World Courts of Women: Against War, for Peace

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Open Democracy
25 January 2016

At the World Court of Women meeting held in Bangalore witnesses to violence and injustice highlighted political lessons and resistance, asking that we all take responsibility to oppose the unending wars against women.

"Lights slips into every place
where the women were killed,
the houses, the streets, the doorways
light traces the blood stains
light pours into the wells
where they threw the bodies
light seeks out the places where sound was silenced."

These words, from the Palestinian poet Lisa Suhair Majaj, introduced the most recent session of the World Court of Women held in Bangalore, in November 2015. Under the title "Against War, For Peace", the Court was hosted by Mount Carmel College and Vimochana Women's Rights Forum, which works on a range of issues from domestic, sexual and dowry violence, to communities and human rights.  

The Court was held in conjunction with the international gathering of Women in Black( WiB) , an international network founded in Jerusalem in 1987 to oppose war, occupation and violence. A thousand students joined WiB to listen to testimonies that focussed on war as genocide, wars without borders, wars against civilizations, and wars against women. The final session spoke of building resistance, peace and justice in a "gathering of spirit".  

 

Millions of women and girls are killed, brutalised and intimidated into silence every year. The World Court of Women has held over 30 sessions since 1992, hearing from survivors of violence, conflict and war from around the world.  By focussing on the voices, experiences and resistance of women ignored and marginalised by mainstream politics, different kinds of peace-building and solutions are emerging from these hearings. 

Along with Lisa Majaj, I was one of eight jurors chosen from India, the Middle East and Europe. Corinne Kumar of Vimochana, the initiator of the Courts of Women, asked us to "listen actively", reflect at the end on what we had heard, and look to the future. The Bangalore session extended from early morning to late evening, with harrowing testimonies interlaced with expressive dance, poetry and short films. In expressing the anger and pain of their direct personal suffering, many of the witnesses highlighted political lessons and resistance, demanding that we all take responsibility to oppose these unending wars on women.

Some women shared their names, like Iraqi academic Eman Khammas. She spoke first of the struggle to keep going through Saddam Hussein's years of brutal dictatorship, and then of the greater calamity that blighted life in Iraq due to the disastrous US-UK invasion of 2003.  Dr Khammas spoke of the impact of war, as towns and communities in Iraq were wiped out "first by the US-led occupation and now by the sectarian militia".  People who had nowhere else to go continue to face "human rights violations on a daily basis".  Others, like Eman, were forced to flee with their families. With her PhD and academic and human rights credentials, she was luckier than most; which made it even more shocking to hear her stories of daily poverty and humiliations as a refugee in Europe, where she and her family are often feared as terrorists and resented for the needs that they have.

 

Read full article at: Open Democracy