ESF plenary November 2003In talking abougt peace I must begin with short instructions on to START war. I can speak from my experience of living in a coutry that has had at least 4 wars in the past 12 years. If you want war, you must know that patriarchy is a precondition of war. Vertical society structure is framework fot those who want war. This is not abstract concept, it is reality. Most of the countries on this planet have this pre-condition.
What else is needed to start war ? One must push the buttons of poverty, and poverty is all over the world. BUT if you are in a rich society, you can always count on power of nationalism, militarism, fundamentalism, xénophobia, homophobia and discrimination. AND of course, if you have huge power, you can simply push the buttons : WE WANT OIL.
BUT whatever you choose, you always choose violence against women. Our gender is our nationality.
Speaking about wars in the Balkans, I do not want to speak NOW about the responsabilities of the international community. I want to say : WE produced the hatred and nationalism. Nationalism and militarism cannot be imposed from teh outside ; and serbian rfeegime had the most responsability.
Women in Black began in Belgrade in 199, to visibly say to the regime : Do not speak in our name, WE speak for ourselves. We were proud to be disloyal and traitors of the State. Convinced that being a traitor is the right attitude at times when, « in the name of higher goals » it is desirable to kill, terrorize and destroy. Loyalty to State and nation means ACCEPTING the patriarcal principle of separation and hatred among women, based on principle of ethnicity.
In week-end vigils we expressed : Every war is a crime ; every war is injust and unjustified – every army is destructive and oppressive.
What happened and has been happening in the area of the former Yougoslavia has also happened elsewhere. However probable because it happened in one part of Europe, the Balkan tragedy attracted more attention, it seems to have raised more emotions that some others wars and human suffering in other régions, such as Somalia, Colombia, Rwanda, Kashmir, Cecenija…. Which have almost fallen to oblivion..
Namely, the attituded to war, human suffering and plight in war has racial, class, ethnic and gender dimensions. The attitude also dépends on our ideological and cultural inclinations. Different standards for war and the use of violence are cynical, cruel and even immoral.
What we have today in former Yougoslavia is ARMED peace, a protectorate guarded by over 55 000 troups, predominantly from the NATO countries. ARMED peace is peace reduced to the absence of war.
International community has legalized ethnic cleansing and adopted ethnic divisions as an instrument of pacification. In the political sense, it gave legitimacy to those who had cleansed territoires on ethnic grounds, by hatred, violence and killings. The NATO intervention (1999) led to an even bigger militarisation of the region, and did not stop ethnic clearing.
SO, the question is : Which tools can build peace ?
For us, Women in Black, non-violence is an ethical principle and basis for all peace activities. We, feminist women with war experience, we know that : VIOLENCE CANNOT STOP VIOLENCE.
During the 12 years, we used non-violent methodology, in our language, in our activities : 48 books in 4 languages, over 20 international and régional meetings, in over 500 public protests and week-end workshops in over 5O towns in Serbia and Montenegro.
Our commitment is to build a culture of peace. We know that non-violence is not ordinary in modern society, we believe that non-violence is more powerful that violence. For us non-violence is a challenge.
Building a culture of peace is a challenge every day. I will use a situation that happened to me yesterday. When this man from the ESF learned I was from Serbia, he assummed that I would be happy to know that he went to The Hague to support Milosevic. In a split of seconds I felt that I was not in Europe but in the middle of Serbia. He actingf like he knows better what my life is, when I lived through Milosevic and he did not.
Another principle is : transforming feelings of GUILT into assumming responsability, responsability for the pain and sufferings the Serbian regime inflicted upon others. Encouraging citizens to accept responsability : which means overcoming the role of victime and accomplice of the regime that was waging war.
Solidarity across borders is another principle. TO BUILD PEACE with women of others nations, from « the other sides », especially with those who rebelled against war and against « THEIR side ».
With the solidarity and support of our friends from all over the world, we started the International Network of Women’s Solidarity Against War. This network promote women’s solidarity across all state, ethnic, racial and religious divisions and borders, encourage the creation of interethnic/intercultural peace coalitions, the participation of women in non-violent resolution of conflicts by peace négociations, exposing common and global militarisation, showing the connection between feminism and antimilitarism.
Supporting Deserters and conscientious objecters : they are OUR partners in changing the Patriarchal mentality. As early as October 1991, we publicly expressed our solidarity with all war resisters, all the men who refused to go to the front lines, demanding amnesty for déserters and the interruption of forced mobilizations for war.
For 12 years we have demanded the punishment of all those who had planed the war and those who had ordered and committed crimes. There is no selective justice ; every single crime and all crimes must be liable to punishmnent. Revealing the truth about crimes is a precondition of reconciliation. All war crimes suspects, regardless of their nationality, have to be handed over to The Hague Tribunal. If everybody cleaned « THEIR OWN courtyard » reconciliation will be much faster.
And, last sentence. In perspective of women’s autonomy, it is important not only to prevent THEM to SPEAK in our name, but also to prevent them from ACTING in our name.