My name is Hülya Üçpınar, I am a human rights lawyer in Turkey. I write on returning from an exchange on nonviolence training co-hosted by War Resisters' International. The event reminded me of the distinctive contribution that WRI makes to movements for peace and antimilitarism.
Fundamentally, WRI is a network -- a collective of like-minded groups, each struggling against militarism and warmongering in our own contexts. With the support of two staff in the WRI office in London, we lend each other vital solidarity and encouragement.
Support comes in a number of ways, but has the same impact: you feel less alone, more protected, and gain inspiration for future struggles. Here are just a few recent examples of WRI's solidarity with groups around the world.
Myungjin Moon is a conscientious objector. He could not face joining the military in order 'to learn to regard other human beings as less than human'.
Myungjin was sentenced to 18 months in prison for refusing military service.
For three months before his trial, Myungjin had worked as an intern in the WRI office, a great place to think more deeply about antimilitarism. He also organised a workshop and action in Seoul for the International Day on Conscientious Objection.
A statement from WRI was read at his trial, declaring that Moon Myungjin and other conscientious objectors, through their conscientious objection and other nonviolent action, are building the foundations for a world based on nonviolence, respect, peace, and justice.
Last year Myungjin was included in WRI's 'Honour Roll' for 'Prisoners for Peace day' (1 December), and received lots of cards from WRI supporters, voicing their solidarity.
On 29 June this year, Myungjin was released from prison. Soon afterwards, he attended a Training for Nonviolence Trainers, organised by WRI. He described this as a 'safe place' to start dealing with some of the difficulties he is going through since coming out of prison.
On 11 August in Harare, WRI affiliate Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) launched a report on violations of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights. They celebrated the event with a party but were raided by the police, Forty-four people were detained and, overnight, they were beaten and abused in police custody.
On 20 August, GALZ' offices were raided. Once again, GALZ members were arrested, others harassed and assaulted. Their computers were seized and many publications confiscated.
WRI spread news of this harassment rapidly among our network. The WRI Executive Committee issued a Statement in support of GALZ, condemning the violation of their basic human rights. Simultaneously, we submitted information to the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, and the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association.
Finally, in my country of Turkey, WRI has worked alongside antimilitarists since 1990. The Turkish state does not recognise the right to conscientious objection. Those who refuse to join the military face prison, often on multiple occasions and for over a year. I have represented many conscientious objectors.
WRI has been instrumental in bringing international attention to those who are being repeatedly imprisoned. For instance, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention condemned the imprisonment of CO Halil Savda because WRI submitted his case. WRI has also sent out 'CO-Alerts' to supporters, encouraging hundreds of protest emails, to be sent to the authorities about Halil Savda and others.
Finally, on behalf of WRI, I recently gave evidence at the United Nations Human Rights Committee. In response, the Committee called upon the Turkish government to adopt legislation recognizing and regulating conscientious objection to military service, and to suspend all proceedings against COs- They require evidence of the implementation of these recommendations within a year. This is the first time ever that conscientious objection has been included in the Committee's follow up procedure, and represents an important step forward.
Next July, I look forward to attending a meeting, jointly organised by WRI, for conscientious objectors to share strategies. There will be people from Turkey, Greece, Cyprus, Israel, Egypt and - we hope - Syria.
This, along with other initiatives to build the movement for antimilitarism, relies on the support of individual donors, like you.
If you are able, please donate to WRI. This will enable us to support conscientious objectors like Myungjin, and others, who are struggling against the pervasive idea that armed violence solves the world's problems.
Aside from your financial support, you can show your solidarity by writing to someone in prison right now for their stance against militarism. 1 December is Prisoners for Peace day, here is the list of those 'prisoners for peace' who I know would really appreciate hearing from you, as Myungjin did when he was in prison last year.
P.S. The next issue of Broken Rifle, WRI's quarterly magazine, is about fear and repression in activist movements, and how best to deal with them. It will be coming out in December! If you're interested in reading it, check back here: www.wri-irg.org/br-home.htm.
Donate to WRI: /donate-en.htm