Women's Anti-War Petition Circles the Globe 01.20.06

World Movement of Women for Peace

Haider Rizvi

Eminent female writers, artists, lawmakers and social activists in the United States are reaching out to women leaders across the world in an attempt to forge a global alliance against the U.S.-led war in Iraq. A U.S.-based women's group has launched a global campaign to gather 100,000 signatures by March 8, International Women's Day, when they will be delivered to the White House and U.S. embassies around the world. "We are unleashing a global chorus of women's voices shouting, 'Enough!" said Medea Benjamin, cofounder of CODEPINK: Women for Peace, a California-based rights advocacy group that has spearheaded the global women's campaign, called "Women Say No to War". The signatories include popular film stars like Susan Sarandon, the playwright Eve Ensler and comedian Margaret Cho, and award-winning authors such as Alice Walker, Anne Lamott, Maxine Hong Kingston and Barbara Ehrenreich. Cindy Sheehan, whose son Casey was killed fighting in Iraq, and whose subsequent vigil near U.S. President George W. Bush's Texas ranch to demand - unsuccessfully - a face-to-face meeting garnered widespread media attention, was one of the first signatories to the campaign.

NEW YORK - Eminent female writers, artists, lawmakers and social activists in the United States are reaching out to women leaders across the world in an attempt to forge a global alliance against the U.S.-led war in Iraq.

A U.S.-based women's group has launched a global campaign to gather 100,000 signatures by March 8, International Women's Day, when they will be delivered to the White House and U.S. embassies around the world.

CODEPINK
"We are unleashing a global chorus of women's voices shouting, 'Enough!" said Medea Benjamin, cofounder of CODEPINK: Women for Peace, a California-based rights advocacy group that has spearheaded the global women's campaign, called "Women Say No to War".

"The administration is trying to get away with it (the war), but we won't let that happen," Jodie Evans of CODEPINK told IPS. "This campaign is amazing. This is bringing thousands of women together from across the borders -- this is creating something that we can't even see."

Describing the initial response to the group's call for signatures as "overwhelming", Benjamin says that more than 200 high-profile women from various walks of life endorsed the campaign even before it was formally launched earlier this month.

The signatories include popular film stars like Susan Sarandon, the playwright Eve Ensler and comedian Margaret Cho, and award-winning authors such as Alice Walkers, Anne Lamott, Maxine Hong Kingston and Barbara Ehrenreich.

"We, the women of the United States, Iraq, and women worldwide, have had enough of the senseless war in Iraq and cruel attack on civilians worldwide," reads the call. "We have buried too many of our loved ones. We have seen too many lives crippled forever...."

"This is not the world we want for ourselves or for our children," it says. "With fire in our bellies and love in our hearts, we women are rising up -- across borders -- to unite and demand an end to the bloodshed and destruction."

Cindy Sheehan, whose son Casey was killed fighting in Iraq, and whose subsequent vigil near U.S. President George W. Bush's Texas ranch to demand -- unsuccessfully -- a face-to-face meeting garnered widespread media attention, was one of the first signatories to the campaign.

"The pain that this war has caused for people all over the world is unimaginable," she said in a statement. "I have met women who are ready to stand together to make our leaders end this madness."

Urging a shift in the U.S. strategy in Iraq "from a military model to a conflict resolution model", the organisers say they want to see a withdrawal of all foreign troops from Iraq, with full representation of women in the peacemaking process in that country.

"Iraqi women are devastated now. It will take us decades of struggle to regain a peaceful and civilised life," said Yanar Mohammed, a signatory to the campaign and president of the Organisation of Women's Freedom in Iraq.

"The U.S. occupation has planted the seeds of ethno-sectarian division, preparing Iraq for a civil war, and has blessed religious supremacy over and against human and women's rights," she added in a statement.

Since the invasion of Iraq by the U.S.-led coalition forces, tens of thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians, including women and children, have lost their lives. Despite criticism from influential human rights groups, such as the Britain-based Amnesty International and U.S.-based Human Rights Watch, the U.S. military continues to shrug off its responsibility to keep a record of civilian casualties, critics note.

However, an independent survey conducted by the British medical journal, the Lancet, last year concluded that the war has claimed at least 100,000 civilian lives in Iraq.

Some humanitarian groups that are closely working with the U.S. government have now started asking the Pentagon to compensate the families of civilian victims of the U.S. aerial bombing in Iraq.

"We have a responsibility to help the victims and their loved ones," said Sarah Holewinsky, director of the Washington-based Campaign for Innocent Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC), a group founded by Maria Rouzicka, who was killed in a suicide bombing in Iraq while helping civilian victims of war in that country.

But despite the administration's refusal to commit to a schedule for withdrawal, a majority of the U.S. public has turned against the war, and many former U.S. army generals and previously pro-war lawmakers are loudly demanding a concrete exit strategy.

Recent opinion polls also show a continuous decline in the popularity of Pres. Bush, who has sought to bolster his image as a "wartime president".

Meanwhile, the global women's campaign against the war is growing every day. By Monday, a week after the campaign's launch, the number of signatures on its website had already hit 21,326.

©2006 IPS - Inter Press Service

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