De-escalation is Not Enough: It is Time to Talk

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Statement Issued by the Women’s Alliance for Security Leadership on the US, Iran and the Proxy Wars in the Middle East

On January 7th, across the globe we waited with bated breath as the possibility of a third world war flickered across our screens. For now we breathe a sigh of relief and thank both sides for their restraint. But we also mourn the tragic death of the 176 men, women and children on the Ukrainian flight. This event serves as a wake-up call of how political bellicosity can impact on real lives. It shows that de-escalation is not enough. The impact of recent events has already worsened the situation in Iraq, Yemen, Syria, Lebanon and Afghanistan. So we women peacebuilders representing countries spanning the world have one word to share with global leaders and the world: Enough!

Enough of the bombs and bullets that are forcing us to bury our people, killing and injuring our children, at an age when they should be going to school and building their futures.  Three generations have suffered already. Isn’t that enough?

Enough of the drones or missiles that destroy our homes and villages, our historic sites and our cities. Enough of the bellicose speeches. Enough of the media fanning the flames, making it seem as if war is more feasible than dialogue and diplomacy.

Among the signatories here, some of us have lost children to acts of violent extremism, in the proxy wars being fought in our towns, and because they were conscripted to serve in national armies. Many of us have been forced into exile, unable to bury our mothers in their own land or visit our fathers’ graves. 

For years we have seen world leaders putting the sons and daughters of other families at the frontlines of their wars. So, as we mourn our own losses, we also feel the pain of families across the oceans, in Europe, United States and beyond, where they see their mothers and fathers, boys and girls, wives and husbands, returning home in coffins, or maimed or suicidal. This is the reality of the wars being waged on our backs. 

This is what another new viscous and deadly war would bring into the lives of yet another generation across the world.

We will not, we cannot let that happen.

We understand the difficulties of resolving conflicts. We know how painful and difficult it can be as Syrians and Yemenis, as Iranians and Americans, as Iraqis and Palestinians, to face those who have been the cause of our loss for decades. Our grievances are real. But the blood being shed, the destruction, the violence and billions being spent on bombs and drones provide no solutions.

Only through responsible leadership, with people who have courage to sit and talk it out, can we end this cycle of retribution and violence.  As peacebuilders we know that in fraught times, peace may seem impossible. But it is not. It requires the courage to face each other. It requires the willingness to cross over the lines of difference drawn between us, and those inside our heads. It requires the intelligence and commitment to do it safely, productively without a gun or a bomb, but through words and actions.

We have also learnt through experience that even if violence has brought us deep personal loss or our narratives and existence seem to contradict each other, we must continue to talk and we must listen. We must not shoot. For only in doing so, can we find our shared humanity and our interdependence in this world.

Today we stand at a crossroads. Our leaders across the globe can let a new world war be their legacy to generations to come. Or they can follow our lead and find the courage to sit together on the same side of the table with the commitment and intention of not getting up until - in respect and reciprocity – they rise with a shared vision and commitment to building a just, inclusive, humane and peaceful world. 

We know it is possible, because we see it in our midst every day, among the young and the old, the soldiers and the civilians in all of our countries. Our vision for the future shaped by dignity, equality, pluralism and peaceful coexistence is not only possible, it already exists throughout our societies.  We call on world leaders to listen to us and join our call: It is time to talk it out.

To learn more and join us please:

1.     Sign this petition

2.     Share the message with friends. It is also available in Arabic, Persian/Farsi and French. Download the statement in English here. (If you would like to translate into other languages please contact us at info@icanpeacework.org)

3.     Follow @whatthewomensay on Twitter and Facebook for updates and to join our calls to action

4.     Reach out to your leaders and call your parliamentarians and ask that they demand comprehensive talks

5.     Call media outlets and ask them to offer measured, objective and factual analysis, not fuel war with bellicose language and war advocates.

6.     Share the message with people in your communities, with religious leaders, civil society organizations, local media, corporate sector and diplomatic community through all available platforms.

About the Women’s Alliance for Security Leadership:

The Women's Alliance for Security Leadership (WASL) comprises over 70 independent women-led organizations and women peacebuilders  in 38 conflict affected countries, all active in building peace and preventing violent extremism.

Signed, 

International Civil Society Action Network (ICAN)

WASL, including the following signatories:

Addu Women's Association, Maldives
Advocacy for Women in Peace and Security-Africa (AWAPSA), Kenya
Afghan Women Network in Urban Governance, Afghanistan
Afghan Women News Agency, Afghanistan
Afghan Women’s Network (AWN), Afghanistan
Afghan Women’s Skills Development Center (AWSDC), Afghanistan
Allamin Foundation for Peace and Development, Nigeria
Alliance for Gender Inclusion in Peace Process (AGIPP), Myanmar
Almanara Foundation for Rights and Freedoms, Libya
Asian Muslim Action Network (AMAN), Indonesia
Association des Femmes Tunisiennes pour la Recherche et le Développement (AFTURD), Tunisia
Association of War Affected Women (AWAW), Sri Lanka
Center for Advocacy in Gender Equality And Action For Development-CAGEAD, Cameroon
Center for Civil Society and Democracy (CCSD), Syria
Civil Society Against Violent Extremism (C-SAVE), Indonesia
Coalition for Action on 1325 (CoAct), Uganda
Coast Education Centre (COEC), Kenya
Corporación de Investigación y Acción Social y Económica (CIASE), Colombia
Dali and Senda Association for Peace, Tunisia
DARB: Deepening Awareness and Restoring Bridges, Syria
Food4Humanity, Yemen
IMAN Research, Malaysia
Insan Foundation Trust, Pakistan
Iraqi Al Amal Association, Iraq
Iraqi Firdaws Society, Iraq
Iraqi Women Network, Iraq
Justice, Human Rights and Gender, Civil Association, Mexico
Kareemat Foundation, Syria
Libyan Women’s Forum, Libya
Mannar Women's Development Federation, Sri Lanka
Mobdi’un – Creative Youth, Tunisia
Muslim Women Development Trust, Sri Lanka
Neem Foundation, Nigeria
Nuba Women for Education and Development Association (NuWEDA), Sudan
Odessa Organization for Women’s Development, Iraq
OPEN ASIA/Armanshahr, Afghanistan
PAIMAN Trust, Pakistan
Peace Track Initiative, Yemen
Rescue Me Crime Prevention, Lebanon
Shirkat Gah Women’s Resource Center, Pakistan
South Sudan Women Coalition for Peace, South Sudan
To Be Foundation For Rights And Freedoms, Yemen
Union de l’Action Feminine (UAF), Morocco
Witness Somalia, Somalia
Wi'am: Palestinian Conflict Transformation Center, Palestine
Women and Peace Studies Organization (WPSO), Afghanistan
Women for Development NGO, Armenia
Women for Justice and Peace, Trinidad and Tobago
Women for Justice Foundation, Canada
Women's Action Network, Sri Lanka
Women’s Center for Development and Culture, Albania
Women's Peace Network, Myanmar
Yakjah Reconciliation and Development Network, Jammu and Kashmir, India
Zenobia, Syria

Ashima Kaul, Independent peace practitioner, journalist, social strategist and trained mediator
Dr. Amina Rasul, Director, Philippine Center for Islam and Democracy (PCID), Philippines
Cherifa Kheddar, lawyer and president of Djazairouna Association, Algeria
Hafida Benchehida, member of the Mediterranean Women’s Mediator Network
Huma Chughtai, independent governance, human rights and gender specialist
Mary Akrami, Director, Afghan Women’s Network, Afghanistan
Dr. Mariyam Shakeela, Addu Women's Association
Dr. Neelam Raina, Associate Professor, Middlesex University, United Kingdom
Roza Eftekhari, WASL member and ICAN advisor
Senator Mobina Jaffer, Canadian Senator representing British Columbia
Visaka Dharmadasa, Founder, Association of War Affected Women (AWAW)
Zarrina Alimshoeva, independent consultant