Nobel laureates Jody Williams and Shirin Ebadi joined Tawakkol Karman in Turkey this week for the “Istanbul Conference on Peace in the Middle East: The Impacts of War on Women and Children.” The event was organized by the Tawakkol Karman Global Peace and Democracy Center at the Aydın University.
The conference engaged students, NGOs, government officials and the Nobel laureates in discussion around the impact of war in the Middle East on women and children.
Participants released a joint declaration addressed to the international community and governments calling for immediate end to bombing of targets or facilities that help meet basic need for communities, including water, electricity, housing, health and education – and called for all sides in conflicts in the region to include civil society, including women’s organizations, in all peace processes.
The Nobel peace laureates noted that women are paying a particularly high cost in these conflicts. “We call upon governments and the international community to broaden the discussion about violence against women and children and recognize that it is part of a larger continuum of violence against women that will continue as long as we are not recognized as equal human beings,” the declaration reads.
Read the full declaration in English below or here in Arabic.
Nobel winners in Turkey slam sexual violence against women, Anadolu Agency, 25 February 2015.
Ozgecan Aslan and Violence Against Women in Turkey, New York Times, 23 February 2015.
The “Istanbul Conference on Peace in the Middle East: The Impacts of War on Women and Children”, organized by Tawakkol Karman Global Peace and Democracy Center in Istanbul Aydın University, provided a forum for discussion of the impact of conflict in the Middle East on women and children as well as for offering different perspectives on this long-discussed issue. We had once hoped to join our sister Tawakkol Karman in Yemen for a conference, now made impossible by the deteriorated situation in her country.
We support the continued efforts of women, youth and men to peacefully bring about sustainable democracy in that country. Particularly for us as members of the Nobel Women’s Initiative participating in the conference it is another step in our commitment to support women’s organizations in the region in their efforts to tackle the problems they face as well as to shift debate and give public voice to the root causes of the violence experienced by women, and by children, in conflict.
The world is well aware of the various studies and the statistics about women and children bearing the brunt of the impact of the wars of the past decades. We know that the majority of conflict refugees are women and children and the impact of conflict makes them more vulnerable both within their own countries and across borders in refugee camps. But this knowledge alone has not yet resulted in the changes necessary to affect the situation on the ground.
We appreciate the importance of the increasing public discussions about the use of rape and sexual violence as a tactic of war and that such violence is now considered a war crime. We appreciate the numerous UN resolutions on rape in conflict and importance of women’s involvement in peace and security. But these new words and discussions are not enough to bring about change.
We call upon governments and the international community to implement these laws and these resolutions. Impunity for such crimes must no longer be tolerated and offering continued lip service to the “importance of women, peace and security” without actually including women in all aspects of peace negotiations, peace building and post-conflict reconstruction of societies must no longer be tolerated. In this 15th anniversary of UN Resolution 1325 we demand the inclusion of women’s organizations in all peace negotiations that might occur in this troubled region.
We call upon governments and the international community to embrace the call of the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict – a global civil society campaign spearheaded by the Nobel Women’s Initiative and now made up of over 700 nongovernmental organizations around the world– to urgently take measures to support communities in destigmatizing sexual violence and end the use of rape and other forms of sexual violence which are been used as tools for terrorizing communities.
Finally, we call upon governments and the international community to broaden the discussion about violence against women and children and recognize that it is part of a larger continuum of violence against women that will continue as long as we are not recognized as equal human beings. It is this acceptance of violence against women as the norm that fuels that violence during times of conflict, making it all the more acceptable to use women’s bodies as a tool of war.
Indeed, this conference is timely that we are here in Turkey as women – and men – struggle to make sense of the death of Ozgecan Aslan, and to raise awareness of the high levels of violence against women day in and day out not only in Turkey but around the world.
Tawakkol Karman Jody Williams Shirin Ebadi
2011 Nobel Laureate 1997 Nobel Laureate 2003 Nobel Laureate
Dr.Sihem Badi Prof.Dr.Yadigar İzmirli Dr.Mustafa Aydın
Tunusia Former Minister Istanbul Aydın University Istanbul Aydın University
of Women’s Affairs Rector President