Fri, Sep 02, 2005 - Page 6 News List

Militant Islamic women raiding the brothels of Kashmir

THE GUARDIAN

Groups of women wearing burkas in Indian Kashmir have raided brothels, smashed wine bottles and chastized canoodling teenagers in internet cafes to "arrest moral degradation."

The women, all members of Dukhtaran-e-Millat (Daughters of the People), a separatist group, began their fight this week to impose a puritanical set of Islamic values on Kashmir.

Aasiya Andrabi, the head of the group whose husband is in jail for allegedly fighting the Indian army, announced the formation of all-women squads to raid brothels in the Muslim-majority state.

"We will expose those indulging in immoral activities," said Andrabi, who revels in her role as a radical Islamist and has previously voiced support for Osama bin Laden.

The campaign by Dukhtaran-e-Millat has focused on prostitution. The women have set up a telephone number for people to call "when a man or woman has entered some place to commit adultery."

Adultery is illegal in Kashmir and can result in imprisonment. The women, travelling in three-wheel auto-rickshaws and cars, were staging the raids enveloped in head-to-toe veils. Pictures of them scolding restaurateurs and young people were printed in Indian papers.

Andrabi said her group's members had also swooped on eateries and internet cafes where they found teenage boys and girls talking freely and huddled in booths "being intimate." The group, which upbraided the young people, said they would talk to their parents.

Dukhtaran-e-Millat has also campaigned for women to veil themselves fully and sprayed paint over those who refused to cover up. The drive has been unsuccessful in the region in which a more liberal form of Islam has prevailed.

Alcohol shops, bars and cinemas were closed in the Kashmir valley in 1989 after the outbreak of separatist violence. But since the peace process between India and Pakistan, many venues have quietly reopened.

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