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National manifestation "NO war with Iraq", Brussels 17th of November 2002
by Lieve Snellings from WiB Leuven

We call for the Belgian Government and Europe to oppose a new war with all their force.

September 11 became a dark page in the history of democracy in 1973 when Pinochet took power in Chile by military force and brought terror and misery to the people.
September 11, 2001 darkened this page even more when terrorists flew into the twin towers.

One date but two events full of misery to the people who lived or worked there

The drama in New York gave Bush the opportunity to manipulate people's emotions and shift attention from his theft of the presidency to the warlord who wreaks vengeance, and who is unrelenting against all who are not "with him/us.".
After years of Afghani women appealing in vain, their rights suddenly became an important reason to bomb Afghanistan. The Taliban were purportedly defeated and oil rights made safe, but Osama Bin Laden wasn’t found and at this moment there is not that much of interest for women’s rights in Afghanistan anymore.

A new war once again helps to divert the attention from failure and like a little boy take vengeance for daddy’s defeat. After all, people in the West don’t know that Osama Bin Laden doesn’t like this profane, irreligious Saddam Houssein.   For months, the government of the U.S.A. has been preparing for war on Iraq. It doesn't seem important for Bush and Blair whether or not weapons of mass destruction will be found. For sure there is oil.
We urge Belgium and Europe to oppose this war threat. What kind of "world peace" could be achieved by a war against Iraq ?

Once again more than 90% of all victims will be civilians, mostly women and children…

Last week we had international guests from Women in Black (WiB) at the Women’s Day in Leuven to talk about the women’s peace movement and about how women in war areas continue to work together. Edna and Jihan, a Jewish and Palestinian women from Israel and Palestine stood hand-in-hand while they said “Whatever our leaders say or do, we refuse to see each other as enemies”.
Despite the hopelessness of the situation in the Middle East, Palestinian and Jewish women keep on talking to each other, for the benefit of both peoples.

In September I visited New York City and, City and, contrary to what Bush and the American media would have us believe, the first person with whom I came into contact, a taxi driver, told me, without my asking him anything about this, that he, along with many others, opposed a new war against Iraq.
When I took part in the peace vigils of the two WiB groups in New York City, these women told me “It’s good you are here, tell people in Europe that not everybody here is in support of Bush.” To their government they say that violence and war are not the solutions. Every Wednesday and every Thursday they are on the streets of New York, dressed in black and standing in silence with these messages :
No war, war is not the answer, stop the occupation, the death of thousands of innocent victims in New York at September 11 may not be misused to bring death and suffering somewhere else… They say, with thousands of other American women, men and children, "Not in our name."

This is an image we don’t know of America. The number of WiB groups in the USA was enlarged during this past year, they say. There are about 75 at the moment, but the exact number is difficult to name, the idea is spreading and new groups are formed… Please let people in Belgium know that many here are against this war. On October 26 there were 200,000 people marching in Washington against a new war in Iraq. Daily many thousands let their voices speak in smaller actions…

Weapons have to stop, violence never solved anything, only brought more misery.

We urgently have to learn how to deal with differences, learn to accept differences and we have to keep on talking to each other…
At this very moment Jewish and Palestinian women keep on talking to and co-operating with each other for peace in the Middle East. It is more than time that the world put on pressure to involve them in peace negotiations, at least if the world really wants peace, a just peace…

I want to close with words that Jihan, our Palestinian guest, told us : “You ask what you can do? Well don’t leave it to politicians only, let your voice be heard, everywhere you can, no matter how small the action may be… When the army of Sharon invaded Bethlehem and we were forced for 40 days to stay inside our houses while we could see the tanks through our window… the only reason I could keep my spirits up was that I knew that everywhere in the world you were doing actions out of solidarity with us… I really don’t know if I would be here today without that…” When people say “Oh, but what can we do, we can’t do anything about it, we can’t change anything…”, our friends of WiB living in areas of war say : “Yes you can, it makes a difference, it helps to put pressure on our governments when you do actions. And to us, it makes us feel connected, that we’re not alone and this gives us strength to fight the madness of ethnic cleansing, of sexism and homophobia, of militarism and war…
And this connection gives a mutual empowerment , enlarges our strength to work actively for peace too…

To end, I want to tell you one more sentence Jihan told us: “We in Bethlehem say that something isn’t lost definitively as long as there is one person still looking for it.” We still are many people looking for peace…

Women in Black hold a silent vigil every Wednesday at 0:30 p.m. at the City Hall of Leuven

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last updated: 13th of June 2005
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