Exclusive conference coverage from openDemocracy 50.50: Jennifer Allsopp interviews woman human rights defender Yanar Mohammed about grass-roots responses to the atrocities women are facing under ISIS, for our Defending the Defenders conference.
On the second day of the Nobel Women’s Initiative conference on building global support for women human rights defenders, the 100 participants delivered a sobering and urgent message: history is still repeating itself. Watching the military-industrial complex wreak havoc in the Middle East, reflected Shirin Ebadi, holder of the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize, is like ‘rewinding a movie’. Women human rights defenders from across the globe were in agreement: the incalculable suffering of the people of Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria have taught us, once and for all, that bombs lead to suffering, and never peace.
In her keynote speech, Shirin reflected on what a different world might have looked like if, in response to the atrocities of September 11th, the United States and its allies had built schools in Afghanistan in memory of the victims instead of retaliating with war and occupation. ‘You can’t fight an ideology by bombing it’, she told us, speaking of the heinous war crimes currently being committed by the Islamic State. ‘If a terrorist is taken out, his children will replace him. We must throw books not bombs’.
One participant who knows first-hand the horrors that come from forgetting history, and from erasing women from history in particular, is Yanar Mohammed, co-founder and Director of the Organisation of Women’s Freedom in Iraq. I spoke to hear about the situation in her country 12 years after I first marched for peace in London, and 12 years since the war on terror began.
openDemocracy 50.50 has been covering the Nobel Women’s Initiative biennial conferences since 2007 in articles written by participants and openDemocracy’s own authors. Visit their website for more coverage of our 2015 International Conference: Defending the Defenders.