In the small Dutch city where I live, several hundred people took part in yesterday's annual silent walk to commemorate the victims of World War II. There were far more people than usual taking part, as this year marks the 50th anniversary of the end of the war in Europe. As I watched the silent line of people filing past, laying flowers in front of the war memorial, a litany of names sounded in my head: Bosnia, Rwanda, Burma, East Timor....The "victory" of World War II did not stop the biggest killer of all, that of war itself.
Messages of solidarity and concern are always appreciated. You can write, fax or email many of the women's groups in former Yugoslavia that you have read about in past issues of this newsletter. The booklet "Adressen von Friedens-Frauen-und Menschenrechtorganisationen im ehemaligen Jugoslawien" ("Addresses of Peace, Women's and Human Rights Organizations in Former Yugoslavia", in English and German) is an good source of information about contacts with women's groups in the area.
Last November 1,000 women from every province in Cambodia came together for a display of traditional skills. The display also kicked off the "Women Weaving the World Together" project, with Khmer women connecting pieces toegther they had woven, to form a ribbon one kilometer long. Organizers hope to collect 20 kilometers of cloth (from pieces one meter wide, of any length, and from any fiber) from individuals and groups around the world. The ribbon will be sent to the UN World Conference on Women in Beijing. Organizers hope to raise US$ 50,000 for a women's project fund as well.
Mary is a statistic. She is a Karen, one of the largest minority groups in Burma. She is also a refugee, forced to flee her home near the rebel capital of Manerplaw when it fell in late January. The 46-year old civil war in Burma has created at least 100,000 refugees along the Thai-Burma border; the recent fighting has increased that number by 10,000 people. Mary belongs in this latter number.
Especially lately, many women from Kurdistan have had to leave their homes with their husbands or fathers because of pressure from the Turkish government, or for economic or other reasons. They come to Istanbul, where they find themselves in a foreign culture, with a different language. These Kurdish women in Turkish urban areas confront many problems.
March 8, International Women's Day, was celebrated in a variety of ways around the world. In Turkey, the women of Izmir Savas Karsitlari Dernegi (ISKD--the Izmir War Resisters Association) produced Dario Fo's play "The Rape", and held a discussion afterwards with the audience. The women joined with other organizations to march on March 11, rather than March 8, in order to increase participation.
A peace march of mothers of Russian soldiers began at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Moscow, Russia, on March 8. The participants offered flowers in front of the memorial to all the victims of the Chechen war. Mothers who had been to Chechnya in attempts to save the lives of their sons read poetry about their experiences. Each marcher then expressed her or his commitment to not use violence, even in self-defense. The Mother's March for Life and Compassion is demanding the immediate end of the war in Chechnya.
The international feminist network Isis-WICCE (Women's International Cross-Cultural Exchange) has moved from its office in Switzerland to Kampala, Uganda. The group's next exchange program between feminist action organizations, scheduled for early 1996, will focus on "Freeing Ourselves from Violence: Mechanisms for Change". The program will look how specific mechanisms for monitoring and ensuring accountability for women's human rights can be developed. Applications are due June 1, 1995.