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Inshah Malik is trying to rebuild Kashmir with a different weapon – her pen

Young writer Inshah Malik tells the stories of Kashmiri women and the often brutal effects on them from decades of conflict.

By Rebecca ByerlyContributor / May 24, 2012

For Kashmir to heal and women to gain a greater role, Inshah Malik says, it’s crucial that Kashmiris never forget the women still searching for their loved ones or being brutalized by ongoing conflict.

Bridgette Auger

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Srinagar, India-controlled Kashmir

Inshah Malik may have a plan to share with the conflict-weary women of the Arab Spring. For most of her 27 years, she has lived through a brutal clash that ripped apart her homeland in Kashmir, on the border between India and Pakistan.

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Now Ms. Malik, like a growing number of other young Kashmiris, is trying to rebuild her community with a different weapon – her pen.

For communities to heal and women to gain a greater role, she says, it’s crucial that her people never forget the collective memories of women searching for their loved ones and being brutalized by conflict. Though she’s just starting out, her work might offer examples for the women of Syria, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, and Yemen. How can they start rebuilding their communities and making a space for themselves when the protests die down and the world stops paying attention?

Malik has written a collection of stories of women from villages in a recently published book, based on her graduate thesis “Muslim Women Under the Impact of Ongoing Conflict in Kashmir.” She writes of women such as Dilfroz, who was raped in front of her family during an army search, thus bringing attention to stories that usually go unheard. She hopes to have the book reprinted in Kashmir at a reduced cost so that it can be used in the course curriculum in universities.

“In Kashmir, for the entire conflict, women have always been out there fighting,” Malik says, looking out the window of her home in Srinagar, the summer capital.

In 2010 she frantically posted Facebook updates as Indian security forces smashed these windows during massive protests. “The conflict has actually proven to be more brutal for women because ... [that] violence [was] intended to demean the community, to demean the enemy, to demean the people who are fighting the authorities,” she says.

Kashmir is one of the most militarized place in the world, with some 600,000 Indian soldiers policing the region near the Himalayas where India, Pakistan, and China converge. The military presence picked up in 1989 when Pakistani-trained militants began crossing the border into Indian-controlled Kashmir, leading to an armed movement for independence from India.

In the years that followed, Amnesty International reports, more than 70,000 people were killed, thousands of women were widowed, and thousands more were raped. By the late 1990s, the armed movement was quashed by Indian forces.

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