XVI Bienial Conference

Women in Black

15 - 19 November, 2015

Bangalore, India

 

WORLD COURT OF WOMEN AGAINST WAR, FOR PEACE

 

A Summary Report

 

World Court of Women against War, for Peace

 

the day arrived

and the women arrived on their dancing feet

from over vast distances

to the beating of the drums

to the lighting of the lamp

offering their poignant stories of violence, of survival, of resistance

transforming their  pain into poetry

daring the world to listen

in the hope that a day will come when wars and violence against women

will become unthinkable.

 

Invoking the spirits of the sky and the earth, Mamta Sagar, a poet lit the lamp,

offering a prayer

Ours is a new world, there

is no God there,

no giver there,

no taker either;

there,

language has no speech,

speech has no arrogance.

This ... should at least be dreamt of.

 

Opening the Court was Corinne Kumar the vision behind and the International Coordinator of the Courts of Women inviting us to re-imagine justice " We must speak too of another notion of justice; of a jurisprudence, which bringing individual and collective justice and reparation will also be transformatory for all. A jurisprudence that is able to contextualize and historicize the crimes, moving away from a justice with punishment, a justice of revenge, a retributive justice, to a justice seeking redress, even reparation; a justice with truth and reconciliation, a restorative justice, a justice with healing, healing individuals and communities. Can the tears and narratives of the women, these sites of pain, and these sites of devastation and destitution lead us to re-thinking and re-imagining another way to justice? What ideas and sensibilities do we need to explore and to expand the imagination of justice? Refusing to separate the affective from the rational (juridical) creates a space in which emotive demands are allowed to be voiced and collective trauma is understood. This can be a step towards re-imagining this jurisprudence from within civil society in which we are able to creatively connect and deepen our collective insights and understanding of the context in which the text of our everyday realities is being written".

 

" Our imaginaries must be different: The new imaginary cannot have its moorings in the dominant discourse but must seek to locate itself in a discourse of dissent that comes from a deep critique of the different forms of domination and violence in our times : any new imaginary cannot be tied to the dominant discourse and systems of violence and exclusion:

Perhaps, it is in the expressions of resistance seeking legitimacy not by the dominant standards, not from a dominant paradigm of jurisprudence, not by the rule of law, that begin to draw the contours of a new political imaginary: the Truth Commissions, the Public Hearings, the Peoples' Tribunals, the Courts of Women are expressions of a new imaginary refusing that human rights be defined and confined by the dominant hegemonic paradigm".

 

Following the opening  was the first session on Wars as Genocide which looked at how the technologisation and nuclearisation of wars have become destructive on a genocidal scale. Shiv Vishvanathan who spoke as the expert witness  said " violence as genocide has gone beyond wars and the nation state. Citing the example of Partition and the Bengal famine which claimed 1.6 million people and displaced twenty three million people, and the famine which eliminated an estimated three million for which there was no Nuremberg where the British stood trial, he went further to say that development has become a continuation of war by other means. India today is home to forty million refugees from dam displacement more than the wars that we have fought.

Genocide he said is understood in terms of statistics but social science concepts and the number of people they can eliminate can be genocidal too. That even academics inflict genocide and there is no innocence to academic or policy knowledge and there  is no value neutrality either - the bloodlessness of concepts that can be more genocidal.

 

Then the women spoke one after the other testifying to the genocidal violence that they had been either victims of or witness to.

Eman Khammas from Iraq speaking on the 2003 War on Terror said it was built on three lies:  1. Iraq had weapons of mass destruction 2. Iraq helped terrorism flourish, 3. Iraq was ruled by a dictator, and there was no democratic structure of governing. She shared how thousands of Iraqis lost their jobs, houses and everything related to their former ways of life; Syria and Iraq, she said - they are being emptied of their people and professionals, losing their valuable human resources and being occupied by militias and foreign troops and nationals. And in the last decade, four million Iraqi IDPs emerged and eight million in urgent need of humanitarian aid.

 

Weaving together powerful images with statistics, Beni Chugh spoke of the brutal war unleashed in Congo for Tantalum, a most sought after valuable resource of our times and women becoming the collateral damage in this war of economicide;  wars waged to wrest control over a country's natural resources.

She said: In DRC forty thousand women are raped each year. Four fifth of the population has been displaced at least once in what began as attempts at ethnic genocide in the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide. Congo's immense wealth of natural resources has always been its curse.

Their first and only democratically elected head was assassinated for economic reasons. In what is acknowledged as the bloodiest war since the second world war, the war was fought for tantalum. Tantalum is essential to manufacture mobile telephones and laptops and therefore we all have Congolese blood on our hands. It was a lucrative war fought on natural resources, but the expense was fifty five million Congolese and we are all guilty of abetting it.

Tasneem Akhtar from Kashmir, India and Anandi Sasitharan from Sri Lanka spoke of the trauma of internal wars sponsored and inflicted by nation states.

Kashmir once an island of secularism is now consumed by military hatred.

Kashmir a paradise of peace is a shattered valley witnessing disappearances, rape, torture, death, execution, old people whose sons have died, grief stricken young widows and children, thousands living in refugee camps in their own homelands and countless children living in orphanages.

Indicting the Indian state for the thousands of uneducated who are forced to join terrorists and the cause of Jihad, she said the youth are inflicted with psychological disorders, depression, anxiety, Post Traumatic Stress Disorders, substance abuse, suicidal thoughts, drug abuse and alcoholism.

 

And Anandi spoke of the many undisclosed torture/detention centres that are in Sri Lanka where girls were kept and raped by the men manning these detention centres. The war in Sri Lanka was a well planned orchestrated genocide which the people of the country have been unable to come to terms with as the war continues in many different ways. The Sri Lankan tamils are being treated as minorities today and bombs banned by International law are used against them. A large number of people are being displaced and their properties are being snatched. Because of the geo-political importance of Sri Lanka, the perpetrators are saved by the international community.

 

Strengthening these testimonies were the visual testimonies of Mother Mejra  from Bosnia who spoke of the mass graves and of losing both her children to the war of ethnic cleansing by the Serbs but who was determined not to depair " My son Edwin was born in 1965, and my daughter in 1969. On 14 June, 1992 she and my son along with 200 young men were arrested by the militia and sent to Omarska concentration  Camp.  When the war broke out and the last bus was leaving for Prijedor I pleaded with them not to get involved in this cruel war. But they refused.Edna wanted to become a model instead she became a pile of bones with a bullet hole through her head.

I searched for my children all over Bosnia. On 20 June, I found Edwin from among the 140 skeletons exhumed from the Kemljani mass grave. I recognised Edwin by his teeth.  And it was very clear from the remains of Edna's clothes that she was killed by a bullet in her head.

I found my children after eight years of searhing, during which the whole of me was dedicated to searching for the missing - disappeared persons.Even after I found my children and buried them in dignity I continue my mission with greater conviction  I  want to see that no mother gives herself to despair

 

And Stan Goff, a US war veteran of Vietnam writing a poignant letter to the GIs in Iraq, his son being one of them entreating him to hold on to his humanity.Speaking of the genocidal wars that the US has waged all over the world from Vietnam to Iraq by donning the mantle of the savior, not hesitating to lie to and fill the heads of their fellow Americans with shit that they were fighting a noble cause even as they were killing innocent civilians he writes "we had to dehumanize our victims before we did the things we did. So they became dinks or gooks, just like Iraqis are now being transformed into ragheads or hajjis. People had to be reduced to niggers here before they could be lynched. No difference. We convinced ourselves we had to kill them to survive, even when that wasn't true, but something inside us told us that so long as they were human beings, with the same intrinsic value we had as human beings, we were not allowed to burn their homes and barns, kill their animals, and sometimes even kill them. So we used these words, these new names, to reduce them, to strip them of their essential humanity, and then we could do things like adjust artillery fire onto the cries of a baby. Until that baby was silenced, though, and here's the important thing to understand, that baby never surrendered her humanity. I did. We did. That's the thing you might not get until it's too late. When you take away the humanity of another, you kill your own humanity. You attack your own soul because it is standing in the way".

 

Session two on Wars without Borders  looked at wars in times of peace; to the invisible war of poverty, of development, the wars against the homeless that are unleashing new forms of violence against the poor, the vulnerable, the women.

 

Shobha Raghuram offering her testimony as an expert witness spoke of how suffering has no borders but the human spirit is so resilient that we build a chain of movement and common empathies towards the chimera called Hope. Critiquing the market oriented reforms which is leading to a cyclical readjustment of injustice, she said the poor are subsidising the debts of development.

She further added that we live in a world of unacceptable morality; in a system of conspicuous consumption, in a gross consumption of culture of violence which is abetted by manipulation of minds and data, institutions and citizens, corporate owned media and self-serving governments.

 

The history of the twentieth century, she said, saw some of the largest wars of resources and take overs where the exploitation of natural resources and privatisation of the commons and public goods has lead to the marginalisation of millions. Citing Kudankulam as an example, she said the nexus of capitalism, stateism and nuclearism

does not augur well for the country.

Her fervent plea are the dystopias of the present not enough to prevent the destruction of the future? Set the context for the visual testimony of Marcelina, Uganda who spoke of extreme deprivation and poverty  "There was no food at all wherever you looked for it. There was nothing. I went to look for snails in the river

I kept on asking myself can we eat these snails? Will we die if we eat them. I picked them. I cleaned and washed them.I lit the fire and cooked them.I decided to taste them first myself thinking that if I die atleast my children will live.For two hours nothing happened. Then I gave them to my youngest child after nothing happened to him as well I served those snails  to my other children. I decided to stay by the river since I did not know where else to go.

Here atleast we could get snails for us  to survive.

The river was filthy. Walking in it for snails I contracted guinea worms. I was infested with them from my feet right upto my private part"

 

Cheri Honkala, from the Kensington Welfare Rights Union for the Homeless spoke of the leading role the Union has played in the organizing of the poor and the homeless people's movement in the US "In our country we have more prisons than anywhere in the world and these prisons are filled with the poor. People imprisoned for economic crimes, for trying to survive.

Daily we move families into abandoned government owned properties, teach families how to reclaim food, hold sit-ins in hospitals demanding health care.

I have been arrested over seventy times now trying to secure food and housing for homeless and children.

As long as we love our children, we will use our voice and we will not be silenced. Those of us who have slept outside in the rain, who have tasted our tears in the dirt, and who have buried our sisters, brother and children, together, we will rise and we will not be stopped".

 

Her rallying cry " those of you who think that there is no hunger in America - think again. Those of you who think that we don't cry rivers of tears when we sleep on the pavement with our children - think again. Those of you who don't believe that the poor are going to organise and turn our country upside down - think again" reverberated in the audience.

 

Indicting the nuclear power states  of anhilation and destruction of human kind through their lopsided policies of development, Uday Kumar from the anti-nuclear movement against the nuclear power plant in Koodankulam spoke of Nuclearism as scientific fascism. Questioning the nuclear model of development and the moral basis that these power plants that were being set up in a country like ours which is steeped in poverty and misery, he said "nuclearism lies, it cheats, it distorts and dominates. Nuclearism is a political ideology that cannot stomach any transparency, accountability or popular participation. It snaps dissent, denounces opponents and creates a climate of fear and retribution"

 

The third session Wars against Civilisations had women testifying to the new ways in which the militarized nation state system excludes and exterminates the other thereby legitimising dehumanizing social hierarchies. Women who have been victims of institutionalized systems of violence like colonization, apartheid and the caste system testified to this war against the other.

 

Setting the context was the visual testimony of Vicky Corpuz, Philippines as the expert witness. Speaking of the United States who thought it their manifest destiny

to colonise the Philippines and bring civilization to the little brown brothers in the Pacific she asks " what gave these brutal colonizers the right to define the colonized as backward and themselves as civilized? What gave them the right ot destroy vibrant civilizations in  Asia, the Pacific, Africa, the Arab world and Latin America? How can the world regard them as civilized when they are the ones who inflicted the worst forms of barbarism on the majority of peace loving people in the world?. Colonialism, neo-colonialism and now globalization are underpinned by racism and racial discrimination. The fundamental assumption of colonizers is that their ways are inherently superior to those they colonise. To assert their superiority they denigrate, demonise, and destroy the diversity of cosmologies, religions, cultures, and economic political systems of the colonized."

 

Reinforcing Vicky's witness testimony were the visual testimonies of Yvette Abrahams from Africa and Mililani Trask from Hawaii –both speaking of the ways in which their ancestors, their people and lands were enslaved and colonized by the whites.

 

Yvette Abrahams speaks of slavery as a system of institutionalized rape, of how they have experienced slavery not only as a system of racism but also as a system of sexist oppression where rape is normalized

 "It was a rite of passage for the son of the slave master to rape the slave girl. That is how the whites ruled by raping the slave woman. Rape, institutionalised rape itself is both an economic and ideological practice of white man's supremacy. The systematic rape of slave women produce lighter and lighter skinned children whom the slave master had great economic value as prostitutes.

Now rape  is an act of physical violence, it is also an act of complete violation of the mind when people make you a thing. They destroy that which is human in you, they destroy the spirit of the creator in you.

We have been silenced from without and silenced from within

and it has taken us over a century to begin to speak."

 

Speaking of how racism and religious intolerance became the new law of Hawaii to colonise its people, Mililani says "The coming of the white colonisers heralded a new era for Hawaii. At home we have a song: the missionaries came with bible in a hand and with the other they stole our land. The sacred laws of the whites were not only alien laws but also aspiritual. The foreign laws related to the land, they brought to us a new concept - private property and with  these laws our people had no longer the free use of the land  and the sea provided to us by the creator. The white law pronounced that our collective rights had somehow been forfeit and the land and its great bounty could now be brought and sold as commercial products.

Western law commercialised the bounty of gods creation, laws that legitimised the theft of our lands and resources, laws that criminalised our indigenousness because whites feared that our native people would plot against them in a language that they could not speak or understand".

 

Continuing this violent history into present times was Nato said Sue Finch and Liz Khan from the No To Nato, Women in Black movement, UK who while tracing the beginnings of Nato to the cold war era spoke of why there is a movement against it today in different parts of the world

"We say No To Nato because it's members account for seventy five percent of world's military expenditure, each member state committing to spend atleast two percent of their budget on so called defence.   

And it's troops have  killed thousands probably  hundreds of thousands in Afghanistan and  Libya, deployed Rapid Development Forces which can reach anywhere in the world and they kill everyday in Afghanistan. While new colonial aggressions are prepared, massive weapons of civilian as well as new types of weapons are deployed, Nato takes distance from responsibility, a distance from consequences and a distance above all from humanity of those who are killed. After the killings in Afghanistan, bombing in Libya, training troops in Iraq Nato military actions appear only to replace the old forms of brutality with new ones".

 

And Liz Khan spoke of how Nato affects women; of how it is responsible for wars and has caused millions of deaths, millions of refugees and colossal destruction. She says "the bases affect the lives of women not only through sexual violence and  exploitation but also through the dangers of radiation and toxic pollution. Military budgets drain funding away from education health housing and development. And the corresponding cuts in services affect women and children even more than man. The organization has developed from so called defensive to offensive organisation dragging the world to one war after the next".

 

Session four looked at the Wars against Women that is rooted in all cultures and societies that have in different ways marginalized and silenced the women. Women who spoke in this session not only testified to the violence of reconstructing traditions and brutalised patriarchies but also shared how they had in their own ways challenged and defied it.

 

Cristina, a young girl who had yearned for love and had hoped to find it in her marriage was very soon, infact on the day of  her marriage itself was deeply disillusioned. Her testimony through sketching the vivid details of her marriage portrayed the changing face of dowry in our times; of how being an earning woman does not change the power dynamics in a relationship nor guarantee a marriage free from violence but infact becomes a noose around women as they continue to be demoralized and devalued, their self confidence undermined. Hers was a testimony of how violence is deeply ingrained and embedded  in our  cultures, of marriages being no less brutal than war detention and torture centres.

She says "I saved for my wedding but after four months I got around two lakhs but I needed to continue for another 10 mths but that money was also not in my hand because he took all the money. He didn't even show me, just took signature in my cheque book and took two lakhs rupees.

Whatever I earned, next day, today is the first of every month, the night he will be so sweet, on 31st night he would be sweet and I would think oh! my husband has changed. But no, he wanted money. He will take the entire money and those period I was earning around thirteen thousand. The entire thirteen thousand I used to give him and the next moment, he will take the money and start shouting, abusing and yelling at me.

He used to ask me go get money from my boss like ten thousand, lakhs,forcing me to  ask money from my colleagues ten thousand,twenty thousand because he wanted to start a business.

He used to always say you are a prostitute, you are a bitch and always he used to beat me.

I left home in the month of August 13, 2014. That night on 12 August, 2014 he made me sit whole night in the nude without a single cloth on me and I was asking him, begging him  to please give me a blanket. When I came out I realised who I was. I  got self confidence. I am almost out of the house one and a half years years and you all can see me how happy I am. I don't  think every woman should get married in the world and that  only marriage is the best thing. I can't tell that without marriage a girl can lead her life until she dies and she has got all the power. Girls are the strongest in the world."

Cristina entreated the girls in  the Court "please have self confidence and trust yourself before talking any decision especially your relationship."

 

Nisha Gulur who identifies herself as a transsexual person spoke of the violence she faced from her family, her parents when she wanted to share the truth of her sexual identity and of how the institutions of caste, religion rejects and subjects them to humiliation and society deprives them of all opportunities. She said "wherever we seek opportunities we are drowned by a wave of pity. Nobody allows us to live in dignity.

 

When we say we are women, we are not just ordinary women but symbolise love, and humaneness. Because I expressed this natural desire of mine to be a woman my human rights have been violated. Who is responsible for these violations? Who is responsible for this violence? Only when every family gives us the opportunity to express our identity, only when our parents accept us, only when our neighbours accept us, when our friends accept us, only when we get opportunities to work only then can I say that we can live in dignity.''

 

And then we had Maya Krishna Rao offering a breathtaking solo  performance 'Walk' testifying to rape as a war against women. Through her performance, she traced the genesis of this particular violence to the way we bring up our daughters and sons urging us to recognise the need in our daughters to be free; to walk without fear.

Her performance which she has performed all over the country was inspired by the courageous life of Nirbhaya nee Jyothi who was brutally gang raped in 2012. And this particular performance she said  was inspired by the testifiers at the World Court which is attempting to make the wars and violence against women a global political issue.

 

Session five was the Gathering of Spirit of significant movements for peace and justice that were re-finding new transformative visions for our violent times. The testimonies spanned the global and the local; dance, storytelling and poetry suffusing the session.

The session was marked by voices of individual courage and resistance transformimg their struggles against patriarchy and militarized nation states into celebrations of hope.

 

Beginning with a dance ensemble Spirit of Women by the Mount Carmel college students, it sought to gather together the spirit of women who had individually and collectively resisted violence.

 

Following this was Mary Kelly from Ireland who led this session with her powerful visual testimony. She was facing a retrial at that time of giving her testimony for disarming a US Navy warplane refueling in Shannon International Airport, in Co Clare, on the west coast of Ireland. That plane was parked illegally in a civilian airport in a neutral country on its way to Iraq bringing armaments to the most blatant war of aggression and savagery in decades. She says " I took that action fully aware of the consequences, in order to force the Irish Government's illegal complicity with the genocide of the Iraqi people into the public consciousness"

 

My experience has taught me that one of the biggest weapons of Imperialism facing us in Ireland is its ability to anaesthetise the public's conscience and there is no doubt that the last ten years of Ireland's economic boom - popularly known as the Celtic Tiger - has done just that. The Celtic Tiger was the price of the conscience of Ireland

 

Our job as activists is to re-ignite the public conscience that has been dulled. Our job is to safeguard and preserve what is best in humanity, what was aspired to in all the old texts, and in the modern attempts like the UN charter. Our job is to safeguard International Law.

In our quest for justice, we must keep alive our hope and courage, speak out, support each other and never give up!"

 

Faika Haroun who is part of the Women in Black, South Africa continues and offers her story of collective resistance. Speaking of her personal experience and from the deeply feminist philosophy and praxis of transforming the personal into the political she shared as to why she ended her marriage. She says "I knew the cycle of violence never stops and at that point I decided to end the marriage. I ended the marriage for the simple reason that I wasn't going to teach my daughter that it is ok to be in relationship like this nor was I going to teach my son that it is ok to do this for a woman because violence is cyclic and I had to end the violence but during the phase of ending the violence and joining women in black, I met other people as well from  women's organisation who were working with  women. And the one thing that they all work with is not the victim. They say this has happened to you; you cannot change what has happened to you but what are you going to do now.

The women's movement created hope for me in a time of hopelessness and we can change the paradigm from hopeless to hope. At the same time we teach the women that you can change the world because the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world and you as mothers you are raising sons so you have to raise your sons in a way that they do not commit atrocities they respect women and they become good human beings. 

So you have the power and we work with giving that power back".

 

From India was Lyn Clarke and the story of her grandmother's recipes; stories of building a community of brave women who have rejected the violence, the beating and battering in their lives and found enough courage to say " no more."

 

Heela of Afghanistan spoke of the thousands of women subjected to sexual violence in Afghanistan and the religious sanction to kill women who were victims of such violence; of raped women being stoned to death as sex out of marriage was against the sharia law.  Sharing her personal story she spoke of how she was kidnapped by eight armed men because she was slower than her friends when running away and was repeatedly raped for two days. And when she came back home, her fate was worse than death because she had brought shame and dishonor upon her family. There will be social ostracism and societal pressure to kill her. Her plea in the Court was: Teach your daughters that they can't let society crush them and they can't let society use Islam as a tool to dehumanize them.

 

Heela's plea was a plea for an alternative space of justice for women who are condemned by traditional laws and find no recourse in the existing modern system of jurisprudence.

Offering her a ray of hope was Maria from the Basque country who spoke of the International Court of Women on the Right to Life, Free from Violence that they had held in Bilbao, Spain. She said the testimonies reflected the struggle of women and at the same time it was an experience of alternative justice, a beautiful exercise to change the system of patriarchal justice and a space for women solidarity.

 

Rendering her resistance in poetry was Shahin Marjan from Iran who spoke of censorship being a hidden war in Iran; of how she was exiled for nine years because she spoke out. In her poem, she said the shadow symbolized both her roots and her past.

 

And then there was Shelly Barry from South Africa gifting us the inheritance from her people

 

I come from people

who know love

who gather around fire and drum

under the curve of African sky

 

My people know music

on canvas

with instruments

and feet.

these are people whose voices

have been flung as gifts

to stars and sun

 

I come from people

who know how to cradle each other;

who grow flowers,

tell stories,

gather to share food from three legged pots

people who have sung, danced, toyi-toyied

through pain

unrecorded

unacknowledged

unseen

 

but let this be heard

 

I come from people

who can proudly claim

in scattered documents, photographs

and word....

to a history

of knowing what it feels like

to come through generations

of understanding love

And finally there was the collective voice of the jury

 

 "What we've heard today are powerful and harrowing testimonies of personal and genocidal horrors of the undeclared as well as declared wars against women and diversity.

 

While pointing at non-state terrorists and declaring an unending war on terrorism, governments keep arming themselves with propaganda and weapons - from guns to missiles to drones to phosphorous, gas and chemical weapons... on land, in the air, the waters and even space... with thousands of nuclear weapons at the apex of the pyramid of patriarchal violence, threatening nuclear holocaust and mass starvation through famine and nuclear winter that would result from nuclear weapons being detonated in conflict.

 

From women's perspective, all these weapons, and those who wield them, are terrorists.

 

From women's perspective, all rape is a crime, and whether in the home, in conflict or mass rape 'camps', these crimes are against humanity and are tools of genocide.

 

From women's perspective, when we see hundreds of thousands of refugees desperately fleeing out of Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and many other conflict-torn countries we understand this too as genocide. 

 

And all of us have to take responsibility for stopping these genocides and crimes against humanity.

 

The Jury would have been in despair listening to so many heart-breaking testimonies, but running through everything we've heard is the brave, brilliant, indomitable spirit of women: women resisting the oppressors, violence, wars, environmental destruction and attacks on our lives, sexual identities and rights.

 

We've heard from women who have survived and who have connected with others to build movements against the violence and conflicts inflicted on them.  We've heard women who have paid a high price as they have refused to be silenced, refused to be erased.  Their courage and resistance contributes to our empowerment as women, and this power of women's resistance and transformation gives us great hope.

 

The World Courts of Women have helped to restore the voices of women who were silenced, or who have had their voices stolen by violence, poverty, oppression and denial of their human rights.

What has given us hope here today are the stories of sisterhood, solidarity, the growing power of global networks of people working nonviolently for fundamental justice and change, with women taking more and more leadership and responsibility.

Just as individual, global and structural violence, conflict and genocide were woven through the testimonies we heard, so are responsibility and transformation

 

This Jury demands that we go to the roots. And that we all hold accountable those who own, control, run, enable, govern, manage, implement and benefit from all forms of violence.

 

The best way to bring justice to those who have testified today about so much loss is for us together to build a powerful global women's movement to transform this world into one that is more just, peaceful, sustainable and secure.

 

We must be brave. And unafraid - for it is right and natural to be afraid and angry as we experience all these forms of erasure, marginalisation and violence.  But we must be brave, because the future depends on what we do now.

 

As one testimony said: "If not us then who? If not now then when?" 

 

Another world is coming... we can hear her breathing."

 

For, as Rafeef Ziadah, a Palestinian poet speaking up for her people says

we teach life

sir

 

And, we offer her poem as a tribute to women all over the world who

teach life

sir

 

I wrote this poem when the bombs were dropping on Gaza and I was the media spokesperson for the coalition and I was doing much of the organising and we had stayed up till six in the morning perfecting every sound bite practising my ps all night and the next morning one of the journalists asked me

Don't you think all will be fine if you stopped teaching your children to hate ?

I did not insult the person I was very polite

but I wrote this poem 

as a response to the questions that we Palestinians always get

 

today my body was a tv-ied massacre

that had to fit into sound bytes and word limits

filled enough with statistics to counter the measured response

then I perfected  English

when I learned my UN resolutions

but he still asked me

Miss Ziyadah don't you think everything will be resolved

if you would stop teaching so much hatred to your children

pause

I look inside of me for strength to be patient

but patience is not at the tip of my tongue

as bombs drop over Gaza

patience has just escaped me

pause

smile

we teach life

sir

 

Rafeef remembered to smile

Pause

 

we teach life

sir

we Palestinians teach life

after they have occupied the last sky

we

teach life

 

after they have built their settlements

their apartheid walls

after the last skies

 

we teach life

sir

 

but today my body was a tv-ied massacre

made to fit into sound bytes and word limits

and just give us a story

a human story

you see this is not political

we just want to tell people about you and your people

so just give us a human story

don't mention the word apartheid and occupation

this is not political

you have to help me as a journalist to help you to tell your story

which is not a political story

today my body was a tvied massacre

how about a story you give us of a woman in Gaza who needs medication

how about you

do you have enough bones broken limbs that cover the sun

hand me over your dead

and give me the list of  their names

in one thousand two hundred words limit

today my body was a tv-ied massacre

made to fit into sound bytes and word limits

and move those who are desensitised

to terrorist blood

but they told sorry

they told sorry for over cattle in Gaza

so I give them UN resolutions and statistics

we condemn we deplore we reject and

these are not two equal sides

occupier and occupied

a hundred dead two hundred dead

and a thousand dead

and between that war crime and massacre

I vent out words and smile

not exotic

smile not terrorist

and I recount I recount

a hundred dead two hundred dead

a thousand dead

is there anyone out there

will anyone listen

I wish I could wait over their bodies

I wish I could just run barefoot in every refugee camp

and hold every child

cover their ears so that they would'nt have to hear

the sound of bombing for the rest of their lives

the way I do

today my body was a tv-ied massacre

let me just tell you there is nothing

your UN resolutions have ever done about this

and no sound byte

no sound byte I come up with

no matter how good my English gets

no sound byte no sound byte no sound byte no sound byte

will bring them back to life

no sound byte will fix this

 

we teach life

sir

we Palestinians teach life

wake up every morning

to teach the rest of the world

life

sir

 

And in our little way,

the Courts of Women

teach life

Sir!