Aliya Bashir

From Guardian: “Kashmir half-widows shoulder the burden of double tragedy

“Twenty-eight year old Haleema (name changed) is a resident of the predominantly Muslim Anantnag district of southern Kashmir. In a region where the literacy rate is 42% for men and 25% for most women, she is known in her community as a “half-widow”, a term given to women whose husbands have completely disappeared and are still missing during the ongoing conflict in Kashmir.

Situated 55 kms (34.5 miles) south-east of Kashmir’s capital, Srinagar, the large and strikingly beautiful Anantnag region has a population of 850,000. Called the “granary of the Kashmir Valley”, the Anantnag is known as the home of rice and maize agriculture. The region is the third most highly populated district in Kashmir, after Srinagar and Baramulla, the rural areas where 89% of the population of Kashmir live.

Haleema feels alone, but she is not alone. She is one of countless women who have experienced the casualties of the Indo-Pakistani conflict on the border and violence inside Kashmir, with the “enforced disappearances” of husbands, fathers, brothers and children during 20 years of ongoing conflict.

While authorities estimate the missing to number approx 4,000, the Association of Disappeared Persons (APDP) estimates there are actually between 8,000 and 10,000 missing people in the region. The number of publicly announced and reported half-widows in the Kashmir valley is between 2,000 and 2,500. Along with the plight of 6,000 orphans, the children of half-widows who are affected deeply by the conflict, this issue adds much to the crisis. True data and numbers for both half-orphans and half-widows are thought to be much higher.

“Life has crushed me with a double tragedy,” explains Haleema. “My husband has disappeared and I am all alone to look after my little children, especially their education.”

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