How These Badass Women Photojournalists in Kashmir Cover Conflict
Sanna Mattoo and Masrat Zahra are covering conflict in Kashmir from a woman’s lens.
Video Editor: Puneet Bhatia
Cameraperson: Syed Shahriyar
Ever been told you couldn’t do something because it’s a “man’s job”? It’s time to shut the haters. For Women’s Day, we present you stories about women who’re acing conventionally male-dominated jobs and smashing ‘StreeOtypes’ along the way!
(This story was first published on 24 May 2018. It is being republished for International Women’s Day.)
On 18 May, Masrat Zahra uploaded her photo on her Facebook account. She was covering an operation by armed security personnel in Kachdoora of Shopian district, when her friend took her photograph. A few hours later that photo went viral, and was followed by threats, abuses and intimidation.
Her photo was shared widely portraying her as a mukbir: An informer and spy.
People in Kashmir haven’t seen a woman at encounter sites, among armed men or security forces. It was new to them. They thought I was an informer. So they labelled me a mukbir. That disturbed me a lot. It left me depressed.Masrat Zahra, Freelance photojournalist
The valley has seen years of conflict, and that became a reason for many people to pick up their pens or cameras to report what is happening. Men in bulletproof jackets, a press helmet and a camera is a common sight, now even women are daring to make space for themselves.
I think there should be a female perspective of the conflict.Masrat Zahra, Freelance photojournalist
Suspects on Both Sides
Just like Masrat, Sanna Irshad Mattoo is a photojournalist and has been covering encounters, clashes and funerals for more than two years now.
Recalling an incident she said, “There was a curfew and I was shooting in downtown Srinagar. A police officer called and asked me what I was doing. They asked me for my ID card and told me to stop shooting. This was my experience with the police here. Such checks and interrogation have become routine”.
Conflict reporting isn’t easy. Last year, on 5 September, the National Investigation Agency arrested Kamran Yousuf. A 23-year-old freelance photojournalist in south Kashmir. They accused him of instigating people to pelt stones.
For women, the challenges are of a different kind. They find resistance from all sides.
Sanna believes gender makes no difference, work alone does. And Masrat says she doesn’t see herself as a man or woman when she is on the field.
While Masrat has the support of her father and her brother, her mother still wants her to change her profession. She feels it’s too dangerous. However, despite these challenges, the two continue to follow their passion.
Sanna and Masrat have been working in difficult circumstances. They have covered clashes, protests, encounters and funerals. A sight of a woman with a camera is a rare one, and people are still getting used to it.
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