karinraghall

About karinraghall

Web editor at Kvinna till Kvinna, www.kvinnatillkvinna.se

Kvinnor söker enad röst mot krig och våld

Eman Abdulrahman

Eman Abdulrahman från Baghdad Women’s Association, en av nio aktivister på Kvinna till Kvinnas påverkansträning i Erbil. Foto: Kvinna till Kvinna/Karin Råghall

Det är inte varje dag jag sitter och pratar med en feminist som har blivit fängslad – och i fängelset blivit utsatt för brutal tortyr och isolering under flera veckors tid. Det är inte varje dag jag intervjuar en kvinnorättsaktivist som är vän med en av mammorna som förlorade sin son i den där massavrättningen i Irak eller har förstahandsinformation om de där kidnappningarna jag hört om på nyheterna.

Men nu sitter jag här i en restaurang på sjätte våningen med magnifik utsikt över Erbil i irakiska Kurdistan, och pratar med dem i timtals, en efter en. Varje kväll samma procedur: jag och min kollega H från Bagdad sätter oss med en aktivist vid femtiden.

Vi pratar oss igenom solnedgången, H översätter tålmodigt, och sitter plötsligt där i kompakt mörker (ingen bryr sig om att tända restaurangens lampor). Vi lutar oss fram över bordet för att höra och se varandra, medan livets allra största och svåraste frågor svävar mellan oss i dunklet.

”Sedan jag tvingades på flykt i somras har ingen frågat om min situation som internflykting, ingen förutom Kvinna till Kvinna”, säger Buthaina, en av dem jag pratar med, när intervjun är slut.

Jag ser på henne, en ståtlig och stark kvinnorättsaktivist som inte vet om hon någonsin kommer att kunna känna sig trygg på sin hemort igen, och mitt hjärta drar ihop sig i sorg. Samtidigt väller en ödmjukhet fram, inför hennes styrka och hennes mod att fortsätta kämpa för andra kvinnors rättigheter i ett skede då hennes eget liv vänts uppochner.

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Hellre än ett fredspris

Säkerhetsträning för irakiska och kurdiska kvinnorättsaktivister

Kvinnorättsaktivister från Irak och irakiska Kurdistan genomgår just nu en fyra dagar lång säkerhetsträning i Istanbul. Foto: Kvinna till Kvinna/Karin Råghall

Om jag hade haft högre tankar om Nobels fredspris (kommer aldrig kunna smälta det där med EU), så hade jag velat dela ut det till de 19 kvinnorättsaktivister från olika delar av Irak och Kurdistan – Dohuk, Sulemania, Halabja, Kirkuk, Khanaqin, Moqtadiya, Bagdad, Basra och Najaf – jag träffat de senaste dagarna. De är kurder, yezidier, kristna assyrier, kakai, shia och sunni. De kämpar för fred och mänskliga rättigheter.

Jag möter dem under en säkerhetsträning, som Kvinna till Kvinna ordnar för våra samarbetsorganisationer. Det är just den bristande säkerheten i Irak som gör att vi alla ses i Istanbul. Jag har hört frasen ”säkerhetssituationen försämras i Irak” hundra gånger men har i ärlighetens namn ofta haft svårt att ta till mig vad det innebär.

Med 19 kvinnorättsförsvarare samt tre kollegor från Irak och irakiska Kurdistan omkring sig blir det plötsligt tydligare. Under en bensträckare ursäktar sig en av deltagarna efter att ha läst ett sms från sin släkting, som meddelar att ytterligare två kvinnor i trakten har dött.

”Jag behöver gå ut och ringa lite”, säger han bara, som om detta hände var och varannan dag. Vilket det ju gör.

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Not just another week

Yanar Mohammed and Eva Abu Halaweh

Women’s rights activists Yanar Mohammed (Iraq) and Eva Abu Halaweh (Jordan) visisted Sweden this week. Here discussing violence against women during a panel in the Swedish parliament. Photo: Kvinna till Kvinna/Karin Råghall

Another week at work has passed. It’s just that it was not “just another week”.

It was a week when I got to meet activists from South Sudan, Georgia, DR Congo, Liberia, Colombia, Iraq and Jordan – here in Stockholm. I guess I don’t need to say that this doesn’t happen every week.

The activists were here for different reasons. Some participated in the International Training Programme (ITP) on UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security. Others were part of a delegation of women from Jordan and Iraq who came to Sweden to exchange experiences and knowledge about how to combat violence against women.

I only met our guests shortly. But it was enough for me to start thinking about how fantastic it is to meet people from different parts of the world; who all have a vision of a world where people conceived as “women” are not seen as second class citizens.

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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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“Women will become a powerful force in peace building”

Joint workshop Kvinna till Kvinna and Life & Peace Institute

Colette Wamikila from Life & Peace Institute moderating a session. In the background Rachel Mitima Nnabuke. Photo: Kvinna till Kvinna/Katarina Carlberg

Jambo Sana from Bukavu, where Kvinna till Kvinna is in the middle of a workshop together with Life & Peace Institute and local partner organizations. The workshop takes place in a center run by Jesuit tout court, located in a calm area on the outskirts of the city, with a beautiful garden and a view of Lake Kivu. Certainly the right kind of environment to allow the participants peace and quiet to be able to concentrate on the topic of the workshop: conflict transformation and how to better include women in those processes.
– Women are often consulted informally on issues of importance in the community, but then, they are excluded from the formal forums for discussion and decision making, says Gégé Katana, Coordinator of the local women’s organization Solidarité des Femmes Activistes pour la Défense des Droits Humains (SOFAD). It is time for women to take place also in these forums, to be allowed to transmit their experience and knowledge in the open!

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Shared struggle

Lara Aharonian

Lara Aharonian

“Did you get an introduction to the situation in Armenia already, or do you want a short briefing?” Lara Aharonian, founder of the Women’s Resource Center Armenia (WRCA), is the one asking. We all nod eagerly, a briefing would be good.

One week’s visit to the South Caucasus has just started, and we are in the Armenian capital Yerevan. I travel together with a group of young feminists from Bosnia-Hercegovina and Lebanon, and staff from Kvinna till Kvinna. The aim of the trip is to give young women from conflict areas the opportunity to meet, to reflect upon their own activism and to exchange experiences in order to strengthen young women’s activism and peace work.

We sit tightly together in a small room decorated with colorful feminist posters and full of books and magazines. Lara Aharonian says that she’s not going to talk too much about the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Every word is politically sensitive and it easily becomes too unilateral, she says.
– If you want to know more, there is a lot to read, and I recommend that you listen to both sides, Lara Aharonian says, before she starts talking about the situation for women and women’s organizations in Armenia.

Her introduction lingers inside me. Lara Aharonian belongs to that part of the human race that usually is excluded from official peace negotiations, i.e. women, which is also the case here. I think about how the peace talks would have turned out if more humble, wise feminists like Lara Aharonian had been sitting around the negotiating table.

Meeting at WRCA, Yerevan, Armenia

Meeting at WRCA, Yerevan, Armenia

I am soon awakened from my thoughts. Lara Aharonian talks passionately about how WRCA is working to improve the situation of women in a country where domestic violence is seen as a private matter; where nine out of ten MP:s are men and the rise of nationalism makes it difficult and sometimes risky for the women’s movement and the LGBT movement to work. She shares stories of success with us, such as the “women’s march” where volunteers from WRCA wandered between villages in rural areas for five-six days to talk about violence against women. The feedback was positive and some women even joined the march along the way. Several women from these regions later on called the WRCA’s hotline for advice or to get more information.

Despite the fact that the small room is running out of air, the participants’ interest persists. Several of the Bosnian participants are full of enthusiasm and recognition – “they work exactly with the same things as we do, and they organize actions almost identical to ours!”, one of them exclaims. After the meeting business cards and email addresses are being exchanged, as well as plans to stay in touch.

Later during the trip, we will meet yet more feminists, in Azerbaijan for instance. Since the border between the two countries is closed, the ones of us going to Azerbaijan have to travel through Georgia. We notice that the conflict is present, albeit on a low level of intensity, and that it matters significantly which words we choose. But what we meet during this trip more than anything, are women who tirelessly continue to fight for a peaceful society, where peace not only means absence of armed conflict, but also that the war against women has stopped. This struggle transcends all nation borders, and it is a special feeling to be part of a moment permeated with that particular insight.

Karin Råghall