Turkey, World, Asia - Pacific

Candlelight vigil voices solidarity with Kashmir

Turks, Pakistanis assemble after sunset, urging rights and peace for Kashmiri population

16.08.2019
Candlelight vigil voices solidarity with Kashmir

ANKARA 

Scores of Pakistanis living in Turkey converged at Pakistan's Embassy in Ankara Thursday evening for a candlelight vigil expressing their solidarity with the people of India-administered Jammu and Kashmir.

With candles and posters in their hands, they were joined by many Turks, who said they had come to express support for the Kashmiri population.

The mood at the post-sunset outdoor assembly was somber.

“We wish the people of Kashmir peace, I have come here to express solidarity,” said Secil Solak, a septuagenarian Turkish woman holding a candle.

Expat Pakistanis and Kashmiris across the globe observed Aug. 15 -- the Independence day of India -- as “Black Day,” protesting the Indian move to revoke the disputed region's special status.

On midnight Aug. 4 midnight, a communication blackout was thrown over Kashmir, cutting off its connections with the external world. Minimal news is trickling out of the region, with the Indian government imposing strict restrictions.

“We hope that the pain and grief [of Kashmiris] will be over soon,” said Solak, who said that she has been reading about the plight of Kashmir for many years.

Many others like Solak had travelled large distances to highlight the sufferings of the people of Kashmir.

A few young men who had come from the capital's outskirts said they were appalled by India's decision. “We're here to express our unconditional support for Kashmir,” said one.

The vigil began with recitations from the Quran inside the premises of Pakistan's Embassy.

“May Allah grant hidayah [the right path] to our neighbor [India] which has been blinded by power,” a Pakistani participant was heard saying in a high-pitched voice.

Women and children joined to offer special prayers.

Outside the embassy, pictures from Indian-administered Kashmir were on display showing victims of pellet gun attacks as well as civilian protests.

Young children held signs and posters denouncing what they called “state-sponsored terrorism” in Jammu and Kashmir. The protestors called on the UN to “wake up” to the realities in Kashmir.

Speaking to reporters, Pakistani Ambassador to Turkey Muhammad Syrus Sajjad Qazi, called the situation in Kashmir “dangerous” and a matter for concern for his country.

“More than 10 million people have been deprived of their right to self-determination. Their fundamental rights are being violated by a so-called democracy that is India,” he said.

Jammu and Kashmir enjoyed “special status” guaranteed by India's Constitution under Article 370, under which the region had its own constitution, flag, and powers to make its own laws. It was especially meant to protect the region's identity and demographic makeup.

Qazi praised Turkey for supporting Pakistan and “more importantly standing with the people of Kashmir in the quest for their right to self-determination.”

“Turkey is a very valued member of the OIC [Organization of Islamic Cooperation] Contact Group on Kashmir," he said.

"Turkey recently issued statement and expressed concerns about India’s recent steps and called for resolution of the situation according to UN Security Council resolutions and to meet the legitimate demand of Kashmiris,” Qazi added.

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