World Bulletin / News Desk
South African civil society groups came together on Sunday to show solidarity with the oppressed people of Kashmir and Syria, raising funds for children education.
"As South Africans who lived in the era of apartheid, we know the pain of oppression and stand in solidarity with the people of Jammu and Kashmir," Ibrahim Vawda, senior researcher at the Media Review Network (MRN) advocacy group, told an audience at the Marlboro community center in Johannesburg.
He condemned alleged extra-judicial killings, arbitrary arrests, torture and women rape in Kashmir.
Several international rights groups, including Amnesty International, have called on India to take immediate steps to protect and respect human rights in Kashmir.
"The MRN will continue to advocate for the rights of all oppressed people in the world," Vawda said.
Kashmir, a Muslim-majority Himalayan region, is held by India and Pakistan in parts and claimed by both in full.
The two countries have fought three full-fledged wars -- in 1948, 1965 and 1971 -- since partition in 1947, two of which were fought over Kashmir.
Since 1989, Kashmiri resistance groups in IHK have been fighting for independence or unification with neighboring Pakistan.
More than 70,000 people have reportedly been killed in the conflict so far.
Salman Khan of the South African Kashmir Action Group described Kashmir as one of the world's most militarized areas.
"Approximately half a million Indian forces are stationed across Jammu and Kashmir," he told Anadolu Agency.
"They want to totally intimidate and silence us from fighting for our independence and freedom," he added.
"I request the international community to intervene into this matter," said Khan.
Khan said this year’s event was organized to raise funds for the suffering children of Kashmir and Syria.
He asserted that the collected funds would be sent to organizations responsible for child education in both Syria and Kashmir.
During the event, journalist Jenine Coetzer, who recently returned from Syria, told the audience about her chilling experiences.
She recalled that during her reporting assignment with the South African humanitarian relief organization Gift of the Givers in northern Syria, fighting broke out close to the hospital where they were.
"Doctors, journalists and humanitarian staff had to lie down under the beds until the situation normalized," she told the audience.
Coetzer appealed to the audience to support the education of Syrian children trapped by the war.
"Deep your hands deep into your pockets for the cause of the suffering children of Syria," she appealed.
The function was attended by representatives of the governing African National conference, members of the civil society, the first secretary of the Pakistani embassy in South Africa and South African businessmen.