Nobel Prize laureate and education activist Malala Yousafzai on Saturday called upon the United Nations to act and work towards bringing peace to the India-occupied Kashmir territory so that children may safely resume their schooling.
“I am asking leaders, at #UNGA and beyond, to work towards peace in Kashmir, listen to Kashmiri voices and help children go safely back to school,” she wrote in a post on Twitter.
Since the Indian government repealed Article 370 of its constitution — stripping occupied Kashmir of its special status — a strict lockdown and communications blackout has been imposed in the region. It has now been in place for more than 40 days.
The young Nobel laureate expressed alarm over the oppressive conditions the Kashmiris have been living under.
“I am deeply concerned about reports of 4,000 people, including children, arbitrarily arrested and jailed, about students who haven’t been able to attend school for more than 40 days, about girls who are afraid to leave their homes,” she wrote.
In a series of tweets, Malala also shared her account of corresponding with people over the past week from various walks of life, including journalists, human rights lawyers and students.
“I wanted to hear directly from girls living in Kashmir right now. It took a lot of work from a lot of people to get their stories because of the communications blackout. Kashmiris are cut off from the world and unable to make their voices heard,” she said.
She then went on to quote the girls she had spoken to.
“The best way to describe the situation in Kashmir right now is absolute silence. We have no way of finding out what’s happening to us. All we could hear [were] the steps of troops outside our windows. It was really scary,” she described as one girl narrating to her.
According to Malala, another girl said she felt “purposeless and depressed” because of the restrictions which barred her from going to school.
“I missed my exams on August 12 and I feel my future is insecure now. I want to be a writer and grow to be an independent, successful Kashmiri woman. But it seems to be getting more difficult as this continues,” Malala quoted her as saying.
One girl saw a ray of hope in the global outrage that had sparked since India’s imposition of restrictions.
“People speaking out for us adds to our hope. I am longing for the day when Kashmir will be free of the misery we’ve been going through for decades,” read Malala’s account of what the girl told her.