Regional Days in the Desert

The entire staff of Kvinna till Kvinna working in the MENA region gathered for our annual regional days. It’s not often we get an opportunity to meet – so our coordinators that sit in our headquarters in Stockholm, along with our regional manager, our head of communication, were there. And our field representatives and local staff in our field offices were all gathered.

This year we all travelled to our colleagues in Jordan, the first days in Amman, and then packing or bags yet again for a trip out south to the desert to an eco-friendly lodge. We arrived in the evening, after a bumpy road that turned some of our stomachs. The candles of Feynan lit up the darkness, welcoming us with its warmth. The white and yellow clay house with its small windows looked like a scene from A thousand and one night, a serene silence and sanctuary feeling that made us all think it was worth the hours of travel.

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A broad movement against nationalism

Nationalists around the world are currently attacking many of the rights that I am fighting for. They want to limit LGBT rights, women’s rights, the rights of migrants and the rights of different minority groups. They try to silent peace activists and feminists.

This development makes me scared, but at the same time I’m even more convinced about the need to find ways for groups and people targeted by nationalists to gather in resistance. A broad movement working against nationalism and for a world where human rights are not limited and reserved for a few.

LGBT activists from South Caucasus

LGBT activists from South Caucasus, invited to Sweden by RFSL, visited Kvinna till Kvinna’s office in Stockholm. Photo: Kvinna till Kvinna/Julia Lapitskii

But the road ahead is long, which is something I’ve been reminded of recently, during meetings with peace- and women’s rights activists from Serbia and LGBT activists from South Caucasus.

Last week, eight LGBT activists from South Caucasus visited Kvinna till Kvinna’s office in Stockholm. They represent organisations that work for LGBT persons’ human rights in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia.

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Amez working for change in Iraqi Kurdistan

One day late in October, I travelled to Halabja with my colleague Bayan to visit the Amez Center, one of the partner organizations of Kvinna till Kvinna. Halabja is a war ridden town, on the border to Iran, about 270 km from Erbil, the capital of Kurdistan region of Iraq (KRI). Even though there now is peace in Halabja and the living situation generally has improved, women and girls are still struggling for their basic rights and freedoms. The Amez Center, founded in 2005, offers a safe space for women and girls to meet and take part in trainings, cultural events, seminars and other activities. The overarching aim of Amez is to empower women and ensuring women’s human rights. In the past few months, Amez has grown and more women are asking to take part in Amez’s activities, both in the town of Halabja and in the nearby villages.

When we first arrived at the Amez Center, we were invited to watch a drama lesson with a group of young girls.

Girls meet for drama lessons in the Amez Center every week.

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Young feminists in Kosovo set a good example

“Mrs President we ask from you to implement the recommendations we have written during the Regional Young Feminist Forum” said a student, Fjolla Vukshinaj in a confident voice at a meeting hosted by the President of Kosovo, Atifete Jahjaga. Sometimes, the strength that comes from within the young women is surprising and inspiring at the same time. And I thought to myself, this is the new spirit of the women’s movement, this is what we should continue focusing on, support and empower.

 

Photo by the Photographer of the Kosovo Presidency

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Än lever kriget inom mig

Boken “Kriget har inget kvinnligt ansikte” gavs ut på svenska 2012 av Ersatz förlag.

Jag släpar en grannpojke på ryggen från ett slagfält, kulor svischar över våra huvuden, en mina exploderar nära oss. Han stönar förtvivlat och ansiktet förvrids av smärta när jag lägger ett bandage… Och plötsligt ringer det på dörrklockan. Mamma hämtar mig och vi går hem. Jag är sju, och att leka krig är det naturligaste som finns. Rollfördelningen är enkel: har man tur spelar man ”de våra” – de sovjetiska soldaterna. Med mindre tur (för då måste man förstås förlora!) får man vara ”tysk”. Och tjejer de är sjuksköterskor allihopa.

När Svetlana Aleksievitj presenterade sin bok Kriget har inget kvinnligt ansikte i en källarlokal på Forum i Stockholm för nästan exakt ett år sedan och berättade om sin uppväxt omringad av krigsberättelser och bilder av fiende vs hjältar, slår det mig hur mycket krig fortfarande är en del av mig. I Sovjet utgjorde berättelserna om det Stora Fosterländska Kriget (som i övriga världen kallas för Andra världskriget) en stor del av vår uppfostran. Barnböcker, skolböcker, museibesök, teaterpjäser och barnfilmer handlade om krig och den heroiska segern. För mig delades tiden upp i före och efter kriget. Pappa föddes under kriget, mamma precis efter. Familjerelationer definieras genom krig, familjeberättelserna växer fram – farfar jobbade på en evakuerad fabrik, morfar körde stridsvagn genom halva Europa.

Men det är inte bara de heroiska berättelserna jag har ärvt, det är också skräcken, oron, känslan av att ständigt vara jagad och förtvivlat söka efter ett säkert gömställe, som följer mig. Otaliga gånger i mina mardrömmar är jag tvungen att fatta ett beslut, livets absolut svåraste, absolut hemskaste beslut. Vi är förföljda, gömmer oss i mörkret, bebisen vaknar, vad gör jag nu?!

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Presenting Armenian civil society 1325 report in New York

With the mission of presenting the first ever civil society monitoring report on UN Security Council Resolution 1325, the organisations Society Without Violence and Women’s Resource Centre were selected to represent Armenian civil society in New York last week.

Anna Arutshyan, Society Without Violence and Emmicki Roos, Operation 1325, outside the office of the Armenian mission to the UN. Photo: Kvinna till Kvinna/Christina Hagner.

Anna Arutshyan, Society Without Violence and Emmicki Roos, Operation 1325, outside the office of the Armenian mission to the UN. Photo: Kvinna till Kvinna/Christina Hagner.

The conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh started in 1988. In 1994, with the involvement of the Minsk Group, a ceasefire was achieved. Since then the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is defined as a frozen conflict.

Armenia being a very patriarchal society and experiencing several hardships at this time (the collapse of the Soviet Union and the independence of Armenia, blockade and an earthquake) totally neglected the issue of sexual and gender-based violence during the conflict and post-conflict period. But the war seriously affected women living in the southern part of Armenia, who were directly involved in the conflict.

In 2013 a monitoring group for UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (mainly consisting of women’s groups) was established in Armenia. Thanks to the involvement of the expert Emmicki Roos from Operation 1325, and with support of Kvinna till Kvinna, it was possible for this group to launch the first ever civil society monitoring report in Armenia. I would say, that quite a few challenges arose when trying to produce this report, since Armenia does not have a National Action Plan (NAP) under the UNSCR 1325, which made the collection of necessary data quite hard.

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