Tag Archives: Palestine

International Day of Peace

Today, September 21, is the International Day of Peace. Today is a day to be inspired by the acts of love of the millions of people around the world who all share the same goal: peace.

Planting a tree at the 2009 International Peace Day at the University for Peace.

Everyone’s definition of peace is different and even amongst the most outspoken peacebuilders the importance of inner peace versus world peace is addressed regularly. I firmly believe that working for equality and justice is the most important thing anyone can do with her/his/hir life. I also believe that the journey to help others is much more difficult if you cannot first help yourself, so with that in mind, if you need to achieve some balance, love or light in your life here are some suggestions:

For me, peace will come with true equality. Happy Peace Day everyone!
Love one another.

Israel/Palestine vs. Turkey/Kurdistan

Before I say anything about these two highly controversial, generally violent, and inherently unjust political and territorial situations I want to make my views on geo-political borders in general clear, first.

I do not believe in borders. I believe in the free and uninhibited movement of people, goods, ideas, and cultures all around the globe. I totally support individuals and/or communities in maintaining their ethnic identities including their languages, cultures, foods, clothing, traditions, dances, holidays, celebrations, etc. but personally I see no use in using violence to maintain imaginary lines on a map. I understand cultural, especially spiritual, ties to specific places, like certain Native American cultures have to specific rivers, lakes, forests and mountains, however, delineating certain areas as “ours” as opposed to “theirs” requires the “othering” of anyone outside the specific ethnicity.

I understand that the elimination of geo-political borders is not feasible at the moment, and would cause utter chaos and potentially even more violence and destruction, and so, I will engage you, dear readers, in a political discussion about these two hotly contested areas within the confines of the currently accepted understanding of nation-states, borders and “states’ rights.” In any case I entirely denounce violence as ineffective and immoral and would ONLY support nonviolent efforts by any actors hoping to have their human rights recognized. So then, the question I have for the world wide web (which I hope will be answered with intelligent, thoughtful commentary and constructive ideas, not jingoistic, trolling rants) is this:

 

How does the situation of Palestinians in the internationally recognized (but contested) borders of Israel differ from the situation of Kurds in Turkey?

 

 

I would especially like to hear opinions from Palestinians, Kurds, Turks, and Israelis, and people with experience in any of these lands. I am also interested in the views of people of any other ethnicities living within the borders of Israel and Turkey.

Does religion make a difference in the discussion? Does language make a difference? How effective have nonviolent efforts been in advancing the human rights of Palestinians and Kurds? Is the situation of women in the oppressed/unrecognized regions similar? Would the causes of Palestinian independence and Kurdish independence benefit from each other’s input and support? Or would Palestinians feel they are betraying other Arabs or their Turkish allies in calling on the political recognition of Kurds’ rights? I have no answers but I would love to learn from the community and then form an opinion.

 


The Damning Effects of Militarization

Militarization is the process of making society believe that violence, especially war, is an effective way to solve conflict to the point that any nonviolent attempt to solve conflict is snidely dismissed as ineffective, liberal, feminine, sissy or a whole host of other derogatorily used terms. The global problem of militarization takes different forms in every country, and even within each community. In Israel and Palestine troops attack women protesting the occupation. In Colombia women are participants and victims of violence perpetrated at every level of society. In Uganda those participating in the Walk to Work protest have been met with tear gas and bullets by the government’s security forces. I should be upfront here and say flat-out that I am very far left in my ideas of effective government: I don’t believe in borders or states. Imagine if the $553 billion defense bill just approved by the House was money spent on education, or healthcare, or ending violence….

Militarization is a gender issue. A gender issue is anything that disproportionately affects men, women, boys, girls and/or intersex or transgender adults or youth. Therefore, because militarization has a hugely disproportionate effect on men, men’s violences, and masculinities, it is a gender issue. It is also a gender issue in that anything defined as masculine can only be defined in opposition to that which is feminine, and because militarization of a given society negatively impacts men’s attitudes towards and treatment of women.

Many right-wing misogynists claim that feminists hate men, or that gender issues are only women’s issues, but militarization is a prime example of the genuine concern for well-being that many feminists around the world have for men who are part of the military. In graduate school one of my most influential professors, Dr. Sara Sharratt, opened my eyes to a reality that is often denied: killing people is not natural for anyone, male or female; men must be trained to kill. And as her work as a psychologist working with soldiers returning from war taught her, many men react negatively to having killed someone. The stress, trauma and horror that soldiers endure in battle is much too high a price for the false promise of “protecting freedom.”

Here in Turkey males are required by law to serve in the military, reinforcing the idea that there is honor in using violence. The belief in the effectiveness of violence is so strong in Turkey that even liberal, feminist groups condone the use of violence in protests and do not see the need or efficacy of strategic nonviolent action. Very few groups speak out against militarization here. One effect of this belief is that, according to a new report by Human Rights Watch, 47% of women in Turkey experience some kind of physical or sexual intimate partner violence within their lifetimes, regardless of education, class, religion, or region and much too few women’s shelters to accommodate the need. Violence between a couple is seen by police, the government, and society, to be a personal problem and victims are constantly told that they cannot expect their partners to be nonviolent.

In the United States there is better enforcement of laws against domestic violence and yet 1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men in the US are victims of intimate violence at some point in their lives. Militarization in America is slightly more subtle than in Turkey, but commercials to “Go Navy,” be “Army Strong,” and join “The Few, the Proud, the Marines” constantly inundate television viewers. At the same time military recruiters are present on junior high, high school and college campuses to convince children that the military is their best route out of their hometown. Militarization is therefore a compounded heap of inequalities: class, race, gender, education, location, language, ability, and age.

Militarization in the US is forced on Americans at a very young age, when children at sporting events see the poorly named Blue Angels fly overhead with a roar as a giant American flag is unfurled across the playing field. The idealization of being a servant of war as a good, honorable thing is fed to Americans to serve the greed of the corporate world. We are taught from the time we can talk that America is the best place in the world, the most just, the most equal, the fairest. We have been lied to. We are told these things so that when our Commander-in-Chief calls on us to “protect freedom and liberty” and “stand up to injustice” our first response is to join the military killing machine so we can “serve our great nation.” This idea that the best thing a person can do for his country, the most masculine act possible, is serve in the military totally discounts the experiences of a great number of people in America including disabled men, transgender or intersex men, openly gay or bisexual men, men who believe in nonviolence, and women.

Unfortunately it is only after the damage of war has been done that many of the wide-eyed military recruits become hardened advocates for peace. The brave men and women who understand the error of the US’s ways in using violence and force to fill corporate pockets have formed a number of anti-war groups. Founded in 1985, Veterans for Peace, is seeking signatures for a petition to bring the troops home from Afghanistan. One of the newer organizations, Iraq Veterans Against the War, seeks an end to the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, and is pressuring the military to provide better care for returning vets. Vietnam Veterans Against the War states “We believe that service to our country and communities did not end when we were discharged. We remain committed to the struggle for peace and for social and economic justice for all people. We will continue to oppose senseless military adventures and to teach the real lessons of the Vietnam War. We will do all we can to prevent another generation from being put through a similar tragedy and we will continue to demand dignity and respect for veterans of all eras. This is real patriotism and we remain true to our mission.”

Cynthia Enloe renowned author and feminist, is one of the voices at the forefront of the anti-militarization effort. This piece nicely summarizes Enloe’s main arguments against militarization and its effects on women. Even non-governmental organizations, international organizations and peacekeeping missions are fraught with problems because of militarization, as Enloe and my professor Nadine Puechguirbal explain in a talk here on Haiti. For me, the most compelling argument against militarization is that violence does not work. It is ineffective! Nonviolent action, especially when used strategically, is an extremely effective tool for change and one that I hope more people will begin to utilize once they understand its efficacy. I will forever be indebted to Dr. Mary King for teaching me the strategy of nonviolence. In the future I will write a post summarizing the ideas behind SNVA.

If you want to do something to help end the militarization that is damaging the world here are a few ideas: teach girls to be strong, both physically and emotionally; teach boys they have a right to feel emotions and express them; teach all children the importance of respectful problem solving and dialogue; teach young people that there are many ways they can serve their country other than military service, including the Peace CorpsAmeriCorps, Job Corps, the Medical Reserve Corps, Citizen Corps, the Civilian Response Corps, and Serve Corps, as well as through thousands of non-governmental and non-profit groups; learn about strategic nonviolent action and then share what you know; and most importantly, practice strategic nonviolent action to bring an end to injustices around the world!


Day 8- Yalla! International Women’s Day

Yalla! has become the cry of the Arab world in the past few months. Raised by the powerful and eloquent voice of Mona Eltahawy, yalla calls on Arabs around the world to “hurry up” and make democracy happen.

Since December 17, when desperate Tunisian Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire, the willingness of Arabs everywhere to risk their lives in hopes of democracy has flourished. Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan, Yemen, Bahrain, (also in Bahrain) Algeria, Palestine, Iran, Iraq, and, of course, Libya, have shown the world the spectrum of people power.

Because of the success of the Egyptian Revolution and its high-profile nature there are many more sources of information regarding what happened, and what is happening there. For this reason, and to pay tribute to Mona (who in a single hour of class taught me more than most people ever have), today’s post for International Women’s Day will focus on the women of the Egyptian Revolution.

These photos showcase what an active role women have taken in demanding an end to Mubarak’s 30-year dictatorship and demanding equality for all Egyptians. From the beginning of revolutionary action international audiences questioned how involved Egyptian women were in the nonviolent actions and what their fate would be after the fall of Mubarak.

News reports of “chaos and unrest” quickly changed their language when Mona Eltahawy schooled CNN to “call it a revolution!” From then on the media have accurately labeled the events in Egypt an uprising of democracy.

Women’s experiences of the activism in Tahrir Square were unlike anything they had ever experienced, and until the brutal sexual assault on international journalist Lara Logan, women stated they were not being harassed and actually felt safer in the streets.

The brave Egyptian women (and soldiers) who rescued Logan are a testament to the courage and will of the women of Tahrir Square. Their actions, and the actions of the millions of women who took to the streets and engaged in strategic nonviolent action, have shattered the myths about complacent Arab women and paved the way for women of many other Arab nations to stand up for their rights.

Follow Egypt’s example: learn about strategic nonviolent conflict and stand up for your own rights!

P.S. In honor of International Women’s Day the Feminist Majority Foundation is hosting a FREE 1 hour webinar on International Family Planning at 1900EST. Go here to register.


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