In our ongoing look at the Feminist Peace Network‘s story as part of Women’s History Month, this letter (undated, but probably sent in 2007) went to representatives of several other women’s groups, including WILPF, NOW, Code Pink, Global Women’s Strike, Nobel Women’s Initiative and VDay. Unfortunately, nothing substantive resulted from it, and the letter could just as easily be sent today apropos of numerous conflict-afflicted areas in the world.
As I think you all know, the already dire situation for Iraqi women and children has become horrendously worse during the last few months, both for those still in Iraq and for those who are now refugees. Yet this crisis is all but invisible to the U.S. peace/anti-war movement which seems to be centering its message on ending the war but supporting the troops, a message that while expedient in terms of building a broad coalition against the war, only addresses part of the problem.
As women’s organizations and feminists, we need to demand that the specific harms to women as a result of this conflict be addressed as part of the anti-war movement’s agenda. Harms such as:
–Lack of maternal healthcare.
–The difficulties facing women trying to get passports (you have to travel to Baghdad and have a male relative’s permission) in order to flee the country.
–The women who have been sexually trafficked and forced into prostitution to feed themselves and their children. The Independent (UK) has suggested that 50,000 women refugees may be prostituting themselves which sounds like a huge number but if you consider that there are some 4 million refugees now, many of whom are women without male relatives and who are not able to legally obtain work, the number does not seem unreasonable. As horrific as this is, it is a crisis that is all but invisible to the American public.
All of our organizations want this war to end, but bringing our soldiers home, while necessary, is not sufficient, we need to end this war for the Iraqi people too and work to help them restore their lives. The first place that needs to start is immediately addressing the refugee crisis and setting up ways to enable women as part of this process. We also need to demand that U.S. troops do not continue the wholesale slaughter of women and children.
To raise our voices loudly enough to be heard, we truly need to do so together. I don’t have a specific plan of action in mind, at this point I am simply asking if you are willing to work together and to ask that you share your ideas.
In peaceful sisterhood,
Feminist Peace Network