A Radical Geography Community
The population of Jammu and Kashmir was divided in 1947, and Palestine was divided in 1948, under the watch of colonial powers. The workshop provided safe space for eight Kashmiri and Palestinian young adults with experience of civic engagement and an interest in transnational solidarity across borders to exchange experiences and learn about their struggle and others living in a different geographic context, leads them to see their own circumstances in a new light and gain new ideas for instigating social and political change.
The workshop took place in Istanbul, 30 November – 3 December 2017. We had seven participants and two facilitators. Two Kashmiris came from each side and the Palestinians came from Gaza, Occupied Territories and inside Israel. One Palestinian was refused visa. The workshop jointly facilitated by Serena Hussain (British-Kashmiri) and Marwan Darweish (Palestinian), who understand the cultures and languages of each context.
Before the workshop we created WhatsApp group and participants introduced themselves and they read a summary of the interview we conducted with them and others and asked them to share their reflection during the workshop, this forum continued after the workshop as way of communication and exchange between the participants. However, they were reluctant to create Facebook page for the group.
Day one saw the participants introduce themselves through storytelling and understanding each other. They shared the challenge of getting to the workshop. Participants highlighted issues such checkpoints, long hours of travelling and questioning at the airports.
The story of the object: each person brought an object from home to introduce him or herself to the group through this object. The objects reflected different aspects of the culture and political symbols in both conflict context. One of the Palestinian participants commented: “I learned a lot from the Kashmiri participants about the conflict through the object they introduced. I brought this Palestinian embroidery because it reflects my identity and our struggle.”
Day two focused on conflict analysis and mapping of both situations. We introduced conflict analysis tools such as mapping, timeline and others and divided the group to apply these tools to their conflict and then to present to each other. One Kashmiri participants commented later: “The group presentations helped me understand the dynamics of our own conflicts and it gave me the opportunity for the first time to meet youth from the other side of Kashmir and learn about their perspectives.”
A Palestinian participant reflected on the group presentations about the conflict: “I learnt about the different ethnic groups too that lives there and how each group view the conflict differently. Being interested in minorities and indigenous people, as well as people who have suffered from European settler-colonialism, I tried to draw parallels between Palestine and Kashmir. It was striking to me that we actually share a lot in common.”
Day three focused on visioning together what their society will look like without borders or re-conceptualizing “borders”. They were asked to consider the experiences of their grandparents and the future experiences of their children and grandchildren and what Kashmir and Palestine will look like. To make this visioning related to the context of the workshop we took a boat trip along the “border” between Europe and Asia on the Bosphorus Strait. As a group we reflect on this experience of crossing borders by a boat. This was a very powerful experience and way of looking at Istanbul form the boat. It raised discussion about the experience the participants faced during their journey. One participant reflected: “When we were crossing this border, I thought how these borders restrict the human freedom, what if there were no borders? What if it was one world and one nation? So what will happen, people will have the freedom to live everywhere, so there is no restrictions, this isn’t the type of borders I know.” Another said, “all the thing that came to my mind was the about Syrian refugees, in the sea they die every day”, and she continued, “countries that live under oppression can work together, they experience these things together”. Kashmiris participants reflected on the boat trip saying: “It reminded me of the ‘Neelam’ river that divide us; it wouldn’t have been very easy to cross from two continents. There are already bridges, many bridges. It gave me the feeling that there will be hope for this to be the same in my country.”
On day four the participants discussed the meaning international solidarity for them and the way they can keep communications and exchange of information and also was a chance to say goodbye to each other and do written evaluation.
Marwan Darweish (Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations, Coventry University)
By the end of these four days, participants will have deepened their understanding of their own contexts and journeys of others living under occupation and oppression, in order to learn from each other and to explore the possibilities for a joint platform to work together towards social and political change.
We will do this by:
• Hearing each person’s stories and aspirations
• Exploring how our experiences and aspirations relate to the research findings
• Identifying the needs that could be served through a joint platform.
• Agree on next steps
Day one: Getting to know each other
9:00-9:30 – Welcome and introductions.
9:30-10:30 – Objectives, expectations and concerns. Contract
10:30-10:50 – Break
10:50-13:00 – The story of the journey to get here. Trust walk? What helped me to feel safe/trusted?
13:00-14:00 – Lunch
14:00-15:30 – The story of the object that I brought
15:30-15:50 – Break
15:50-16:30 – The themes emerged from this activity
16:30-17:00 – Closure, reflection and next day plan
Day two: Setting the agenda
9:00-9:15 – Reflection on the day
9:15-13:00 – Re-visit the questions used for the interviews. Time line for the conflict
13:00-14:00 – Lunch
14:00-14:20 – Knot exercise
14:20-15:15 – Mapping exercise of the conflict
15:15-15:30 – Break
15:30-17:00 – Presentation of mapping and issues. Closure
Day three: Visioning
9:00-9:15 – Refection on the day. Objective of the day
9:15-13:00 – Crossing borders. Travel in a boat across the ‘border’ between Europe and Asia on the Bosphorus Strait
13:00-14:00 – Back to the hotel for lunch
14:00-15:30 – Reflect on the experience taking the boat and crossing. Visioning for people under occupation or oppression
15:30-15:50 – Break
15:50-17:00 – Boarders, transnational movements, and transnational solidarity
9:00-9:30 – Reflection and looking ahead
10:00-13:00 – What is platform for solidarity? What is the aim? Forces that hinder and drive such a platform? Next steps
13:00-14:00 – Lunch
14:00-15:00 – Ideas to develop this project for larger bid. Feedback and evaluation
15:00 – End
Q1. What did you find most useful during the workshop?
The knowledge exchange and the search for the common ground.
Understanding the reality better and trying to create a shared actual platform for starting on the real ground.
The tools used helped in understanding different opinions respectfully.
And the most important part is the unity that can be created among people who are oppressed.
What I found most useful was the conflict analysis tools which are very useful in understanding the individual components of a conflict.
Learning about the J&K, socially and politically.
The map of J&K was very useful and helped me during all the workshop.
Using conflict analysis tools to understand conflict thoroughly, in a better and comprehensive manner.
I got to better understand the historical and religious and political context in Kashmir. I got to see the similarities as well as the differences between both situations. Having a platform of solidarity.
I found the mapping exercise and conflict trees as one of the most useful learning during the exercise as it helped me to understand and learn the analysis of conflict in Kashmir and Palestine as well as the future that we can envision.
Well, it was really an informative workshop. I never thought about conflict and its resolution to such an extent. But the tools and methods used during the workshop has really helped me to think more inclusively in matters of conflict resolution.
Q2. What did you find least useful during the workshop?
The focus on differences should have been given more space.
To come clearer “not only differences between the two countries but also differences among the one group”.
There was no such thing.
To be honest, everything was useful.
Nothing. Every activity was relevant, and informative.
Some participants at some points tended to focus on differences and profiling which does not help. I think the situation in Kashmir should be treated as unified cause of Kashmiris not as conflict between Pakistan, India and China.
I think about the object that brought as I had understanding of the most of the thoughts and all of them were almost expected by me.
Everything was significant and I learned a lot from the workshop. The only problem was the group formation, not always, few times only.
Q3. Tell us something specific you learned about the groups
I have changed my whole perspective about the situation in J&K.
It’s not a fight between two countries, there are people who are seeking freedom from both sides I also have learnt that “colonialism” and its for resources is turning every heaven to hell not only in Palestine.
Living in Pakistani side which is an Islamic country I learned that we were not told about the problems Palestinian had to face because of the surrounding Muslim countries.
The political and social challenges within the J&K people, the different visions and point of views on the solution
Previously, I had another view of the Palestinian conflict, based on religion, but this workshop helped me understand the real context.
The historical, ethnic, political and economic complexity of the siatuion in Kashmir.
I learned and clarified my understanding about Palestine and Kashmir. I learned group diversity and diversity in perspectives.
I am from J&K and I learned many new things about Palesitnians. We used to think, it has something to do with Islam only, which isn’t the case.
Q4. Has the workshop added anything to your experience and understanding about working with both i) people from your own group and ii) other groups?
It added a lot to my experience: it actually raised the hope in me for accomplishing something great and the coming generation who is living under oppression have more in common than differences.
In Palestine the harmony in the group gives a great chance to work together and start a join action.
In Kashmir great work can be done and must be done.
I did realize that people of Palestine and people of J&K were subjugated in a similar way but having a same culture in Palestine keep them under some sort of unity no matter what your ideology. However people at Kashmir have many different cultures and many different religions and it is very hard to explain the audience their problem.
i) Yes it was really great working with Palestinians, in this context do these especially in a busy daily life that you don’t get to meetings.
ii) Absolutely! It added a lot, in every aspect.
This workshop as useful to understand a different narrative of members of my own group, and obviously, it was very fruitful and informative to work with other group, to comprehend their conflict in their language, not just media language.
Yes, in my group. I got to better understand the situation in geographic areas I don’t have access to and in the other group, I become more aware of the sitatuion that is different from the mainstream coverage of it.
Yes, it, indeed, helped a lot and made me more clear about my perspectives, the gaps in my thinking, the experiences of others through their lenses, the future and yes, a friendship among us forever. Indeed, this is one of the research activities that I enjoyed and would like to express that such practices should be expanded among the oppressed communities.
Within my group, I got to know the different perspectives about Kashmir more thoroughly.
About other group, I learned they had very limited understanding about Kashmir conflict.
I would like to thank you, Serena, Marwan and anybody who helped making this meeting happen. I have learned a lot. And I would like to thank each one of the participants I enjoyed every second, the workshops, the breaks, the tours… so, thank you and see you soon.
Thank you for your time and effort to make it happen I learnt a lot and I enjoyed every bit of it.
See also “Kashmiris and Palestinians Meet to Discuss Their Mutual Nakbas” in the Palestine Chronicle, where Yousef M. Aljamal discusses the workshop (an Arabic version is available here).