(Berlin, Germany)—November 20, 2015
Three Nobel peace laureates and a group of human rights leaders are calling for a rational response to the November 13 attack on Paris, and are asking Chancellor Angela Merkel and other European leaders to stand firm in their support for refugees escaping war in Syria and other parts of the Middle East.
“The refugees are not to blame for what happened in Paris,” says Jody Williams, Nobel peace laureate. “The international community must ensure that the killings in Paris will not further fan the flames of hatred, Islamophobia, and distrust in the world. This is the time for visionary and courageous leadership.”
Earlier this week, Williams visited Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia—along with Nobel peace Laureates Tawakkol Karman of Yemen, Shirin Ebadi of Iran and human rights leaders from international organizations—to assess the impact of the refugee crisis on Syrian women refugees and support humanitarian and citizen-led groups responding to the urgent needs of refugees.
In recent weeks, the UNHCR and governments in the region have reported a proportionally increasing number of women and children on the refugee route across Europe. Health workers there report a high number of pregnant women and children dealing with health conditions that include hypothermia and pneumonia and families that are struggling with fatigue and trauma.
“The people we saw this week are fleeing bombings and a complete lack of security,” says Tawakkol Karman. “They come to Europe to find a measure of security. The majority of Syrians say they will go home if the bombings stop, and security is restored.”
Approximately 70% of all the refugees traveling through the Balkans are from Syria, where the war has overwhelmingly killed and displaced civilians.
The Nobel peace laureate-led delegation is calling for an immediate end to all aerial bombardments and a holistic plan for peace that will include civil society and will put the priority on the protection of civilians and international support for rebuilding Syria’s infrastructure and economy. As well, the delegation is asking European leaders to focus on the creation of legal pathways to Europe to reduce the refugees’ vulnerability to smugglers and drowning at sea – as well as reduce the incidence of war profiteering as the refugees move along the route through Europe.
The delegation—which also includes Lena Ag of Kvinna till Kvinna (Sweden), Dr. Rola Hallam of Hand in Hand for Syria (UK) Donna McKay of Physicians for Human Rights (US), Madeleine Rees of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom and Giovanna Negretti of the American Friends Service Committee—is in Berlin to meet with officials in the German government and also with Syrian refugees now settled in Germany as well as organizations supporting refugee resettlement.
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The Nobel Women’s Initiative was established in 2006, and is led by Nobel Peace Laureates Jody Williams, Shirin Ebadi, Rigoberta Menchú Tum, Leymah Gbowee, Tawakkol Karman and Mairead Maguire. The Nobel Women’s Initiative uses the prestige of the Nobel Peace Prize and of courageous women peace laureates to magnify the power and visibility of women working in countries around the world for peace, justice and equality.