As we observe the 10th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, I want to re-post the Statement of Conscience that was written by early participants in the Feminist Peace Network to express our horror about and objection to this war. Re-reading the statement, I am both saddened by how right we were to object and proud that we stood up and spoke our peace in the face of the hyper faux patriotism that was sweeping the country. My deep gratitude to all who participated in drafting this statement. Tomorrow I will re-post “Our Lives Are Worse Now” the interview that I did with Yanar Mohammed about the impact of the war on Iraqi women in 2004.
Statement of Conscience
Sept. 1, 2002
Issued by the Feminist Peace Network
As citizens of Planet Earth we affirm our freedom.
We declare our right to live free from aggression and violence, and we encourage every person who reads this statement to add their own experience of terrorism in all its forms and proclaim the freedom of peace again and again.
We declare the rhetoric of “good” versus “evil” invalid. Every battle pretends to be for “good.” But victory is too often celebrated by further loss of life, the rape of mothers and children, and the forced sexual servitude of daughters. Those who create and nurture life are both the first and last casualties of violent conflict. Those who wield violence are declared heroes.
When efforts to quiet violent conflict are made, women, whose stake in the resolution of conflict is at least as high as men’s, must be involved as full members of peace negotiation teams. Any “peace” that does not address the worldwide pandemic of violence against women and girls is not Peace.
As women and men of conscience, we call for an end to the terrorism that forces upon women and children the obscene choice between prostitution and starvation, a choice that degrades us all. Warfare and its chaotic aftermath intensify the environment and opportunities for abduction and trafficking. The period following violent conflict exacerbates domestic violence. Usurping the healthy social role of men in neighborhoods under attack must also be addressed. Violent destruction, especially when followed by an apathetic and delayed restoration, effectively demoralizes families and destroys the well-being of communities. War strips men of their livelihood and dignity, and fosters hateful attitudes toward women, even their own wives, mothers, and daughters. The systematic use of rape as a weapon of war increases the alienation between men and their assaulted families. The detention, rape and torture of women and children as a strategy of warfare against their male relatives is evil in its most vile form.
As women and men of conscience, we demand that the use of rape as a weapon of war be stopped. As the linkages between gender, conflict, and a more rapid spread of the deadly HIV/AIDS plague are better understood, so too must be the devastating consequences for the women violated and the babies born of this hellish form of warfare. Special programs must be fielded on an emergency basis in former war zones to prevent, and to address, the widespread suffering faced by victims of rape and forced sexual servitude.
As women and men of conscience, we call for the education of women and girls in every nation, especially in war-damaged societies. We demand immediate response to the pleas of women in these societies for immediate assistance with literacy programs to ensure their full participation in brokering peace, in decision-making, and in post-conflict reconstruction.
We defy those who would limit our experience of life to the maintenance of a caste system that supports the pursuit of profit and personal aggrandizement at the expense of meeting basic human needs. We challenge world leaders to put an end to the terrorism of hunger, thirst, sexual servitude, racism, patriarchy, nationalism, joblessness, homelessness, ableism, homophobia, ignorance, child molestation and elder neglect that many of the Earth’s citizens face daily. When every child of this world is adequately nourished, clothed, educated and healthy; when every adult who wishes to work has life-sustaining employment; when women and children are free from abuse then human life on earth will have become so highly valued that terroristic activity will lose its attraction.
In the meantime, we will defend the lives of our children with our own lives, as necessary, but we refuse to endorse pre-emptive strikes that result in the massacre of thousands of innocents as a response to crimes against humanity.
We oppose terrorism in all its forms, whether sponsored by non-governmental groups or the state. We grieve deeply at the loss of life at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. We also grieve the untold thousands of non-combatants slaughtered in the rain of bombs in Afghanistan in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks. Our hearts ache with sorrow as the slaughter of Iraqi citizens is justified to the world with the marketing of lies and fear. We are thankful that we have not yet become immune to grief.
We oppose terrorism in all its forms, but we steadfastly support the right to a fair trial, in an international court, and based on clear evidence, of all those accused of terrorism. We steadfastly oppose any prejudgment of the guilt of any individual accused of terrorism based on the color of their skin or the mother-blessing of their name. We demand a lifting of the cloak of secrecy, that prevents disclosure of evidence, in the investigations of the mass murder of thousands of our brothers and sisters in New York and Washington on September 11, 2001.We demand accountability for the lack of indictments and statements of progress.
We repudiate payment for a war machine that compromises our capability to feed and educate our children and care for our parents in their old age. We demand a full accounting of expenditures for war during the past year.
We resent and resist the gratuitous encouragement of fear. We become more cynical toward the source and motives of each new rumor of imminent terrorist attack. But our children do not have our insight, and their childhoods are being destroyed by nightmares about powerlessness and destruction.
We lift our heads proudly and boldly, and join our sisters and brothers throughout the world in a call for peace and justice, in full knowledge that our plea will be labeled treasonous by those world leaders who would defend peace by generating war.
We repudiate warlords and praise peacemakers. We are brave enough to step back from the brink of global warfare, and we demand leaders who are strong enough to endure peace.