Can women create a massive movement for peace? When we think of the history of women and the primitive thinking that ignores woman’s existence throughout the history of wars, which sees sexual harassment and rape as the main methods to humiliate the enemy, or accepts women only as survival providers during the wars, it is not an easy question to answer.
I have written so many times about women, women’s rights, political and social problems, sufferings and facts, but when I was asked to write on the subject, "Can women create a massive movement for peace?" I realized that I haven’t even thought about it before. “Why?” I asked myself. My answer was the endless brutality in women’s lives which has always been the primary issue and prevented them from thinking to create a massive movement for peace.
Women have been so occupied with the daily, social, political, economic and gender problems of life, including the ones caused by wars, they were not able to think that the solution of peace may be in their own hands. They were trying to deal with the details while they were not aware that they were holding the whole in their hands. If you read a serious newspaper or watch TV news with attention just one day, if you try to give a look to the hidden lines behind the daily news, it is impossible not to realize that the great percentage of news stories are about or relate to these issues of women. They are everywhere, from the financial news broadcasting from Wall Street to the weather forecasts of droughts or El Nino. Behind the petrochemical product’s share rises and falls there lie the lives of women in war in Nigeria. Behind the effects of droughts there lie the lives of women in war in Colombia.
You can find much research about women in war.Women are present everywhere as assistants or providers in the male-dominated world. They had to struggle for every little lack or right all along the history of wars, from providing food to their children to being able to take part in their wars for national freedom alongside their men. Peace may be the last thing they have considered how to create, between all those issues they have had to deal with. In an ordinary library it is possible to find dozens of books written about women in national movements, in wars or in regional or national peace movements, but nearly no work considering a massive international movement for peace. There is even some serious research about women who devoted themselves to war and terror alongside men. There were women in what were once called national liberation movements which we now call terrorist organizations.
There were women all around the world in movements to gain their equal political rights. There were women fighters in the long history of feminism. Until the liberation of France, a great percentage of the resistance were women guerrillas who were called terrorists by the SS at the time.Let’s leave it to history, as before, to decide what is the changing definition of terrorism and who is a “terrorist” or not. But remember the women, whose social role was mother and wife, had a more active part in many wars than men.
There is also no need to go into the details of some very successful regional women’s movements here. They have already taken their place in the history and we should look to the future now.History doesn't belong to men, in fact!“Shoot the women first”: this was and is the order given to armed anti-terrorist groups of soldiers from the 2nd World War to our day. Writer Eileen Mc Donald’s example in her book of the same name is very interesting. According to Herr Christian Loch of German Intelligence, “It is very logical to shoot women first who values his own life because the woman has more personality, powerful and energetic…They are more dangerous and merciless than men.” And it seems that it is easy to say that some of them are lesbians.This is the point to give some thought. While men are traditionally related with violence and war, women are accepted as life givers. In many studies these women who take part in wars or national liberation movements are considered as psychologically disturbed or having met the wrong men. There were and are so many of them taking part in the movements and acting more violent than men, while normally criminology statistics show violent crimes by females as only six percent.
My own earliest childhood memories are of my grandmother’s stories about how their door opened every day and another male relative’s body was brought in, during the 1st World War and Gallipoli. Later, how their houses were taken from them and turned into the office of the head commander of the invaders. And how their mothers put them in the saddlebags of a donkey and sent them to relatives in far away villages so that they, the mothers, would be able to stay and help their men in the war. . For a dear friend of mine, Joy, it was the brutality of invading Turks that made her Syrian ancestors fly away to the US. One of her family's stories is of her great-grandmother who tried to visit her son in a Turkish jail. The guards were sympathetic but when she told them the name of her son, who was a notorious freedom fighter, they said "Take this woman away and beat her!" She returned to help her son escape. Is there a difference? I don't think so."!....
Here begins the paradox I felt. While they were and are seen as the docile mother and wife; while they are the ones most suffering from the wars, not only by facing the risk of being separated from their families, their husbands and children, and being killed, tortured or raped, but also having to deal with the poverty and survival; they are also ready to fight as a female tiger if their children or the country is under threat. With such a burden to carry on their shoulders, how can women think about creating a peace movement? They may dream about peace, but only dream. They have had no time to consider that there can be a possibility of creating a massive movement for peace. In 1991 during the Gulf War, 30.000 women soldiers were part of the U.S. armed forces. They were seen by their country as patriots. On the other hand, the ones who were fighting for their homeland were portrayed as monsters, maniacs, brainwashed. I wonder how many around the world or among those 30.000 sisters ever gave a thought to the condition of the women on the other side. What can motivate a young girl of 18 or 19 years or a pregnant woman to turn into a living bomb? Is it so easy to say, as the experts do, that they are brainwashed or drugged?
If it is; wasn’t it the US and some other civilized countries who had created the “Manchurian Candidates” and masters of the mind control experiments? Is it possible that they are intelligent, knowing what they are doing, committed to a certain belief, acting of their own free will? If they are, what drives them to make this decision?It is generally accepted that women are more accustomed to pain than men. They know how to live with pain better than men because it is already there in their normal daily life.In Palestine, from the beginning of 1987, there were mothers who sent their children from toddlers to 10-year-olds into the streets to throw rocks at the tanks. Young girls made up more than the half of the Sebab, which was the organization of youngsters over 10 throwing rocks. Those women were making their own children lose their childhood. Why? They define it like this: They don’t wanted to be accepted as bugs anymore. They have channeled their feelings of motherhood to the fight. They even say they prepare their own children psychologically for arrest and questioning. An interesting answer comes from the mouth of another woman, a nameless one, who addresses her questions to Leyla Halid after she hijacked an airplane and let the passengers go in 1969. She asks, “I don’t understand: Who are the Palestinians?"
Yes, we all want peace but do we understand what is peace? Do we know the life of the woman of Sudan, Sri Lanka, Nigeria, Colombia, Nepal, Burundi, Rwanda, Liberia, Guinea or Congo?If we ask the females in an anti-war protest where these countries are, how many can give a right answer, do you think? How many can show the place of Guinea in a world atlas, let alone the understanding of women’s conditions there? How many of us know that there lies the blood of women in the pharmaceuticals we use made by the petrochemical products processed with Nigerian or Iraqi oil? How many of us pay enough attention to the gold trinkets, rings, bracelets we love so much, to see the blood of the Colombian women mixed into that gold?In Turkey alone there are nearly 300 women’s organizations. It is hard to estimate the number around the world. They are all defending peace. But how? It seems like everybody wants peace. But what is peace? It seems like everybody has a different understanding. Every faction has its own truth.
Women’s peace building actions around the world are generally channeled into providing food, shelter, medical care and education. The real activists who are going to those places personally and working with their gender are very few. The ones who really understand or have knowledge of what is going on for women around the world are also still very few. For most women around the world, even for some of those active in women’s organizations, peace-building or creating a peace movement is limited to collecting money, food, etc. to send to the war areas; or taking part in marches, singing peace songs, signing letters for peace to the UN or other international organizations.
Women should review their important role in peace building, both as a part of gender identity and as power. Lack of organization, lack of dialogue, ignorance and poverty are the basics preventing us from building an international women’s peace movement today. Don’t misunderstand: I am not talking only about the women in war areas but also about women in the most civilized parts of the world. It is a sad reality that today’s women in the civilized world can be more ignorant and lacking in organization than their sisters immersed in poverty and war.When in the civilized world most women’s main problems are protecting their social security or changing their divorce laws, how can we make them understand where and what are the problems of a Sudanese women?
The western woman has the political and social power and organization to reach others of their gender around the world. Their gender are not taking part in antiwar protests or singing peace songs. The only thing they can sing are the wailings after their dead ones and the laments of struggle. They have no knowledge of what social security means. They are the ones who lost their households and employment, made to live in refugee camps, forced into informal relationships to meet their survival needs, losing their husbands or having to deal with physically or mentally disabled husbands, having to feed their children – some from different fathers as a result of rape.
When one looks around, one can’t keep herself from asking, how many women can participate in the peace negotiations, decision making, leadership? At least have a look at the latest example of Iraq. The pregnant woman who made herself a living bomb had nothing to lose, no reason to live any more, had already lost her husband, family members and home. Today Iraqi woman are afraid of going out alone. We’ve lost count of the numbers of rapes in the news. But how many women are there in the peacekeeping, negotiations or leadership of Iraq? American women were on the streets before the war and still on the streets to make their troops turn back. It is certain that they don’t want war, they want peace. But how can we make them understand the life of the Iraqi women, or that peace can’t be created so easily? Maybe we should think about an exchange program as they do for university students to learn the world. Maybe we should send dozens of women to the “civilized” countries to educate their gender about their life and send other dozens to the war areas to understand the difference between living and singing for peace. Maybe we can create a real massive movement of women for peace only by creating this bond of mutual understanding and sharing.
It’s always said after wars that atrocities happen, that both sides commit those crimes. Nobody has stopped to think that women could be a “side” as well.The statistics and research of the United Nations and of all the international organizations have shown endless times that the residents of refugee camps are mostly women. They have shown what they are suffering. They have tried to find ways to help with food, shelter and education, but other than very limited or personal efforts there has been no campaign or work for the education of peace and building bonds among all the women of the world. No one has noticed that women have been raped by men and there are no women who rape men. No one has noticed that the women had to take the place of the men lost but no man had to take the place of the women lost.
We read so many papers about the women dealing with surviving with their children after losing husbands, but at least I don’t remember reading any paper about men dealing with surviving with his children. There is an easier way when the mother is lost: to send the children to orphanages. But it can never be the same for any mother. You may have heard about mothers who felt they would not be able to bear any more and decided to commit suicide and kill their children too.I leave it to the psychologists to discuss, but in my opinion it is a woman’s instinct of motherhood, not being able to leave them alone to deal with the world in which she has lost hope.
Suicide is not a disease, sometimes it can be a result of a conscious decision as Hemingway or Camus. During 1998’s most of the suicide bombers in Turkey were females. We were living a period of “executions without judgements”. Human life was so cheap to question that who were the executers. Were those “executers” less maniac or fanatic than the suddenly popping up female suicide bombers in Turkey or their first gender examples against Nazi’s? It was sure that there was also a gender exploitation behind it too but the decade was creating a psychologically torn out generation.There is a female character in most of the old Turkish movies (mostly played by famous Turkish artist Aliye Rona) , who keeps the blood hot always for the old tradition of “blood feud”, “vendetta”. The photographs of the dead ones hung on the walls beside the rifles. The shirts of the dead ones kept as holly gifts to the next generations with its blood on it. The female is the dominant one who raises and directs the males for revenge one day. She has the most powerfull weapon; to bless her mother’s milk or not. She has been thought like that, she never questions if she can stop the vendetta inspide of sacrificing her children to the ongoing feud. Woman is the life giver and the life taker.
Women have never ever considered that they can also be a “side” in wars, not even by themselves. Maybe it is not enough to be against wars, trying to create peace organizations and movements in general; but rather, we should think of ourselves, women, as a “side.” Women contribute two thirds of the workforce in the world and constitute over 52% of the population. What if we can all think of peace together, learn from the experiences of one another and become one voice of peace one day? There are “Women in Black” of Kosovo and many countries, the Women of Greenham Common in Wales in the UK , “Saturday Grandmothers” of Argentina, “Saturday Mothers” of Turkey and so many more I can’t count their names. They are giving a fight of their own in any way they choose. Nothing can make them stop, for years. What if all their voices can come together in a common song?
A massive women’s movement of peace….I made a call to the women around the world to send me their thoughts when I begin to write this paper. I got so many replies that I can’t count. I was thinking that I may be a voice of them here for a peace song, written every line by another woman. Their replies made me understand how wrong I am, how hard to write that song. The song is writing itself but it seems like it will be an endless one, as “a massive women’s movement for peace” once it begins. I dream I may share that song one day, not a part of a paper like this but just as a song itself singing by all it’s writers. I dream all my gender to learn the language of peace and sing that song all together. I believe our voice’s loudness will make all the ones in war to run away and try to find a place to hide. And there can be no more wars at the end if we want it from heart and share.