Friday, 19 April 2013

Ten Years since the invasion of Iraq

19 March was the tenth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. Ten years ago, we watched as a massive bombing campaign lit up the night skies of Baghdad with clouds of flame and smoke. 

This campaign and the bloody years of occupation that followed had a devastating impact on what was once among the most advanced societies of the Middle East. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians were killed and millions were left homeless. 

The war produced atrocious crimes. Fallujah,  a city with a population of 350,000, became a free-fire zone, its people bombarded with white phosphorus - prohibited under international law. Wounded prisoners were executed on the spot. Ten years later, the rates of cancer in children and of birth defects are similar to those in Hiroshima after the US atomic bombing. 

The war in Iraq has involved the systematic decimation of an entire society. After more than a decade of economic sanctdions, the military might of the United States and its allies was used to totally destroy whatever was left of the economy, the infrastructure and the social fabric of the country. 

Thousands of coalition soldiers died and many more were seriously injured. It is estimated that hundreds of thousands of soldiers are suffering from psychological trauma. There has been a dramatic rise in suicides and in the incidence of violence against women and children by veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan

All this was done on the basis of lies that can be summed up in the claims that the Iraqi government was hiding "weapons of mass destruction" and that Iraq was involved in the 9/11 terrorist attacks - whatever may have been its crimes against the Iraqi people, Saddam Hussein's regime was secular and had nothing to do with  Al Qaeda.

These false pretexts for war were no less criminal than those used by the Third Reich to justify its invasiion of Poland and of other countries at the beginning of the second world war. If the precedents established at Nuremberg for the surviving Nazi leaders had been applied, all those responsible for the invasion of Iraq would have been tried for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

No one has been held responsible before international law for a war of aggression that cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of human beings, and this unpunished crime has far-reaching consequences for the whole world. The only person to be put on trial is  Bradley Manning, accused of treason for having revealed the crimes of US forces in Iraq.

Even though the war ended in chaos, with the lies used to justify it exposed, it established the bases for the intensification of the war in Afghanistan and e for the expansion of militarism throughout the planet. The war established a model for "regime change" interventions in the Middle East, that target secular regimes, tacitly or directly supporting forces that are linked to al Qaeda to achieve their objectives. Such was the case in Libya in 2011 and so it is today in Syria. 

These wars and interventions are part of a strategy that aims to concentrate control of the world's natural resources in the hands of a few people. 

With the start of the financial crisis, the rhythm of this strategy has accelerated, and the wars and looting abroad are no accompanied by attacks on welfare at home. In 2012, despite the economic recession and austerity policies, world military spending continued to rise, exceeding 1,700 billion dollars. In Italy, the government increased the defense budget from 19.96 billion in 2012 to 20.93 billion in 2013.

Instead of learning from the crisis that precious resources should be invested for our collective future, the government is wasting money, skills, and experience on the development of weapons and on war. These resources could be used to produce things that we truly need- renewable energy, green technologies,  and health care. 

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

The cries you may hear

Iranian women equal rights activists say no to war

More videos

On International Women's Day, the Iranian women's group Change for Equality published the following declaration:

War does not happen in the course of a day. There is no need for war to land in our cities with a bomb. The shadow of war is also frightening. The possibility of war too changes the lives of women. Every day that we spend at war or in conditions of war, is filled with the fear of the death of the our achievements, which have come about through years of struggle. War for us, means destructive violence committed against women and children. It means more severe crackdowns. It signifies the silencing of our demands and civil protest and…Still our bodies are covered in the dust of the eight year war with Iraq, and our country is once again faced with the threat of war.

War is not just bombs and the destruction of our homes. Even before we embark on a war, it seems that the lives of women have already become more difficult. War has focused its gaze on women and moves closer, step by step.

We do not want to become the silent victims of this monster. On March 8, 2012 while being denied the opportunity to celebrate the day or express our demands in the streets, we have taken this opportunity to say that we are opposed to war and each of these short films express our reasons for that opposition. Please join us, so that perhaps together we can become a strong voice opposing those who with the slightest of excuses and with a smile adorning their lips, welcome the possibility of War.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Freedom for Hana al-Shalabi

Hana al-Shalabi is a 29 year old woman from a village near Jenin in the occupied West Bank. The night of Febrary 16th, around 50 Israel soldiers with dogs burst into the family house.
Hana was placed in administrative detention for six months. She began a hunger strike immediately after her arrest and on International Women's Day she has been 22 days without food. She is currently detained in
Hasharon prison.

Administrative detention is detention without charge or trial that is authorised by an administrative order rather than a judicial sentence. According to international law, administrative detention must only be used in exceptional cases to prevent danger that cannot be countered with less damaging means.

Israel's use of administrative detention openly violates such restrictions. Detainees are denied the possiblitiy of preparing a proper defence. In the course of the years, Israel has used administrative detention against thousands of Palestinians, holding them for extended periods of time, without bringing them to trial, without informing them of the charges against them, and without allowing them to study the evidence.

For Hana, this isn't the first experience of administrative detention. She was arrested on 14/09/2009 and from that data, the Israeli authorities proceeded as usual. As the six month limit for the detention was reached, it was extended. Hana was among the prisoners released in exchange for the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Less than 4 months later, she was arrested again and detained without trial.

Send letters to the Israeli military judge , Dani Afroni, demanding that Hana be freed. (Click here to send a letter.)

From one shore to the other: Lives that count

Native Italians and immigrants for peace and rightsi

War has a entered daily life, but we must continue to think of peace, and as women.
Virginia Woolf

We Women in Black dedicate International Women's day to all women who act for democracy, for the liberty-liberation of all women and me. We dedicate it in particular to the women involved in the Arab Spring of 2011. We are convinced that no spring can become summer (either for them or for the whole worlds) without the dreams and desires of girls and women who, like us, are trying to to live in the world with love, justice, and solidarity across all divides and conflicts, with the force of tenderness and of nonviolence.

In the months following the Tunisian Jasmine revolution (14 January 2011) up to the violently repressed demonstrations in Libya and the war (in which Italy took part despite article 11 of our Constitution), there have been hundreds of disappearances and deaths in shipwrecks in our own mediterranean.

Many young people set out for Europe claiming their freedom of movement. Of more than 500 of them, there has been news. Are they dead? Are they in the Centres for Identification and Expulsion (CIE), are they in Italian jails?

We don't know their names, neither do we know their stories. We know the sea that carries them to the places where we live. Each one of them − women, men, girls and boys − had a woman who gave them life and now perhaps has a strip of water that takes the flesh from their bodies and carries away their bones.

The desire of the mothers, the sisters, the wives , the family and friends to know the fate of their vanished loved ones is so deep-rooted that it crosses all borders and barriers to reach us. It brings with it the desire for freedom that brought these men and women to cross the Mediterranean.

Today, on International Women's Day, we want to give voice to the women who, in Africa, in Italy, in Europe, in America, in the whole world, react to sorrow by demanding that no one be allowed to disappear in the sea or in the CIE or in prison or swallowed up by indifference and oblivion.

Just as the Mexican women of Nuestras hijas de regresso a casa and like the Madres de Plaza de Mayo, we are convinced that the vanished daughters and sons "live for ever. Disappeared because of terror and of death, disappeared because of lies and complicity. Alive in the victory of dreams. These dreams that like the light announce the day. ».

Ignored by the Tunisian, Italian and European institutions, the families of the disappeared who left Tunisia are asking that the fingerprints, used to register people and restrict their freedom of movement, now be used to find out where their sons and daughters have gone. Women and men in Tunisia are demonstrating to demand that the Tunisian Foreign Ministry ask the Italian government to check the fingerprints. We , here in Italy − together with the feminist insieme collective of native women Le2511 (,, and a group of Tunisian women resident in Italy − call on Anna Maria Cancellieri, Italian interior minister, to accede to their request.

We Women in Black protest in silence to end the silence of the sea and denounce the responsibility of our governements (current and past) for the policy of turning back immigrants. Italy's years-long policy of turning back immigrants, which we have denounced for years as inhuman and unjust, has now been condemned by the European Court of Human Rights at Strassburg. The Court has declared that in the Hirsi case (where 200 people were turned by to Libya in 2009) Italy did not respect article 3 of the Convention on Human Rights, on the degrading treatment and torture. The Court established that Italy violated the prohibition on collective expulsion (this is the second time in 60 years that a state has been found guilty of this) and did not respect the right of the victims (24 people - 11 Somalis and 13 Eritreans, traced to Libya and assisted by the Italian Council for Refugees) to have their cases heard before Italian courts.

Today, March 8, we want at least for a day, to confer on those people who we will never meet and who could have become our fellow citizens, the symbolic citizenship of this country that rejected them and forced them to make a possibly fatal voyage.

We will continue to demand that the motor of expulsions to North African be stopped because we want to live in a country that welcomes people. We want to say that there is another Italy that includes us, that wants to build a world free of violence and poverty.

Monday, 5 March 2012

We condemn the threats against the Ruta Pacifica

On February 28, the Ruta Pacifica de Las Mujeres in Colombia received a message announces a death sentence for those who continue to insist on the restitution of land to those who have been displaced by the war.

Ruta Pacifica published the following statement condemning the threats.
Ruta Pacifica de las Mujeres rejects and demands an investigation of the threat declared against Ruta Pacifica by the self-styled “Aguilas Negras -- Bloque Capital D.C.”, which was received in our headquarters in an open and unmarked envelope on Tuesday, 28 February 2012.

It seems ironic that at almost the same time, the High Commissioner for Human Rights of the United Nations was giving a report on the human rights situation in Colombia in which it is noted “…has observed that the risk and vulnerability of the leaders in negotiations for restitution of lands are extremely high, having noted criminal interests in the lands under consideration for
restitution…”, ironic that at this time we should be receiving these threats in
which, in addition to the Ruta, also appear names of feminist organizations like
the Casa de la Mujer and Sisma, and other organizations composed of both men and women; furthermore, 15 individuals have been directly threatened, among them 12 women, one of whom is the Delegate to the Office of the Public Defender (Ombudsman) for the rights of children, young people.

The pamphlet is clearly directed at women defenders of human rights who are
working on restitution of land inasmuch as it reads “…stop screwing around with restitution of lands because anyone who is involved in this proceeding will be assassinated by us, no matter how protected they might be, and we give them 30 days to leave the city.”

We join the call made by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Colombia reiterating “the need to adopt integral measures for protection that include solid analysis of the risk, in which the victims can participate…” and also in that “the measures for protection must be improved, for example, including in practice a differential gender focus, as well as strengthening the appropriate local institutions.”

We call on the organizations that are defenders of human rights, political parties, the international community and the regional, national and international media to the end that social and political pressure will contribute to making these facts known, rejected and sanctioned; and let us guarantee among all the enforceability of the right to Truth, Justice and Reparation as a demand in the face of the historical violence of which the women in Colombia have been victims.

The group Aguilas Negras is a re-formation of the paramilitary group Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC), supposedly demobilised in the scandalous amnesty in favour of paramilitary groups in support of the law erroneously named "Justice and Peace", adopted in 2005.

Threats from such a group must be taken seriously and we call on our diplomatic representatives in Colombia to immediately take action to ensure that Colombian authorities act with determination against the so-called "Aguilas Negras", not only to avoid that what has been threatened becomes reality, but to make sure that these unacceptable crimes are prosecuted with truth, justice, and reparation.

We will not give up our aspiration to live in a world free of war, fear and violence

Saturday, 3 March 2012

One Hundred Cities Against the F-35s

Last Saturday in more than 100 Italian cities, there were protests against the F-35 joint strike fighters (JSF) and the choice of the Italian government to spend more than 10 billion Euro to manufacture and buy "just" 90 of them.

It's true that in the original purchase plan the number of F-35s was 131.

Do 90 war aircraft seem few for a country that "repudiates war"?

It will be a heap of money badly spent, because even one JSF is too many: : its cost is equal to the cost of 180 kindergartens.

And with the obvious increase in cost per aircraft, even with this cut we could be spending around 12 billion - not to speak of the operating and maintenance costs.

We don't want to end up like Greece. As reported in “Corriere della sera” on 13 February.

“The Greeks are starving but they have full arsenals. And they continue to buy weapons. This year they will burn three percent of their GDP in mililtary spending. But what is pushing Athens to throw away heaps of money? Fear of the Turks? No, its the greed of Merkel and Sarkozy. The two European leaders have had the Greek government with its back to the wall for months: if you want aid, if you want to stay in the Euro, you've got to buy our tanks and our lovely warships. The pressure from Berlin on the Greek government was denounced in recent days by the German press stunned by Merkel's cynicism in imposing cuts and sacrifices on Greek citizens and then attempting to benefit the German arms industry. ”

As for Italy, we ask ourselves:

Will the F-35 project create new jobs?

Few jobs will be created. Far fewer than those promised some time ago, and they will only serve to reduce the cuts in jobs at Alenia (a firm in the Finmeccanica group). So, they aren't really "new" jobs. This was acknowledged, not by pacifists or antimilitarists, but by General Debertolis (National director of armaments), as reported in the “Il Sole 24 ORE” ion 8 February.

What are they for? What wars is our country preparing for? Who are we going to bomb?

The F-35 will be needed to take part, with the US and other allies in military adventures. We're talking about war (let's call it by its name). Confirmations of this, though couched in diplomatic language , have been given by the current defence minister Admiral Di Paola.

The constitution prohibits Italy from making war: but with the excuse of humanitarian interventions, or of the membershop of NATO, or the defence of "our interests"... in the last 20 years we have taken part in 5 wars - without resolving any of the situations of injustice that were offered as the pretext - and causing death and destruction with our weapons.

As citizens, we have the right to education, work, pensions and healthcare.... we can do without 131 (or even 90!) F-35 JSF!

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Colombia: War strategies are accentuated in the preelectoral period

Serious human rights violations are being noted in Chocó and Cauca

We women continue to be the most affected by the actions of armed groups.

We confirm the need for humanitarian accords in the region.

Bogotá, 25 May 2011. The Ruta Pacífica de las Mujeres launches an urgent appeal to the state institutions, to human rights organisations and to the international community in the face of grave violations of international humanitarian law that are taking place in the departments of Chocó and Cauca, where the civilian population is being held hostage and those engaged in armed clashes avoid their responsibility to distinguish between civlians and combattents.

For this movement of women, it is urgent to protect the population of these departments, especially women and girls, since the increase in the presence and activity of armed groups expose them to high risks. This circumstance provokes a climate of fear in the preelectoral period, generating in women even greater fear of taking part in public activity and so reinforces their exclusion from the political and social scene.

In Chocó in the past 15 days, 220 people were abducted and then released. There is a constant worry that these strategies of war that put at risk the afro and indigenous people who live in the area may continue.

In the department of Cauca, the activities of armed groups is increasing in three directons: firstly putting the civilian population in the crossfire, as is happening in the clashes between the army and the FARC in the north of the department; secondly in the threats against women leaders in the region that have been received in leaflets signed by offshoot groups from the AUC (paramilitaries) who operate in the region, and lastly it is evident in the deterioration of the practices of war and the imposition of terror by paramilitary groups, particularly directed against women with regard to control of their bodies. Consequently, the increase in the presence and activities of these groups in the region puts women and girls who have been victims of systematic sexual violence at the hands of these groups in an situation of extremely serious risk.

The women of Cauca and Chocó confirm that they continue to be involved in outbreaks of armed conflict and that there is no suitable response from the state to protect their rights

It's important to point ut that the dynamic of armed conflict in Colombia and the way in which it heightens favours the continued escalation of violence against women, often not reported because of the lack of judicial structures and of the absence of guarantees for the protection of their lives.

All this reinforces the postion of the Ruta Pacífica de las Mujeres on the overriding necessity for a negotiated settlement to the armed conflict that allows us to put down the basis for a lasting peace in Colombia.

We women do not bear sons and daughters for the war