Monday, 24 June 2013

Speaking at Kashmir Awareness Day event

I was privileged yesterday to be invited to the Kashmir awareness day which was held in Birmingham.

My speech from the day is below:
Good Afternoon Ladies and gentlemen, and fellow defenders of human rights.
I am very proud to be able to attend this event and I want to talk about why we are here.
Those of you who know me will know that I am very passionate about my political beliefs. But when I take part in meetings of the Human Rights sub-committee, when I visit people in Gaza, Tunisia or Afghanistan, when I spend time with political prisoners in Bahrain, when I help distribute food to needy families, when I talk to friends as I am doing now, I consider it a duty as YOUR ELECTED REPRESENTATIVE. To fight.

As citizens we must not only talk about social responsibility, we must demonstrate it.
We all have a collective responsibility towards those people who do not yet have security. Those who do not yet have the freedom to express themselves, to choose the company they keep, or to communicate with their fellow man without the fear of censorship and retribution for what they may say or write.
Since elected to the European Parliament in 2009, I have supported the right of the Kashmiri people to self-determination. I consider the right of self-determination to be a basic human right, and I want to emphasise here and now that there must be no "buts" in Human rights.
Human rights are universal, and every man woman and child on this planet is entitled to live their lives in freedom, without fear of persecution, with access to the best standards of healthcare and education that our society can provide, and with the right to live in a just and democratic world.
This is not an ideological dream; this is a statement of fact.
The use of women as a weapon of warfare is the act of cowardice and barbarity.
The heart-breaking and emotionally draining  stories of women being raped in front of their fathers, mothers, husbands, brothers, sisters and even children shows a level of barbarity and why our actions in highlighting and campaigning for justice are important and I will do whatever I can to help.
The Indian Army acts with impunity. These Acts cannot and MUST not be tolerated by the watching world.
I was pleased to learn that recently a group of women have filed for Public Interest Litigation in the High Court to try to reopen the investigation and seek justice. We stand shoulder to shoulder with them. Their case is just one of many shocking examples: .On February 23 1991, at least 53 Kashmiri women were gang-raped by soldiers in what is known as the Kunan Poshpora incident. The Indian government dismissed the incident, saying that the allegations against the soldiers were 'baseless'.
 What we are sharing together here today is not just a gathering of like-minded individuals. It is not just an exhibition, not just a forum for debate. This is a vigil.
A vigil that will not end until we achieve our shared aims.
Thomas Jefferson once said that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance, and to the men of violence and repression I say this - "We are watching you, and you will have to account for your actions".
Sometimes it can be hard to stand up for what is right. Sometimes we know what we want to do, or say, but we can feel intimidated. But please, all of you look around you now. You are not alone, so do not be afraid to speak out, to condemn violence, to challenge discrimination and repression.
We are united. We are united by our shared love of freedom, democracy, and justice, and our shared commitment to the concept of universal human rights.
We are united. We are strong. We have right on our side. We will speak out against injustice and repression. And we are not going away.
To The British Kashmiri Womens Council, I thank you for inviting me to host this event. I feel honoured to be associated with the work that you do.
But my most important message is to the people of Kashmir. To you I say - self-determination is coming. Peace is coming. Justice is coming. It may not be tomorrow, or next year, but your future and Justice is coming.