Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF)

Friday, March 24, 2006

Perspective from Dr. Rashad Zidan, an Iraqi woman

The Public Square, at the Illinois Humanities Council and the Chicago Cultural Center hosted a luncheon today with Dr. Rashad Zidan, "Women Say No To War." I went to the event as a representative of our "Women Challenge US Policy: Building Peace on Justice in the Middle East" (WCUSP) campaign.

Dr. Zidan is a member of the Iraqi women's delegation that is touring the US, organized by Global Exchange and Code Pink.

At the beginning of the presentation, we viewed an 8 minute slide show that included images of the horrors created in Iraq by the US. Here are some things I learned from Dr. Zidan:

Before the war, 75% of Iraqi women had college degrees. 31% of Iraqi women had graduate degrees (About 35% of European and US women have graduate degrees.)
Now, 10% of Iraqi women continue in their professions. Most women stay away from their work because of serious safety concerns. And most women and girls are kept from away from schools and universities due to safety concerns.

Before coming to the US, Dr. Rishad thought that freedom and democracy in the US meant that "everything is done by agreement of the people," meaning that the US people must support the invasion and occupation of Iraq since we live in a democracy. She now realizes that many US people hate our government's policy and have no control over foreign policy.

Dr. Rishad attended a conference with women from through the Arab world. They studied all of their countries' consitutions to look for the best model on women's rights. They determined that the Iraqi constitution during Saddam's regime was the best on women's rights. For example, under the old regime, women could choose to work and were paid the same as men. They also received two months paid leave during birth, six months paid maternity leave after their child was born, and could opt for an additional six months leave at half-pay, and a second year of unpaid leave. (Meaning women could leave their jobs for two years, with the confidence that the job would be available when they returned to work.) Under the new constitution, women can work if it does not affect their family and if their husband agrees to allow them to work.

Under the former regime, Iraqis had universal healthcare. They had access to chemotherapy. Under the occupation, they must pay for access to healthcare. And there is no chemotherapy available, despite the fact that the use of depleted uranium by the US has significantly increased the amount of cancer, particularly breast cancer in women, and cancer in children.

In some ways, I am overwhelmed by the difference between Dr. Rishad's account of life in Iraq and mainstream media coverage. I know I shouldn't be surprised by the differences, but it seems vital to bring the truth to light and challenge this administration.

On a related note, WCUSP leadership team members were involved in the Portland "End the War, Begin the Peace" march last Sunday where another member of the Iraqi women's delegation, Eman Ahmed Khamas, spoke. Portland's event was the largest in the US; organizers estimate at least 15,000 people rallied to end US and Israeli occupations and begin the peace.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

E-News You Can Trust

Did you know that WILPF puts out regular e-newsletters?

International WILPF publishes five regular, free e-newsletters.

Reaching Critical Will has four
General E-News, Conference on Disarmament Report, News in Review, and First Committee Monitor. RCW is our international project "Reaching for a Critical Mass of Political Will for Nuclear Disarmament."

PeaceWomen has one: 1325 Peace Women E-News. "The PeaceWomen Project monitors and works toward rapid and full implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security."

US WILPF has a biweekly program update that is just getting started. It is published regularly via email, and please email me if you'd like to receive it. Here is the web home of the updates.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Action Alert: Rachel's Words Initiative

Rachel Corrie, a young human rights activist who had spoken out on hunger and other issues since her childhood, was killed by a Caterpillar bulldozer while trying to prevent a Palestinian home from being demolished. The play, "I Am Rachel Corrie," featuring her life and diaries, ran successfully in London last year and was slated to open in New York City this month. When it was canceled, the protest "Rachel's Words Initiative" was proposed. See www.rachelswords.org. WILPF, US section, has endorsed the initiative. Branches and individuals may also endorse.

The Rachel's Words Initiative will feature readings from her diaries and the play on March 16 (the 3-year anniversary of her death) and March 22 (the day the play was to have opened in NY). If an event is not already scheduled for your town, please consider organizing one.

See also an article by Vanessa Redgrave deploring the cancellation of the play.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Action Alert: Write to Congress re India / US Agreement on Nuclear Technology

The following information was sent by Jody Dodd, US WILPF's Leadership and Outreach Coordinator.
Dear WILPF Members and Friends,
I urge you to contact your representatives regarding Bush's efforts to provide India with nuclear technology. As many of you know, Nuclear Non-Proliferation is one of WILPF's major efforts over many years. This decision by Bush poses grave/imminent danger to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and to all of our efforts over the years toward nuclear disarmament. Pat Birnie, Carol Urner and I will be traveling to Geneva next week for a summit on Fissile Materials Ban. This action also jeopardizes these efforts. Below is a letter I dashed off to my Senators. I encourage you to do the same TODAY.
Thanks for all you do and we must continue the struggle for Peace, especially in these challenging and dangerous times.
Dear Senator Spector,
I am outraged at the news that Bush has made an agreement to provide India with nuclear materials/technology! India is outside the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and therefore it is in violation of International Law, the NPT and US Law for the US to do so. This action will only further to advance global proliferation and weaken the NPT. The NPT has for over 30 years been one of the most successful international instruments in preventing nuclear proliferation. How can Bush justify providing technology to India and then criticize Iran and North Korea? I urge you to challenge this decision and expect you as my Senator, especially as chair of the Judiciary Committee, to ensure that this administration is in compliance with the Laws and Treaties to which we are signatories. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Your most troubled constituent,
Jody Dodd