POB: Women protest Pak Army’s use of locals as forced labor & human shields

Baloch Women Brave Threats to Protest Forced Labor, Disappearances
Mashkay protest (Photo - News Intervention)

Women in Mashkay town of Awaran district in Pak-occupied-Balochistan have taken to the streets, protesting the harassment, forced labor, and enforced disappearances carried out by Pak security forces against locals.

The protesters, including relatives of the detained or missing persons, said that Army are routinely detaining men from the area, subjecting them to physical labor, and using them as human shields during clashes with  pro-independence groups. “This situation has persisted for a long time, with men being taken to military camps where they face violence and forced labor,” one of the women protesters said.

This year alone, Pak Army had forcibly disappeared three individuals – Sajjad Azam, Wali Jan, and Hasil Muhammad Hassan – after calling them to camps. Till now their whereabouts remain unknown. The women have appealed to Baloch organizations, particularly the Baloch Yakjehti Committee, to take up their cause and ensure the release of their loved ones.

Reacting strongly, prominent human rights activist and Baloch Yakjehti Committee leader Sammi Deen Baloch condemned the Army’s actions as serious violations of human rights and international laws. In a video statement, Sammi shed light on the Mashkay protests, which highlight grave issues like forced labor and the use of locals as human shields by Army,” a spokesman for the group said.

Despite the peaceful nature of the protests, the women are being threatened by local death squads at the behest of the Army instead of their grievances being addressed. Baloch urged human rights groups and political parties to intervene and support the people of Mashkay in their struggle for justice against state oppression.

Sammi Deen Muhammad, leader of Voice for Baloch Missing Persons, stated that Mashkay and Awaran are among the areas worst affected by the Army’s atrocities. After a military checkpoint was attacked in Mashkay’s Tunk area last month, Muhammad said the locals most impacted were forced into “humiliating subjugation” by the Army.

“They are made to abandon their livelihoods and do menial labor like cleaning roads and cutting forests. The men are taken to checkpoints daily and used to accompany troops, with warnings they will suffer if attacked,” she said in a video message. Muhammad added that Tunk has been under curfew for a month, with no movement allowed, leaving women and children starving.

These women have been continuously protesting for three days, marching on the desolate dirt tracks. There is no internet or mobile network facility, yet they continue protesting, demanding that their voices be heard against the oppression and collective persecution, and for the recovery of their forcibly disappeared loved ones.

She said during the protests, these women were threatened and intimidated by death squads. With great difficulty, their videos reached. She appealed to everyone to be the voice of these helpless mothers and sisters and stand with the people of Pak-occupied-Balochistan against this Army oppression.

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