Homage for the victims of wars, tribute to the ideas and actions for peace

Sarajevo, peace event 2014

100 years from the 1st World War

Round table – women and war

UN Resolution 1325

Speech of Sissy Vovou from Athens-Greece

Homage for the victims of wars,

tribute to the ideas and actions for peace

We are not at war in Greece, fortunately, apart from the social war of the governing parties and the troika, which has innumerous victims in the popular classes, and of course among the women who are being impoverished and deprived of many of their conquered rights. The government is also at war with the immigrants, since more than 4000 atypical immigrants are detained in police stations or detention centres, under unbearable conditions, for an indeterminate period of time, spanning up to 18 months, which can be repeated after a short release. The detention centres have been denounced as inhuman by every service of the UN or European Parliamentarians that visited them, but the policy of “clearing” Greece from atypical immigrants is holding on despite these negative reports. The government, and here we must say the EU, are also at war with the war refugees coming in small boats in any island of the Aegean sea they can set foot on and hundrends of them have been drawned in the sea, due to the policy of return they are following in the framework of Fortress Europe.

Of course, this Mediterranean area is not a space of peace, since we have wars nearby, in Syria and in Africa, not to mention the perpetual war of Israel against the Palestinian people, and the war refugees who try to find a place to survive. Concerning the war in Syria, decisions have been taken by international organisations that the chemical arsenal consisting of about 1300 tons will be dumped in the Mediterranean sea, between the island of Krete and Africa, and there is a massive uprising against this, for the ecological dangers entailed.

Greece at wars

Speaking of the 100 years since the WW1, and speaking about refugees, we cannot omitt to mention that the most massive act of national cleansing took place after the war between Greece and Turkey in 1922, when the Greek army that invaded the seafront areas of Turkey in order to fulfil the megalomaniac idea of Great Greece of two continents and seven seas, was defeated. Subsequently we had the so-called exchange of populations, established since centuries, which meant 1.500.000

Greeks in Turkey, and 750.000 Turkish living in Greece. All these people become refugees, due to this destructive war, which followed the First WW, and were “exchanged” between the two countries like objects. They moved with a bag of clothes in their hands, or with nothing, called to create a new life in the respective two lands, which took dozens of years to settle and created unaccounted ordeals for these masses of people. It goes without saying that trafficking we are talking about today, is a constant phenomenon in every move of populations, in every military conflict, since militarism undergrades the dignity of women and creates the idea that they are objects for use and that men prove their “manhood” through the sexual abuse of women, usually of the “other” nation. The strong antiwar and antinationalist movement of the time, unfortunately did not succeed to stop this before the disaster.

So, we are talking of phenomena which are repeated, in the course of 100 years, in the altar of nationalism, of borders, of military expenditure, of militaristic and patriarchal societies.

Of course, Greece like most European countries had its share of the barbarous occupation by fascist and nazi troops during the Second WW, had its resistance with countless victims, had many small holocausts (mass slaughters) except the holocaust of Greek Jews.

1325 as (NOT) applied in Cyprus

Many regulative laws have been adopted by the United Nations after the Second WW, and speaking today about resolution 1325 about women’s intervention for building peace, we can see that in Cyprus, where the last episode of war between Greece and Turkey took place in 1974 followed by the occupation of a great part of the island by the Turkish army continuing until today, this resolution is relevant. The small and endowed by nature island of Cyprus, the Island of Aphrodite, is a divided island, since the short but very destructive war of 1974. There were about 250.000 refugees on both sides of the green line of division, which was about one third of the population at the time, and they were called to create new lives, and until today, 40 years later, unity of the island has not been achieved. But women from the two communities have organised in common, have created networks and have intervened for the rapproachment of these communities. In the talks for the unity of the island, which ended with the Anan Plan that was put to vote in the referendum of 2004, women’s organisations were not called to participate, as we know. The plan was rejected, unfortunately in my opinion, and new talks started some years later, and are continuing until this day. Women’s organisations have not been called as participants, as we know from the negotiators themselves, despite the pressure by the special envoy of the UN, who is a woman.

Speaking thus concretely about Cyprus, we can see that, the resolution remains in paper, despite it is 14 years since it was adopted and the situation there is the

appropriate framework for the application of this resolution, which would mean that women’s needs and gender equality principles related to the unity of the island and the creation of the new state could be heard. There is a very big discussion of course, as to the content of the women’s influence to such talks, and the gender approach that women have or do not have and about the selection of women who could be equal participants to such discussions and negotiations.

A Gender Advisory Committee (GAC) was formed in Cyprus in 2009, consisting of a small group of women from both sides of the divide, women activists and scholars.

There was a visit of the UN special adviser in Cyprus, in 2010, and discussion with women of the two communities.

And yet, as Cypriot woman Maria Hadjipavlou writes in January 2013, “with regard to power sharing the two Cypriot negotiators have been talking about for more than three decades and still no final agreement has been on sight. Needless to repeat that this is an all-male dominated process and in the technical committees negligible is the presence of women. GAC identified the following features as diachronic failures in the development of the peace negotiations:

* Cypriot women have never sat at the negotiating table and their presence in positions of leadership in all other institutions or committees whose work feeds into the negotiation discussions is very low;

* The context of the negotiations lacks a gender perspective and thus fails to address gender equality issues. Despite the fact that ‘equality’ (qualified or otherwise) has been the key principle guiding the negotiations, the interpretation of such ‘equality’ has tended to focus exclusively on only one form of difference (ethnic), rather than approaching it in tandem with other kinds of differences (of which gender is a key component);

* There is very limited action on the part of women’s organisations to address negotiators as decision-makers obligated to ensure gender equality. Inter-communal lobbyists for women’s and gender issues more widely are conspicuous in their absence and communal lobbyists tend to focus their effort on each authority separately;

* Despite the attention to ‘human rights’ by negotiators, particular sets of human rights, including gender-based rights and social rights associated with them, have diachronically fallen outside the scope of concern”.

Talking about developments related to women’s human rights during war, we can touch another law that was passed in the 1990s, about the criminalisation of rape in war as a war weapon. The developments in the Criminal Court for former

Yougoslavia, which functioned in Brussels, show that despite the law, only very few of the rapists finally sat in court, even fewer were convicted, and the psychological price paid by the victims is too high, this is why not many women can endure the process to the end.

Therefore, we say that laws are necessary but difficult to implement and even more difficult to bring results, i.e the punishment of the perpetrators.

We condlude that the biger war crime is war itself, and the strength of the peace movement is the only possibility to avoid war, or to oblige those waging it to stop it. The slogan of the World March of Women, is “Throw war out of history”.

Sissy Vovou – Greece

Feminist, antiwar activist, member of the Antinationalist-Antimilitarist Initiative and the World March of Women – Sarajevo, 6 June 2014