Tairah Firdous (2012 - 2013)
Growing up in the highest altitude militarized zone of the world, Tairah, like other children of her generation in Kashmir, lost her childhood to conflict. As a child, she witnessed bloodshed and murders, saw her father tortured on various occasions, and was forced to leave home with her family. These childhood experiences not only shaped her personally, but defined her professionally.
While attending the University of Kashmir, Tairah started volunteering for a nonprofit organization that works for victims of violence in her town. After completing her undergraduate degree in journalism, she was awarded a Ford Foundation Fellowship to pursue higher studies in the United States. She completed her Masters in Journalism at Hawaii Pacific University with a specialization in documentary film-making. As part of that fellowship, she was a graduate fellow at the East-West Center in Hawaii and spent a year at the University of Kansas as a research fellow.
Tairah has produced two documentaries thus far, and her third film, on torture victims in Kashmir, is presently in production. In 2010, her documentary entitled Between Terror TV and Alternative Voice: Al Jazeera Speaks was screened at both the Al Jazeera International and the New York International film festivals. In that same year, Tairah received the Yayori Award in Tokyo. This annual award honours human rights activities and focuses on women activists, journalists, and artists who work at the grassroots level with socially marginalized people.
For the past year and a half, Tairah was been working as a journalist for Mail Today (India Today Group), a daily newspaper in Delhi. Although she found it difficult to write about marginalized communities and social injustices while at the daily paper, she continued her human rights work through her films and research reports.
As a Sauvé Scholar, Tairah aims to research and expose abuses of the Public Safety Act (PSA) in Jammu and Kashmir. The PSA empowers the state to detain a person without trial for up to two years. Since 2008, an increasing number of children have been detained under PSA, on the basis of vague and general allegations in most of the cases. These allegations include acts considered “prejudicial to the security of the State” and “prejudicial to the maintenance of public order.”
Building on a series of written interviews that she conducted about minors who have been booked under PSA in Kashmir, especially in last few years, her goal is to produce in-depth written report on the cases of ten such people. The written report will document the time of detention, the charges under which they were booked, the time period of detention, legal proceedings, trial period, court judgments, release from prison and hardships they have faced since their release.
Ultimately, her goal is to bring the horror stories of the PSA abuse into the public sphere, raising international awareness about the PSA, which Amnesty International has called a “lawless law” that is prevalent in Kashmir, a region governed by the world’s largest democracy.
Tairah is also using her time a Sauvé Scholar to complete her documentary film project on torture victims in Kashmir.
Tairah loves reading, writing, and travelling, and her favourite pastimes include gardening, hiking, “anything to keep the environment clean”, and spending time with elderly people.
English, Kashmiri, Hindi, and Urdu
Country of origin
Country of Residence
Journalist/Film Maker/Human Rights Activist
Contact Tairah Firdous: Tairah.Firdous@sauvescholars.org