Kashmiri women lift veil, eye career in the skies

Wed Jul 8, 2009 2:37am EDT
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By Sunil Kataria

SRINAGAR, India (Reuters Life!) - Far from the violence and unrest that have marred the capital of disputed Kashmir, a group of young women swap their burqas for smart suits and stilettos and dream of a career in the skies.

The inauguration of an international airport in Srinagar in February gave youngsters in Kashmir's main city an alternative to traditional careers in medicine and teaching, and the valley's first aviation academy is now grooming them for the skies.

"When this institute opened, we got really excited," said Samiya Ayub, a trainee cabin crew at Viinzs Aviation Training Institute, which is located a short drive outside Srinagar.

"We now have the opportunity to show the world that we can also become something in life," she told Reuters Television.

The year-long training in grooming, English and French languages, ticketing and catering is no different from that offered by hundreds of similar institutes that mushroomed across India on the back of an aviation boom in a fast growing economy.

But in Kashmir, where tens of thousands of people have been killed since discontent against Indian rule turned into a rebellion in 1989, the institute is, to many, a god-send.

With protests and violence almost a daily occurrence in Srinagar, the institute chose to maintain a low-profile, picking an out-of-town location so the women, who often come in wearing burqas, are safe.

The older generation also took some convincing.   Continued...

<p>A displaced woman wearing a burqa waits in line with others at a repatriation centre in Peshawar, located in the North West Frontier Province on April 30, 2009. REUTERS/Adrees Latif</p>