Anganwadi', a government sponsored child and mother care worker, during a hunger strike to protest against the state government in Srinagar on September 20, 2017. Two Indian activists from Kashmir on Thursday won Norway’s Rafto Prize for human rights for their long-term struggle against violence in the disputed territory. (AFP / Tauseef Mustafa)
Updated 29 September 2017

Kashmir activists win Rafto Prize for human rights

OSLO: Two Indian activists from the heavily militarized region of Kashmir on Thursday won Norway’s Rafto Prize for human rights for their long-term struggle against violence in the disputed territory, the jury announced.
Parveena Ahanger, nicknamed “The Iron Lady of Kashmir,” founded and leads the Association of Parents of Missing Persons after her 17-year-old son was kidnapped by security forces in 1990. She has not heard anything from or of him since.
Her co-laureate, lawyer Imroz Parvez, founded the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS), which promotes human rights and non-violence. It has documented the authorities’ use of torture in the state of Jammu and Kashmir.
“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, militarization and international tension,” the Rafto Foundation said in a statement.
“Their long campaign to expose human rights violations, promote dialogue and seek peaceful solutions to the intractable conflict in Kashmir has inspired new generations across communities,” it added.
The prize of $20,000 (€17,750) will formally be presented on Nov. 5 in the western Norwegian town of Bergen.
Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since the end of British colonial rule in 1947 but both claim the water-rich territory in full.
From 1947-1949 the two nations fought over Kashmir, a Muslim-majority state which ended up being divided along a de facto border still disputed today. A second war over Kashmir in 1965 ended in stalemate.
In late 1989 Muslim separatist groups launched an anti-India uprising in Kashmir that was later taken over by militant guerrillas.
Since then the insurrection has killed tens of thousands of people, mostly civilians.
Between 8,000 and 10,000 people have gone missing since the beginning of the escalation in the 1980s, according to the Rafto Foundation.
Named after the late Norwegian human rights activist Thorolf Rafto, four past winners of the prize (Aung San Suu Kyi, Jose Ramos-Horta, Kim Dae-Jung and Shirin Ebadi) went on to win to Nobel Peace Prize, whose laureate for 2017 will be announced on Oct. 6.


UK PM says schools must open in September

Updated 09 August 2020

UK PM says schools must open in September

  • A study has warned that Britain risks a second wave of COVID-19 this winter if schools open without an improved test-and-trace system
  • The government wants all pupils to return to school by early September

LONDON: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said reopening schools in September was a social, economic and moral imperative and insisted they would be able to operate safely despite the ongoing threat from the pandemic.
His comments follow a study earlier this month which warned that Britain risks a second wave of COVID-19 this winter twice as large as the initial outbreak if schools open without an improved test-and-trace system.
Writing in the Mail on Sunday, Johnson said restarting schools was a national priority. Schools would be the last places to close in future local lockdowns, he was quoted by another newspaper as telling a meeting on Thursday.
Schools in England closed in March during a national lockdown, except for the children of key workers, and reopened in June for a small number of pupils.
The government wants all pupils to return to school by early September in what Johnson has called a “national priority.”
“Keeping our schools closed a moment longer than absolutely necessary is socially intolerable, economically unsustainable and morally indefensible,” Johnson wrote.
The economic costs for parents who cannot work if schools are shut are spiralling, and the country faces big problems if children miss out on education, the prime minister warned.
“This pandemic isn’t over, and the last thing any of us can afford to do is become complacent. But now that we know enough to reopen schools to all pupils safely, we have a moral duty to do so,” he wrote.
The Sunday Times newspaper reported that he has ordered a public relations campaign to ensure schools open on time and told the meeting last week that they should be the last places to close behind restaurants, pubs and shops.