Remember, mourn, then organize

For feminists today, there is a before and after the Montreal massacre.

Lee Lakeman, March 1990

Today, December 6, 2007, I remember those women murdered on December 6, 1989, who dared to study engineering:

Geneviève Bergeron, Hélène Colgan, Nathalie Croteau, Barbara Daigneault, Anne-Marie Edward, Maud Haviernick, Barbara Klucznik Widajewicz, Maryse Laganière, Maryse Leclair, Anne-Marie Lemay, Sonia Pelletier, Michèle Richard, Annie St-Arneault, Annie Turcotte

 

I also remember the 62 wives killed last year in Canada and the 500 Aboriginal women missing from Canada.  I remember all women, the world over, impacted by violent acts.

 

 

I mourn these realities.  I mourn for a country that removes the word “equality” from its mandate to support the actions of women’s organizations working for change.  I mourn for a world that is at war against half its population.

And I work for change, by simply telling you, dear reader, how one person can make a difference.  A former Executive Director at the Provincial Association of Transition Houses in Saskatchewan (PATHS) as part of her paid work, developed an initiative to help women find escape support in their local communities.  Since then, she has left that job, but not the work which has broadened from a Saskatchewan initiative to the world-wide Hot Peach Pages, “an international directory of abuse hotlines, shelters, refuges, crisis centres and women’s organizations, plus domestic violence information in over 75 languages.”

 

Now I will light a candle and place it in my front room window as my personal symbol to the world and my community.

 

——–

Read articles about December 6

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(Courtesy Vancouver Rape Relief Shelter)

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Women of Iraq ask for help

And let’s not forget that these women live on despite the depleted uranium radiating their lands.

Dear Friends and Supporters,

OWFI has spoken in a recent report over the CNN about the masses of Iraqi
women who are part of human trafficking currently inside and outside Iraq.
The report shows OWFI executives challenging the officials who choose to
look the other way.

OWFI has also challenged the rapists of 7 Iraqi female prisoners who are
still free and work in the Iraqi Ministry of Interior.

OWFI has initiated a secular youth movement based on Poetry, Music and Art
under the name of “Freedom Space”. Hundreds of youth from the so called
“Sadre City” are enthusiastic members and some are leaders of this rapidly
growing movement.

OWFI is still sheltering women who are threatened by honor killing or
retaliation from militia members / after these militias kill the males of
the family.

As a result, the Iraqi government decided on September 4th to freeze the
funds of OWFI in the Iraqi banks so as to paralyze our movement and make our work impossible.

Dear Friends and supporters do not let the intimidation of the Iraqi
officials stop you from supporting one of the few freedom initiatives inside
Iraq.

We are writing you this letter so that you do not send us any funds or
donations into our official bank account in Iraq as the government has put
its hand on it.

As for our activities, do not worry. We will still voice the pains of Iraqi
women and keep on creating bigger “freedom spaces”, especially that we run
mostly on volunteer will-power.

The farce of “Democracy” in Iraq will not sway our determination to a free,
secular and egalitarian life for all in Iraq.

Freedom and equality for all

Yanar Mohammed

September 6, 2007

some of the recent CNN reports:
http://www.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/meast/08/15/iraq.prostitution/index.html
http://edition.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/meast/06/26/pysk.mohammed/index.html
and a previous one on NPR:
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=6286899


			

Iraq Unmasks the American State

Interesting analysis, this, courtesy The Business of Emotions.  Long, but well worth the read.

I was particularly interested in these points about “America’s emotional and moral malaise” before the writer launches into how the Iraq Resistance shows the American State for what it is.

America’s Emotional and Moral Malaise
The explanation of Bush’s hold on the United States developed in The Business of Emotions over the past few years, can be summarized thus:

1. Without authentic emotions, the vital connection between thinking and feeling is lost and the ability to act, morally and politically, for oneself and for others, is compromised…

2. People who lack emotional authenticity are incapable of recognizing its absence in others…

3. People who lack authentic emotions are susceptible to the predations of emotional marketers…

4. Thinking without feeling, talking without meaning…

Thanks to

Male Military Vets Committing Sexual Assault at Alarming Rates

This is US data, but it makes one wonder how Canadian veterans fare in this regard.  Surely we are better placed to prevent such horrific statistics, by simply being a less militaristic culture than our southern neighbours. Mind you, with Harper and Hillier at the helm, we may be doomed to echo the patterns of the USians.  From AlterNet: War on Iraq:

Why Male Military Veterans Are Committing Sexual Assault at Alarming Rates

By Lucinda Marshall, AlterNet. Posted May 25, 2007.

A recent DOJ report found that vets are twice as likely to be jailed for sexual assault than non-veterans.

A recent study by the Department of Justice found that military veterans are twice as likely to be incarcerated for sexual assault than nonveterans. When asked about the finding, Margaret E. Noonan, one of the authors of the study, told the Associated Press, “We couldn’t come to any definite conclusion as to why.” The intrinsic and systemic connection between militarism and violence against women, however, makes this finding far from surprising.

Sexual violence has been a de facto weapon of war since the beginning of the patriarchal age. Raping and assaulting women is seen as a way to attack the honor of the enemy, and women have always been the spoils of war. The result is that many types of violence against women are exacerbated by militarism, including the indirect effects on civilian populations both during hostilities and after the conflict ends and soldiers go home. These include:

  • Rape/sexual assault and harassment both within the military and perpetrated on civilian populations
  • Domestic violence
  • Prostitution, pornography and trafficking
  • Honor killing

Read the rest of the article

CD now blogging!

I see that Canadian Dimension magazine has taken up blogging with an International Women’s Day post by Dr. Joyce Green who teaches in the Political Science department at the University of Regina.

Status of Women is now prohibited from funding work that can be considered “political advocacy.” That’s rich. The Conservatives will consent to funding shelters for battered women, but not organizations advocating for an end to violence against women and children. We can bind the wounds but not question the structures and processes that wound in the first place.

A hearty “Welcome to the Blogosphere” to the radicals at CD!

Vagina Warriors

For those who are not aware of the great work that’s been done and continues to be done with the Vagina Monologues, here is a post, in its entirety from the V-Day website.  V-Day is a global movement to create bigger attention on the struggle to end violence against women and girls, worldwide.

Vagina Warriors: An Emerging Paradigm, An Emerging Species

I have sat with women in crowded factories in Juarez, in crumbling shelters in the back streets of Cairo, in makeshift centers for teenage girls and women in Jerusalem, Johannesburg, Pine Ridge and Watts, in mansions in Hollywood, in burnt-out backyards in Kosova and Kabul, in a moving van after midnight with sex trafficked girls in Paris. Sometimes these meetings went on for hours; in the case of the 17-year-old Bulgarian sex slave, we had 35 minutes before her pimp came looking for her. I have heard the staggering stories of violence – war rapes, gang rapes, date rapes, licensed rapes, family rapes. I have seen first-hand the scars of brutality – black eyes, cigarette-hole burns in arms and legs, a melted face, bruises, slices and broken bones. I have witnessed women living without what is fundamental – sky, sun, a roof, food, parents, a clitoris, freedom. I have been there when skulls washed up on riverbanks and naked mutilated female bodies were discovered in ditches. I have seen the worst. The worst lives in my body. But in each and every case I was escorted, transformed, and transported by a guide, a visionary, an activist, an outrageous fighter and dreamer. I have come to know these women (and sometimes men) as Vagina Warriors.

It was Zoya who first took me to the muddy Afghan camps in Pakistan; Rada who translated the stories of women refugees as we traveled through war-torn Bosnia; Megan who led pro-vagina cheers on a freezing cold campus in Michigan; Igo who made jokes about land mines as we sped in her jeep through the post-war roads outside Pristina, Kosova; Esther who took me to the graves marked with pink crosses in Juarez, Mexico; Agnes who walked me up the path with dancing and singing Masai girls dressed in red, celebrating the opening of the first V-Day Safe House for girls fleeing female genital mutilation (FGM).

At first I thought this was just a rare group of individuals, specific women who had been violated or witnessed so much suffering they had no choice but to act. But after five years of traveling, forty countries later a pattern has emerged, an evolving species. Vagina Warriors are everywhere. In a time of escalating and explosive violence on the planet, these Warriors are fostering a new paradigm.

Although Vagina Warriors are highly original, they possess some general defining characteristics:
They are fierce, obsessed, can’t be stopped, driven.
They are no longer beholden to social customs or inhibited by taboos. They are not afraid to be alone, not afraid to be ridiculed or attacked. They are often willing to face anything for the safety and freedom of others.
They love to dance.
They are directed by vision, not ruled by ideology.
They are citizens of the world. They cherish humanity over nationhood.
They have a wicked sense of humor. A Palestinian activist told jokes to an Israeli soldier who pointed a machine gun at her as she tried to pass the checkpoints. She literally disarmed him with her humor.
Vagina Warriors know that compassion is the deepest form of memory.
They know that punishment does not make abusive people behave better. They know that it is more important to provide a space where the best can emerge rather than “teaching people a lesson.” I met an extraordinary activist in San Francisco, a former prostitute who had been abused as a child. Working with the correctional system, she devised a therapeutic workshop where convicted pimps and johns could confront their loneliness, insecurity and sorrow.
Vagina Warriors are done being victims. They know no one is coming to rescue them. They would not want to be rescued.
They have experienced their rage, depression, desire for revenge and they have transformed them through grieving and service. They have confronted the depth of their darkness. They live in their bodies.
They are community makers. They bring everyone in.
Vagina Warriors have a keen ability to live with ambiguity. They can hold two existing, opposite thoughts at the same time. I first recognized this quality during the Bosnian war. I was interviewing a Muslim woman activist in a refugee camp whose husband had been decapitated by a Serb. I asked her if she hated Serbs. She looked at me as if I were crazy. “No, no, I do not hate Serbs,” she said, “If I were to hate Serbs, then the Serbs would have won.”
Vagina Warriors know that the process of healing from violence is long and happens in stages. They give what they need the most, and by giving this they heal and activate the wounded part inside.
Many Vagina Warriors work primarily on a grassroots level. Because what is done to women is often done in isolation and remains unreported, Vagina Warriors work to make the invisible seen. Mary in Chicago fights for the rights of Women of Color so that they are not disregarded or abused; Nighat risked stoning and public shaming in Pakistan by producing “The Vagina Monologues” in Islamabad so that the stories and passions of women would not go unheard; Esther insists that the hundreds of disappeared girls in Juarez are honored and not forgotten.

For native people, a warrior is one whose basic responsibility is to protect and preserve life. The struggle to end violence on this planet is a battle. Emotional, intellectual, spiritual, physical. It requires every bit of our strength, our courage, our fierceness. It means speaking out when everyone says to be quiet. It means going the distance to hold perpetrators accountable for their actions. It means honoring the truth even if it means losing family, country, and friends. It means developing the spiritual muscle to enter and survive the grief that violence brings and, in that dangerous space of stunned unknowing, inviting the deeper wisdom.

Like Vaginas, Warriors are central to human existence, but they still remain largely unvalued and unseen. This year V-Day celebrates Vagina Warriors around the world, and by doing so we acknowledge these women and men and their work. In every community there are humble activists working every day, beat by beat to undo suffering. They sit by hospital beds, pass new laws, chant taboo words, write boring proposals, beg for money, demonstrate and hold vigils in the streets. They are our mothers, our daughters, our sisters, our aunts, our grandmothers, and our best friends. Every woman has a warrior inside waiting to be born. In order to guarantee a world without violence, in a time of danger and escalating madness, we urge them to come out.

CELEBRATE VAGINA WARRIORS. LET MORE BE HONORED AND SEEN. LET MORE BE BORN.

– Eve Ensler, Founder/Artistic Director, V-Day; playwright, “The Vagina Monologues”

From the Women of Iraq

This landed in my inbox this morning and I decided it must get out there.

Dear Friends

It feels as if the damage done to Iraq is repairable at this point. No
“Study Group Report” can have an answer. The arms of the clock cannot go
backwards. Our losses can hardly be compensated anymore. Nevertheless, we
find ourselves fighting for survival and trying to claim the life we
deserve.
More…
I have attached our OWFI report of what happens to women in Iraq now.
Please let the outer world know what we go through.

Yanar Mohammed
——————
Darkest Scenario for Women of Iraq
OWFI report on violations against women Dec 2006

Public executions of women by Islamist militias in Baghdad

Shia Militias: a new wave of public executions against women is
undertaken by Al Mahdi army. Dragging, flogging, hanging and shootings fall
within the routine procedure of these executions which are taking place in
growing numbers. In a Shia part of Baghdad, a sector which includes Nuwab Al
Thubat and Al Amin, 3 girls were killed in one week ­second week of
November.
On Thursday November 9, one of these executions was witnessed by an OWFI
activist who was assigned to go and investigat the previous killing of two
girls. While passing in Nuwab Al Thubat, pedestrians were surprised to hear
a young woman screaming in that area. She was pulled by armed members of Al
Mahdi militia, beaten badly in front of all. She was dragged by a wire wound
around her neck to a close-by football field and then hung to the goal post.
They pierced all her body with bullets. Her brother came running trying to
defend his sister. He was also shot and killed.
Al Mahdi Shia militia guards – many of whom work as policemen ­
volunteer to punish ³adulterer² women by torture and public execution.
Although the Shia clerics have legalized Mutaa (pleasure) temporary
marriages, most of the women who practice it are subject to honour-killing
at the hand of their male relatives or the volunteering Al Mahdi Militia.
Sunni Militias: kill both women and men who practice some suspected
behavior. If a young man stares at a girl or smokes a cigarette, he will be
flogged and maybe killed.
Although honour killing numbers rose considerably after the war,
systemic public executions of women is a new phenomenon. In our estimation,
no less than 30 women are executed monthly for honour related reasons at the
hands of these militias in Baghdad and suburbs.

Truck loads of Sunni families taken by Iraqi military to unknown destiny

Um Muhamad was going to Kadhimiya city in Mid November using public
transportation when an Iraqi military checkpoint stopped them and began to
check the men¹s id¹s. They took the Sunni men, their wives and children. Um
Muhamad was scared to look at the army truck which took a full load to an
unknown destiny, but she noticed from the side of her eye that their hands
were tied. After Sunnis were taken, and the vehicle moved, she whispered to
the person sitting next to her: ³I told them I am a Shia, although I am a
SunniŠ I did not want to be taken.²
Sectarian motivated mass execution result in dumping the shot and
sometimes tortured bodies in a close-by dump yard in their neighborhoods.
This practice has become routine practice by Islamist militias from both
sects.

150 unclaimed women¹s corpses in Baghdad morgue in the first ten days of
November

OWFI activists pretended they were looking for a lost female relative in
Baghdad morgue on November 12. The employee in charge told them they were
late because the morgue got rid of more than 150 unclaimed dead bodies of
women, many of which were beheaded, disfigured or bore signs of extreme
torture. These bodies were accumulated during the recent ten days and were
impossible to keep anymore as they are left in room temperature or thrown in
the terraces outside. With the return to tribalism under the current
situation, a family will not admit to a kidnapped daughter as it ³smears²
the honour of the family. Therefore, when the women get raped and killed,
nobody is claiming the body afterwards.
If this toll of killed women (15women)/day does not rise, it means that
5500 Iraqi women will be killed in this coming year. Reasons of killings are
mixed, but mostly for sectarian retaliation.

Poets attacked and killed by Sunni militia in Baghdad suburb, Al Madaen

Sunni Islamist militias have turned their sectors and neighborhoods into
a Taliban life-style in ways which are totally alien to Iraqi cities.

On Nov. 23rd, a Sunni Militia gang attacked a house where poets were
meeting in a Sunni suburb of Baghdad, Al Madaen. In this attack, a prominent
poet and a friend of OWFI, Mr. Ayman Al Salmawie and his brother were killed
while the others were wounded. Ayman stands second from left in the OWFI
poetry event ³Freedom Space 2².

³This house practices prostitution², a prototype posting by Islamist
militias in Baghdad

If the house does not get emptied immediately, the women get killed, the
house is burnt, and family devastated. In most cases, the posting is a
result of cross-sectarian retaliation.

Al Mousawat Media Center
Dec 7, 2006