Against the War in Former-Yugoslavia
Women in Black in Belgrade celebrated their second anniversary on October 9, 1993. A pamphlet and a book of leaflets and articles about their work was published: for copies, fax +381 11 334 706. The group, in addition to their regular antiwar vigils, also held the workshop "Is there no end to this war?" on international women's day in 1993. In August last year, the group sponsored the second international conference on "Feminist Solidarity Against War" in Subotica, Tresnjevac and Novi Sad. On International Human Rights Day (December 10), the Belgrade Women's Lobby issued a statement condemning the war, urging "each one of us should take responsibility to denounce the crimes of her own regime...." The statement ends with the call for all "women to tell their stories of personal suffering out loud, to speak about everything that has become unspeakable because they have kept us silent for so long. Let's transform the silence into language and action!" The "I Remember" campaign, which collect poetry and writing by women refugees, is also an action to turn break the silence about the suffering of war.
The SOS telephone line in Belgrade for women and children who are victims of violence, founded almost three years ago, continues its work to help women at home and in refugee camps by providing counseling and legal services, and documenting war rape. Tel. +38 11 322 226.
The Zenska Infoteka (Women's Information and Documentation Center) opened in March 1993 in Zagreb, Croatia. They are establishing a women's library and translating feminist books, plus information about the declining status of women in Croatia, including the Croatian media's attack against five women journalists who publicly advocated an anti-nationalist feminist perspective. Fax +385 41 422 926; email: email@example.com. (From the winter 1994 issue of the Network of East-West Women newsletter: NEWW, 395 Riverside Drive, Suite 2F, New York, New York 10025, USA).
Taslima Nasrin is a Bangladeshi novelist, poet and journalist. Her work often criticizes Muslim fundamentalism; her latest novel Laija (The Shame) is the story of a Hindu family attacked by Muslim fundamentalists in the aftermath of the 1992 destruction of the mosque in Ayodhya, India. The book sold 50,000 copies in six months, until the Bangladeshi government banned it in July 1993. Extremists in the Council of Soldiers for Islam consider the novel blasphemous and have issued a call for Nasrin's death, offering US $1250 to anyone who kills Nasrin. She has been refused police protection by officials, who also refuse to restore her passport (confiscated in January 1993). The International PEN/Women Writers' Committee (IPWWC) is organizing a campaign calling on the government to protect Nasrin, unban her book and restore her passport. IPWWC is also researching the effect of fundamentalism (including Christian, Hindu and Jewish) on women writers internationally. IPWWC, 532 W. 111th St., #75, New York, New York 10025, USA. Tel. +1 212 866 4283; fax +1 212 932 0678.
According to a six-month investigation by a prize winning US reporter (Roy Gutman of Newsday), UN personnel regularly visited a Serb-run brothel in Vogosca where Muslim and Croat women were imprisoned and sexually abused. The article, which appeared in the New York newspaper last November, said some 50 men in UN uniforms or UN vehicles visited the brothel, called Sonya's Kon-Tiki, outside Sarajevo, during the summer and fall of 1992. Witnesses report seeing UN personnel forcibly taking women prisoners away after parties. Witnesses also reported seeing UN personnel frequenting the Park Hotel, where local women were "regularly taken at gunpoint to be raped by Serb military leaders." An ad hoc UN commission was formed in October to investigate the charges, and others, of UN misconduct in Bosnia. (Report from Ms., Jan/Feb., 1994).
In 1988, Toujan Faisal used her television program to discuss wife battering, polygamy and other women's rights issues. In 1989, when she first ran for Jordan's Parliament, fundamentalists petitioned a religious court to dissolve her marriage, take away her children, and sanction her assassination. The court dismissed the case after several hearings. She lost the election. But last November, she was elected to Parliament, becoming the first woman to ever serve in Jordan's Parliament.
According to a report from the Sisterhood is Global Institute, a prominent Iranian academic set herself on fire in public on February 22, to protest the government's treatment of women. Homa Darabi, a psychologist and university professor dismissed from her job for failing to observe government regulations on women's dress, later died in hospital. UN special investigator on human rights in Iran, Raynaldo Galindo Pohl, said a government campaign enforcing its interpretation of Islamic dress for women has resulted in physical violence against women. Some 26 young women were arrested in November for not wearing veils at a private party. "Iran continues to rely heavily on a mix of executions, torture, repression and intimidation," he wrote. Contact: Sisterhood is Global Institute, 4343 Montgomery Avenue, Suite 201, Bethesda, Maryland 20814, USA. Tel. +1 301 657 4355; fax +1 301 657 4381.
You may not know her name, but you have seen her work: images of women of all colors and backgrounds, rising up strong and proud. Peg Averill (1949-1993) was a progressive artist and illustrator, whose political art work graced many publications (including the cover of the No. 11 WRI Women's Newsletter). She died unexpectedly of a heart attack on August 7, 1993. Several of her protest posters and banners are now part of the permanent collection of the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC. A memorial observance in her name was held by War Resisters League in the USA.
The Black Women's Network (Box 5, 136 Kingsland High St., E8 2NS London, UK) is organizing SOJOURN II, sponsoring visits by black activists to Zimbabwe, India and Nigeria. Sojourners will study the role of women in relation to land use and ownership, and network with health workers (in order to better understand issues like AIDS, female genital mutilation, and nutrition). The Black Women's Network publishes a regular international magazine called Linkages.