"My dear friends from Kosovo... my sons will not go to war, and that is what I can do as a woman, as a mother, as a Montenegrin..." That was one of the most condensed moments during our gathering at Palic, in Vojvodina. It was our seventh conference. We are the women's network against war, organized by Women in Black, Belgrade. We are more than 200: Bosnian, Serbian, Croatian, Muslim, Palestinian, Israeli, American, European women, even a representative of Women in Black from India.
Over all these years, we maintained contacts and developed solidarity projects with women, both with those who are refugees or not, of diverse nationalities, not only projects related to humanitarian aid, but also seeking peaceful solutions to conflicts, struggling against nationalism, looking for alternative solutions and building up international women's policy. Each year, we had new topics and problems we concentrated on, each year we believed that it would be the last year of war in the Balkans. Last year, we had long discussions with the Albanian women who were present about their situations, giving support to their actions of civil disobedience, about the necessity of finding a solution that would prevent the war.
Now, in this August heat, we are here to face what has to be done and to understand what it really is. The Albanian women, who are much more numerous this year (there are 27 of them altogether, from various feminist groups and human rights groups), talk to us about oppression, physical and psychological violence, poverty and unemployment, about their need fot independence. They give us data about refugees, there are three hundred thousand of them already, and one of them tells us how she managed to flee a burning village, about the hospitality of the women in Pristina , but also about their fear that they might be found by the police, who "visit" Albanian houses at night.
At this Seventh Conference, Kosovo was - and it could not have been otherwise - the focus of our discussions, but it was not the only topic: we also exchanged views on state policy regarding safety and reproduction, , on women in the Army, on humanitarian aid and its limitations. We also analyzed and criticized NGO interventions, who often plan their projects in order to serve their own purposes, rather than helping others. It was an encounter of women who had spent all those years alone, in exile and hardship, but who have always had the strength to overcome stereotypes and to empower themselves through interaction. And, like every year, we did not have exchanges only, but also a public manifestation in the city, in order to make visible the symbols of Women in Black protest.
The document we adopted, along with the decision to meet again next year, refers to Kosovo, calls for general demilitarization, an international protectorate instead NATO intervention, humanitarian aid, but it also refers to our country and implies the obligation to oppose mounting racism and injustice and opting for peace and solidarity instead.
Women in Black from Seville - Mireilla, Sophia and Maria - were moderators. More than twenty women participated. The basic assumption was that militarisation of a society can by no means be reduced to military presence on the streets and that we must bear in mind the fact that, in cases where the army is professional, the police plays a very important role in "security" matters. At present, governments and armies apply a very dangerous strategy. Invoking even feminist discourse of "equal opportunities" for both sexes, they take advantage of women's participation in the armed forces and the police.
This is intended to depict the army as less aggressive and more humane. However, the militarisation of a society is a much broader concept. It comprises psychological preparations for war. And this is a continual process - inside the family, at school, through the media, etc. A climate of fear and stereotypes are imposed to us; in our everyday lives, we adopt and transmit militaristic values. After the introductory part, the participants spoke about various experiences. Economic inequalities are also present in the developed countries of the West, there are divisions similar to those between the North and the South. We spoke about the spreading of NATO onto East-European countries. Most attention was devoted to the war in Kosovo. Considering this issue, there were controversies over the possibility of a NATO intervention in Kosovo. Our friends from Kosovo testified about the present dramatic situation there.
We also discussed the role of women in war and women's resistance to war. Many women testified about their resolute decisions not to send their sons to war, and to give their support to all those young men who refuse to go to war. Nada, an activist from Montenegro, expressed the attitude of many participants: "We do no want to be mothers, wives or sisters of heroes". In the end, many proposals were made: sending appeals to the international public about the situation in Kosovo, strengthening women's network against war, etc.
At the beginning, Luisa Morgantini (Association for Peace, Italy) commented on the recently adopted law on voluntary military service for women. This law was supported by many women, who had pleaded for equal opportunities for the sexes in the previous years. Those are mainly young women who are looking for employment in the Army, but are also motivated by and ideological attitude about defending their country and "fatherland". Women in favor of this law think that their presence in the Army will influence it in a positive way, bringing about transformations and making it more "decent", overlooking the authoritarian, destructive character of armies, their severe hierarchy characterized by strong machismo.
As feminists and anti-militarists, the participants agreed that women cannot alter armies by joining them; on the contrary, the armies will alter women by forcing them to adopt a system based on blind obedience, the argument of force, discipline and strict observation of a set of rules. Therefore, it is important to challenge this dangerous and fake "choice", which allegedly, offers sexual equality. Instead of this, women should encourage and develop relations that reject the logic and practice of war as part of the social system they live in. By rejecting a military system of values, women can employ their resources for alternative actions, outside the pattern of traditional male policy, which favors the Army as the main means of conflict-resolution. By spreading networks of women's solidarity, both in war-affected areas and in peace, an international women's policy can be achieved, which will in turn be able to offer non-violent proposals for conflict resolution, by rejecting the logic of hatred and annihilation of the other.
Further on, the participants spoke about their specific experiences. Neda from Belgrade spoke of the usual ways regular armies use women, as it was also the case with partisan and anti-fascist formations in World War Two. Edna from Israel spoke about the position of women in the Israeli Army nowadays, etc. One point of discussion was also the intricate and manifold issue of the relation between women and war. Women are WAR VICTIMS, because they do not make any decisions about it, nor is it their choice. Women are also PARTICIPANTS IN WARS; they carry out the traditional duties of carrying for others; women are used by the war industry and for boosting war morals, women participate in armies in logistics and organizational duties. and finally, women directly participate in armed and military actions.
When a society faces a threat, the state appeals to women and takes advantage of their abilities. However, when the war is over, women are sent back to their homes and "normal" family duties and deprived of the roles of protagonists, which were, paradoxically, cast upon them. During the wars in the former Yugoslavia, there were quite a few examples of female participation in military formations. It happened in Bosnia and Herzegovina and is being repeated now in Kosovo, within the OVK/UCK (Kosovo Liberation Army).
At the end of the discussion, the participants expressed a need for finding an alternative for war, and unanimously affirmed what Christa Wolf said, that "between killings and death, there is a third way, that of life".
During the workshop, facilitated by Senka Knezevic from Belgrade, many examples of civil disobedience from everyday life and our closest surroundings were brought forward. About thirty women from different countries took part.
A large part of the time was devoted to ANTIMILITARIST ACTIONS related to the promotion of conscience objection to military service, military expenses, etc. Experience has shown that militarisation of minds is present both in developed Western countries and even more so and more drastically in war-affected areas, but also that women organize numerous actions, putting pressure on governments and institutions. The following examples were mentioned: the movement of "the disobedient", i.e. total conscience objectors in Spain, who actively support women's autonomous groups; support to deserters from the former Yugoslavia in Denmark; actions organized by the group "Anima" from Kotor, i.e. support to all those who refuse to go to war in Kosovo; actions of Women in Black from Belgrade related to conscientious objectors, landmines, Army and Police budgets, support to men who refuse to do their military service and draft orders; the action of SVM (Alliance of Ethnic Hungarians from Vojvodina) who call for civil disobedience and non-compliance to draft orders for mobilization to Kosovo, etc.
In the part of the workshop devoted to ALTERNATIVE EDUCATION IN THE STREET (awareness raising and educating) of the population, distributing informative materials, leaflets, drawing up petitions, etc., examples from Kotor, The Anti-War Campaign from Belgrade (ARK), the group "Anima" from Gorazde were mentioned.
ACTIONS OF CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE represent an important instance of civilians' courage. Experiences of German women were described, and also protests in front of military bases; activists from Banjaluka (BH) encourage men not to enroll as volunteers in military units which are being sent to Kosovo and they "hide" deserters from Serbia; the action of ARK throughout Serbia against war in Kosovo, which consists of distributing anti-war posters and leaflets; rejection of military service in Montenegro, as an example of a beginning of the process of demilitarization of minds; support to the mothers of mobilized reservists and recruits in Kosovo and in numerous towns in Serbia, etc.
Among ACTIONS TOWARD DECREASING SOCIAL TENSIONS BROUGHT ABOUT BY WAR, AIMED AT CREATING CONDITIONS FOR A CIVILIAN SOCIETY IN THE BALKANS, activities organized by women of Mostar - linking together people from the left and east bank of the river Neretva; women's actions on the dividing line in Mostar; the spreading of contacts among activists from Montenegro, Serbia, the former Yugoslavia; activities of Peace Studies in Zagrab, etc. were mentioned. CONCRETE SUPPORT TO WAR VICTIMS AND TO THE UNDERPRIVILEGED IN GENERAL - examples of numerous associations for the repatriation of refugees were mentioned (Drvar, Nevesinje, SOS hotline from Podgorica, lending support to IDPs from Kosovo).
In the end, the participants agreed that ANTIMILITARISM IS OUR CHOICE; that all antimilitarist actions have the support of feminist groups; that they all share the wish to continue and expand antimilitarist actions, as an important precondition for the creation of a violence-free society.
More than twenty women participated. They were from BH, Kosovo, Germany, Italy, Spain, Israel, and Croatia. The prompts for discussion were short reports about various forms of population policy, both in developed Western countries and in underdeveloped countries, marked by crises, conflicts and poverty.
Maria from Valensia spoke about sophisticated methods of the Spanish population policy, through the glorification of motherhood (particularly on TV). Mihane from Kosovo mentioned the strong patriarchal tradition among the Albanian population in Kosovo, where the woman's role is often reduced to that of a mother and wife; Arabiya, a Palestinian woman from Israel spoke about the military occupation which oppresses women, deteriorates their health and about the discrimination of newborn female babies under such circumstances. She put forward as an example a higher mortality rate of female babies, compared to the mortality rate of male babies. Jagoda from Croatia spoke about administrative measures of the population policy which reduce women to the role of reproductive machines, with the aim of pushing them to the margins of the public sphere, from the labor market, and said that "the new 'democrats' would like to reduce all the women to the role of mothers, nourishers and guardians of the hearth." Stasa from Belgrade spoke about a misogynist, racist, militaristic propaganda in Serbia, i.e. about a pro-life propaganda targeted at women of the majority ethnic group with the aim of "saving the nation from extinction" and childbearing for the benefit of national security and defense. Following the discussion, we agreed that:
We shall struggle for strengthening of women's solidarity and alliances in the field od reproductive rights and health on the regional and global level.
Maria Jesus from Saragosa (Zaragoza) and Gordna Radic from Belgrade were facilitators. During this workshop, some problems were described in a theoretical way and, on the other hand, the participants tried to offer alternatives by suggesting concrete actions. Following the discussion and exchange of opinions, they arrived at certain conclusions, some of which follow here:
-The most important cause of militarism is the military industry and market on the global level. Green Peace and Environmentalist in general were singled out as groups of strong anti-militarist orientation. Women's organizations must denounce particular cases in arms industry and arms trafficking in their communities, especially through the mass media.
-Nearly all countries allocate a very high proportion of their budgets for armament, which directly diminishes funds for improving the standard of living, education, health care. Serbia was given as an example of a country which spends enormous sums on the Army and Police.
-We also spoke about the negative and positive aspects of the participation of women in the Army: some women energetically opposed it, whereas others thought that, in spite of serious difficulties, each one of us could undertake the responsibility and "risk" to launch and participate in actions against the military industry. The example of the Spanish activists was described, as well as the actions they undertake by objecting to military expenses and demanding that these funds be directed to initiatives for a civilian society.
-We spoke about the negative and positive aspects of the participation of women in the army: some women were explicitly against it, and others thought that in the long run, women participation could have a positive influence on the army itself.
-States justify military expenses by taking the role of guardians of security and protectors. The state is trying to convince us that, without the "protection" of the Army and its destructive force, we would live under constant threat and in conflict situations. The participants rejected this attitude , pointing to the example of non-violent movements. Unfortunately, the experience of such movements does not count, as can be seen from the example of Kosovo, nor does it have any bearing on various peace treaties (such as the Dayton Accord, for example).
-It took thousands of years to build a militaristic society and a macho mentality, based of the power of force, not mind. The basic slogan was, and still is "if you want peace, prepare for war", so that the world has never achieved real peace and war has always prevailed. As women, we ought to struggle against violence, but we must not forget that women are most often victims of violence. Namely, women ought to assume responsibility, but they are not in charge of changes; it is the society that has to show understanding and respect for the importance of feminism and to be aware that war is the at the core of a patriarchal society.
There were 30 participants, mostly from abroad. Women from our country were few, which was considered to be a shortcoming. Almost all the women from abroad who are somehow connected with potential funders, or represent them, took part in the discussion. Funders need NGO-s as much as NGO-s need them. It is a relationship of mutual dependence, which is at the same time a matter of trust. Three main types of rivalry were identified, caused by the funders' policy, their principles of allocating funds and general attitude towards NGO-s:1. inside a group, among its members,
We ought to identify unfair behavior coming both from groups and funders, as well as the main reasons for harmful rivalry. A behavior quite opposite to this would be advisable, one that would enhance the development of the civilian society, not create obstacles and suffocate it through negative rivalry. The most important types of unfair behavior are the following:
1. Money is allocated according to the funders' needs, plans, ideas and research, which often does not reflect the actual needs or at least the priorities of the communities they work in.
2. The funders have contributed to many conflicts and disintegration of some groups. Still, a greater share of responsibility lies with the women from this country.
3. The question arises whether the funders provoke rivalry and other problems and conflicts on purpose, or it happens accidentally, as a consequence of lack of information, cultural differences, clumsiness or insensitivity. It seems that the reasons are predominantly the latter.
4. Competition itself is unfair when it comes to women's organizations. It is a waste of time and energy, which are insufficient as it is.
5. There are examples of sound competition, which is not aimed at disturbing others, but developing one's own potentials instead. It would be unfair to allocate funds to individuals or groups who do not have the necessary qualities for the realization of certain projects. Not all of us are fit for everything, and pretending that we are is unfair.
6. It is utterly discouraging and very unfair when one person assumes mixed roles of funders or their representatives and their beneficiaries.
7. It is unfair when one person accumulates too much power, no matter how big her merits or good her intentions might be.
8. The hierarchical structure of a group leads to many forms of unfair behavior inside a group and to a great deal of rivalry inside and among groups. This can be overcome through non-hierarchical models of group structure.
9. It is unfair when funders promise long-term financing and change their attitude overnight and switch to single or short-term financing. Groups which had been formed to carry out long-term projects were forced to make ad hoc projects urgently, and many of them disintegrated or disappeared. In this way, a lot of positive energy, ideas and initiatives fell through.
10. Funders often play foul games with the groups they finance.
11. In Palestine, funders used to support NGO-s, but after the Oslo agreement was signed, they started financing official Palestinian government agencies, which almost destroyed the NGO sector, many groups did not survive, and their substitute in the form of government activities was not adequate. Self-supporting projects in poor communities are not always possible, and when they are, they consume too much energy, at the expense of these groups' concrete activities and aims.
12. The more women's groups there are, the more projects are completed, the more space we obtain. There is room for everyone. Funders' manipulations with groups are sometimes visible for everyone. While they justify their behavior by a wish that their funds be efficiently used, in reality, they often lead to situations where time and energy are wasted on games they impose.
13. Many funders are lazy or inactive in their attempts to find out about groups and individuals in the community they wish to work in, for example, to support women's groups.
14. Some groups try to cast a shadow on activities of other groups before foreigners, in order to get a priority or exclusive right to conduct some activities. This is particularly unfair if it comes from women living in the capital towards those who live in the province, who have less experience and fewer ties with funders.
15. It is unfair to conduct financing procedures in English. Those who cannot speak English cannot be involved, although they might be more capable and industrious in the realization of some projects.
16. Request for written reports are sometimes unjustifiably complicated,forcing us to write fake reports. Even when we have done everything and completed our task 100%, we have to lie in our reports, because there is no other way of justifying the means, and this has a negative influence on all of us, because we feel uneasy about it.
17. We feel offended, in view of the authenticity of our movement, when we go abroad and hear that they were the ones who chose us and decided who would be the ones they could trust. How are we to replace our leaders if we are dissatisfied with their work or of we simply think that there are better ones?
18. The so-called professional feminists, i.e. those who work only in the feminist movement, are a problem. Since they depend on grants for their sheer existence, they fight for them with more brutality and less consideration, without choosing the means. For them, nothing is unfair, everything that will provide a grant is justifiable. The relationship of the funder and the group they support should be based on trust and respect. However, some funders treat us in a way that makes us feel as cheap hired labour. They do not give us a chance to feel like anything else but servants.
The discussion referred mainly to the problem of rivalry among local groups.
1. The absence or insufficiently developed civil societies, so that the majority of NGO-s were established in a situation of ultimate need, i.e. the war imposed the need for their creation.
2. For example, out of the total number of 228 women's groups in Bosnia and Herzegovina, only about 40% exist in reality and are engaged on concrete activities; many of them are just "branch offices" or extensions of various parties.
3. International aid is often very contradictory, it does not recognize women's real needs: there are periods when certain projects are "in", that is what happened with income-generating projects -IGP-s), gender projects and NGO-s are expected to follow these trends in designing projects. Naturally, this leads to failure. This is what happened with the project of public launderies in Gorazde, because women prefer to do their own laundry at home manually, than to use such facilities. These laundries are now being used by hotels and their staff.
4. Financial projects are short-term, and they usually do not support the infrastructure (the workplace, the "office"). Sometimes, obtaining funds means losing autonomy. The entire activity is reduced to "working on the project" and no longer working with women and what we wanted to do in the first place.
5. Even the international NGO-s depend on the strategies of major donors.
- Controversies: humanitarian aid is of greater help to the regimes that provoke poverty, crises, misery, hardship, etc.
Lesbians are persecuted by society for nothing more then loving women. They can be easily isolated, terrorized and discriminated with no one to peak up, no one to act as allies.Especially in a time and place in the world when war, fascism and militarism build a climate of hatered towards women. Lesbians and gay men can easily be the first cause, the first group that we all forget about because of hunger, poverty, war. Nationalism attempts to define women in terms of being good, obedient mothers producing more soldiers for the front. And in the climate of nationalism, lesbians will be targets of hate. We must all stand together and we need your support.
Three workshops were held simultaneously. Here are their summaries.
Vesna Sehic from Tuzla (The Human Rights Board of BH) and Biljna Stanojevic (Belgrade, The Helsinki Committee for Human Rights) facilitated one of the workshops, which was dealing with the legal position of refugees and displaced persons. Data collected in three areas (FRY, BH and Croatia), revealed the same existing problem: the absence of legal status of refugees. Even when there is legislation in this field, the authorities in the respective countries are not co-operative in the implementation of those laws. Namely, the authorities often do not want the refugees to return, because their repatriation is contrary to their policy and goals. We concluded that women's groups must network in a concerted effort in order to press for the implementation of those regulations.
As to the situation in Kosovo and preventive activities aimed at reducing the number of refugees and displaced persons, we have to send an appeal to the authorities of Serbia, to the representatives of the Kosovo Albanians and to the international community, to provide access for humanitarian organisations into the affected areas in order to insure relief and breaking through the information blockade.
At the second workshop, which was facilitated by Radmila Zarkovic from Belgrade, two reports from the field were submitted: by Sanije Grajcevci, from the group Aureola, Kosovo, and Marija Ivanovic, a refugee from Mostar, who is living in Nevesinje at the moment.
Sanije spoke about the suffering of the civilian population, regardless of their ethnic belonging, and particularly, of the Albanian majority. An enormous number of people fled to the woods following attacks launched by the police, where they live without food and water, with no relief reaching them. In short, it is a real humanitarian catastrophe. Marija warned that the situation that existed in Bosnia during the years of war, is now being repeated in Kosovo. She emphasised the insurmountable problems facing the refugees who want to return to their homes. Poverty and misery plague the lives of the majority of refugees.
Rada, as a refugee from BH who is living in Belgrade at the moment, said that the refugees in FRY are hostages of the Belgrade regime, that they are manipulated and rejected by the communities they live in.
The war in Kosovo is pushing the women back into victim roles; once again, women are forced to waste their energy striving for survival, caring for others, healing the wounds caused by the war, instead of working on ways to prevent war and spreading space for women's autonomy.
During the discussion, some proposals were brought forward: to make further efforts to strengthen the ties among different women's groups, not only in the area of the former Yugoslavia, but broader; to improve the flow of information; to organise joint actions in order to put pressure on European governments and institutions to put pressure on S. Milosevic's regime in turn; to request, in a joint effort, the opening of a corridor for humanitarian aid in Kosovo. During this workshop, BH and Kosovo were the two mostly discussed issues; the participants warned about the indifference of the international community to the problem of refugees and displaced persons, the lack of essential needs in food, clothes and medical care. Repatriation is a specific problem in BH, where the refugees and displaced persons are unable to return to their homes, which were destroyed or damaged during police and military operations. The policies of Western governments, who refuse to admit refugees from war-affected areas, were also discussed. We concluded the following:
Participants: Nazlie Bala (Pristina, Group for women's rights Elena ); Zarana Papic (Belgrade, Women's Studies) , Ednna Yam (Tel-Aviv, Women in Black), Arabiya Mansur ( Tel-Aviv), Marie Caraj (Belgium, International Peace Brigades, PBI ).
Facilitator: Luisa Morgantini (Rome, Association for Peace) said, during her brief introduction that "... we live in a world of global violence, wars, long-term ethnic clashes, state terror, but also in a world where a network of women's solidarity and non-violent resistance to war and militarism is being created."She explained we had intentionally chosen to discuss two long-standing hotbeds of crisis, those being in the Middle East and in the Balkans.
Nazlie Bala presented us with a chronicle of state terror which the Albanian population in Kosovo have endured for years. She went on to explain numerous forms of low-intensity war, especially since 1989, when Kosovo was deprived of its autonomy. The forced abolishment of autonomy of Kosovo resulted in a drastic rise of violence and police and military terror aimed at the population of Kosovo, especially against the Albanian population. In the period between 1981-1990, as part of the constant state terror against the Albanian population, the police and military forces, particularly the Serbian ones, held under surveillance, harassed, summoned for interrogation or maltreated in other ways 700,000 Kosovo Albanians. State terror turned into open war. The war operations conducted by police and military forces, aimed at civilians in many villages of Kosovo, under the pretence of prosecuting terrorists, will be remembered as bitter and bloody events, which, unfortunately, had tragic consequences for the population, especially women, children and elderly persons. 415 Albanians have been killed, 400 people have been kidnapped, or have disappeared or have been held as hostages, and 300,000 people have fled their homes, 8,000 houses (or flats) have been destroyed and the estimated damages is about 1.7 billion Deutsche Marks. The atrocities which have been committed in Kosovo against the Albanian population contain elements of genocide aimed at the physical destruction of a nation and ethnic cleansing. Bala ended with an appeal to the participants to:
Zarana Papic spoke about the character of the Serbian regime, as a permanent generator of violence and crises in the Balkans: "We have open state terror. A proof of that are crimes, missing people, refugees. It is genocide against the civilian population." expressing moral responsibility, Zarana warned of the growing racism in Serbia: "I come from Belgrade, where I can hear that Albanians are no longer human beings, but balists, terrorists, inhuman beings". When S. Milosevic rose to power in 1987, a system of state terror was established: "Kosovo was the beginning, but not also the end of political terror", and national homogenisation around the issue of Kosovo which is going on in Serbia now "is not only in the minds of fascists and terrorists, but also of those who consider themselves to be the democratic opposition". Expressing fear that the system of state terror rules out all solutions apart from war, Zarana ended by warning that racism in its purest form was at work against the Albanian people and that the space for democratic alternatives was dangerously restricted, because "even those who were not nationalists before, are now expressing nationalistic views regarding the issue of Kosovo."
EDNNA YAM spoke extensively about the Israeli state as a generator of violence in the Middle East, which is manifested by the occupation of the Palestinian people, but it also has a strong impact on Israel itself.: "The long period of conquest of the Palestinian people, of violence, terror, oppression and torture, have turned Israel into a country of violence, racism and militarism. All that violence backfires upon us.
The soldiers, who use violence in the occupied territories against the Palestinian people, do not change their violent attitude when they come back. The main victims of that violence are women and children." Ednna mentioned the main causes of violence in Israel: the economic situation, growing unemployment, the presence of about half a million of foreign workers in Israel, who are exposed to the most brutal exploitation, the school system which is based on racism and militarism, the permanent settling of the occupied territories by Jewish people. Ednna expressed her disappointment with the Oslo Peace Accord from 1994, because the present Israeli government of Netaniahu paralyses the implementation of the agreement, which causes even greater insecurity of both peoples. The entire situation affects women, both in the public and private sphere. The women in Israel are discriminated in the sphere of work, and religious rules discriminate them even more, whereas militarism condones men's violent behaviour within the family, inasmuch as the state condones the violence of soldiers in the occupied territories.
Although time did not allow her to talk about concrete actions organised by Israeli feminists / pacifists against militarism, Ednna appealed to all the participants to "develop an alternative feminist policy", to advocate the disunification of the church and the state, amore active participation of women in creating educational programmes and changing the attitude towards the other, the different and world peace. The Israeli feminists / pacifists will continue to strive for the implementation of the Oslo Peace Accord, for the right of the Palestinian people to have their own state, for the termination of the occupation of Lebanon by the Israeli Army. In this respect, many women's peace groups in Israel organise, even more intensely than before, numerous peace actions and protests. " (These are only excerpts from Ednna's extensive statement, which she submitted in written form, and which will be published unabridged in the next issue of "Women for Peace").
ARABYA MANSUR spoke about the terror of the Israeli state, especially in the period after the war in 1976 and the occupation of the west bank, Gaza and West Jerusalem. Warning about the fact that it is one of the longest occupation periods in history (40 years), Arabya expressed her fears that "the occupation will last forever, because Israel considers it to have been Promised Land for the Jews for over 2,000 years, and that the Arabs have no right to live on this land." Arabya agreed with what Ednna said about the forms of discrimination, and added some more to this list: limiting the right to work for members of the Palestinian people, their right to citizenship, etc. Ednna and Arabya, who always attend conferences together, are living proof of the solidarity among women which is beyond all imposed borders and obstacles. Their testimonies and analyses are a strong encouragement for activists, especially for us in the Balkans, where the situation has something in common with the situation in the Middle east. Of course, we must refrain from all simplified analogies.
MARIE CARAJ brought in a note of optimism, by talking about concrete actions in response to militarism. Namely, PBI (Peace Brigades International ) was founded in 1981 and they operate in zones of open conflict; they work on the prevention of conflicts, non-violent solution of the conflicts and their transformation. She particularly explained an important aspect of PBI activities -international monitoring by men and women activists in affected zones, which sometimes goes on 24 hours a day. She mentioned the example of Rigobeta Manchu (recipient of the Nobel Peace Award in 1991). Accompaniment is a form of the international monitoring mission. PBI come to areas of crisis at the request of local organisations for human rights and civil initiatives in general, when activists are exposed to death threats because of their activities. PBI operated in Nicaragua, Guatemala, Salvador; at the moment, they are present in Sri Lanka, in the Balkans (Balkan Peace Team ) and in Columbia. She went on to explain the situation of permanent civil war in Columbia. PBI also organise seminars and training for non-violent conflict resolution, mediation, trauma recovery, etc. The basic principle of PBI is creating space for peace and political protection of that space.
Women's networks in periods of crises and war: cooperation, problems, challenges...
Here is a summary of parallel workshops that were held with the same topic:
Stasa opened the discussion about the network of Women in Black by a "definition": It is an international women's movement the who make visible non-violent resistance to war and women's solidarity above all state, ethnic, religious and other divisions and boundaries. Women in Black are very heterogeneous, but the binding factor is rejection of war and militarist policies, conducted either by their governments or others. It is an act of assuming responsibility and refusing to be passive observers of violence, and actively organizing ourselves instead. It is also a civilian intervention in our environment (education for peace, civil disobedience, etc.). Continuity, persistence, adhering to principles, a symbolic "addiction", connecting local and global issues - are just a few more features of this network. Mirella from Seville thinks that the coming into being of Women in Black in Belgrade strengthened the ties between feminism and anti-militarism .
Women in Black as a network denounce the interconnection between militarism, sexism annd nationalism. Maria Rosa from Verona spoke about the permanent weekly protests staged by this group (ever since 1990), as a means of transmitting women's peace messages in their own environment, as an act of solidarity with all women in war-affected areas throughout the world. Women in Black from Bangalora, India, have protested since 1993, and Corin Kumar, representative of this group, explained that they denounce the globalization and brutalizing of violence, pointing to instances of violence iboth locally and on the international plan. In her opinion, "we have to devise new ways of rejecting war, a new political imagination". The discussion showed that the activities of Women in Black are cyclic, that there is "a cyclic continuity" in them: some groups protest once a week, some once a month or less frequently, when some very important events take place.
We agreed to continue spreading the network of international feminist / pacifist policy, that we shall publish a bulletin on our activities, that we shall remain in the streets...
WOMEN'S PARLIAMENT - JULIJA Teleki from Becej (Vojvodina) spoke about this topic. Namely, within the framework of the project ZIVE VODE (Running Waters) - non-violent communication and dialogue - this initiative was launched (1998) and it gathers women from all republics and provinces of the former Yugoslavia. The aims and objectives of the Women's Parliament are: preserving peace, disarmament, striving for women's rights, conscientious objectors, the implementation of non-violent communication. The European Parliament had accepted this non-government, civilian organization.
THE ANTI-WAR CAMPAIGN: An initiative stemming from "the base", its main principles being disobedience and visible resistance to war; launched in Serbia by young men and women, at the peak of ethnic homogenization and war in Kosovo. This decentralized, "nomadic" action, involved all Serbia, Sandzak, (about 140 communities), in the period 7th June - 18th July 1998. A great number of activists were involved, both from Belgrade and the provinces. Over that period, about 30,000 anti-war posters were put up, 30,000 stickers and 800,000 leaflets were distributed.
During these workshops, many other regional projects and networks were discussed: the travelling women's peace workshop (Women in Black from Belgrade); the Network against male violence against women (SOS hotline), the peace Network in Croatia, numerous women's networks in BH, etc. Sanije spoke about the suffering of the entire civilian population and all ethnic groups, and particularly, of the majority Albanian population. Following Army and Police attacks, a large number of people fled to the woods, where they are no food and water supplies or humanitarian aid. In short, a real humanitarian catastrophe in going on there.
This is the seventh year that Women in Black Against War from Belgrade organize the International Meeting 'Network of Women's Solidarity Against War'. Almost 200 pacifists from different countries have gathered to reinforce women's links beyond national boundaries and language of hatred.
From 1991, Women in Black are non-violently protesting against Serbian regime and its involvement in war, as well as against all wars and state violence in the world.
All these years we have acted towards creation of the culture of peace, but were always confronted with new war zones! Lately, the low intensity war that Serbian regime lead for more than a decade against Albanian population in Kosovo - became a war.
We are now witnessing that women, children and old people are forced to leave their homes, to stay in woods, to be hungry, sick, threatened and humiliated. More than 310.000 civilians from Kosovo live in total misery.
We appeal to governments, International Community, European Union, UN, and all responsible citizens
TO STOP IMMEDIATELY THE WAR IN KOSOVA.
1. Urgent humanitarian aid and free access to all internally and externally displaced people from Kosovo.
2. Complete disarmament of all armed parties.
3. Establishing international UN civil protectorate in a wider region.
4. Investigation and identification of the responsible criminals for war in Kosovo and bringing them to International Criminal Court.
5. Organizing the UN International conference to solve the Kosovo problem.
6. Organizing parallel UN NGO peace conference with active involvement of women's autonomous groups from Kosovo and Serbia in peace negotiation. They are one of few hopes for civil society values and different concept of power that does not destroy, but encourage democracy.
WE SHALL CONTINUE
- to work to end discrimination against women, men and children opposing militarism, nationalism, sexism, racism, classism, homophobia....
- to create solidarity between women of Albanian and Serbian ethnic origins as well as of women of other nationalities in conflict, and support values and rights to differences.
- to strengthen our network with women all over the world to create women's international peace policy.
- to continue non-violent resistance against all kinds of ethnic homogenization and patriarchal militarist orders.
We will continue our personal political contacts of caring for each other and we continue to believe that between killing and dying there is a third way, the life.Palic, Serbia 9 august, 1998
Women from: Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Denmark, Germany, Hungary, India, Italy, Israel, Kosovo, Montenegro, Palestine, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, Vojvodina, USA.assessment of the meeting
On August 12 1998, a short assessment discussion was organized by the Women in Black regarding the meeting at Palic. Only about 15 women participated in the discussion. So, we use this opportunity to encourage all other participants of the meetings to write to us and give us their impressions, comments, criticisms and suggestions.
Firstly, the Women in Black want to thank all the participants of the meeting. The Organizational Committee expresses its special gratitude to old friends from different countries who have been contributing to this meeting for years, with their artistic and specific actions, who have been participating in the organization of the meeting, who support the women's groups projects and thus show that women's solidarity is an every day activity without which many of us would not have survived the war years. The Women in Black also want to thank all the activists who for the first time took part in the meeting this year and thus showed trust in our work and efforts which have been going on for many years in establishing women's solidarity and feminist policy. The Women in Black express their gratitude to all the activist who have been working for months organizing the meeting, as well as, to the translators who have translated the whole meeting out of enthusiasm and without any fee. We also thank the men's section of the Women in Black for their support and for doing a lot of work that was invisible but valuable.
The comments on this year's meeting are the following:
many women said that the presence of the women activists from Kosovo and the smaller towns in Serbia was important.
PS. We apologise to all our friends, both to those who partcipated at the meeting and to those who could not be with us, about the report coming in so late. We are all very well aware of the political climate in which we live and work: in September and October, many other unplanned activites, took up a lot of our time and energy.
Women in Black
Jug Bogdanova 18/5
11000 Belgrade, FR Yugoslavia
Tel/fax: +381 11 623 225