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The Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict: Greater Awareness Building Needed

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Human Rights, Humanitarian Law, International Justice, NGOs, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, War Crimes, Women's Rights, World Law on June 19, 2022 at 3:41 PM

By René Wadlow

The United Nations (UN) General Assembly has proclaimed June 19 of each year to be the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict in order to raise awareness of the need to put an end to conflict-related sexual violence and to honor the victims and the survivors of sexual violence around the world. The date was chosen to commemorate the adoption on June 19, 2008 of Security Council Resolution 1820 in which the Council condemned sexual violence as a tactic of war and as an impediment to peacebuilding.

For the UN, “conflict-related sexual violence” refers to rape, sexual slavery, forced prostitution, forced abortion, and any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity perpetrated against women, men, girls, and boys, linked to a conflict. The term also encompasses trafficking in persons when committed in situations of conflict for purposes of sexual violence or exploitation.

Dr. Nkosazuna Dlamini Zuma, Chairperson, African Union Commission speaking at the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, June 12, 2014. (C) Foreign and Commonwealth Office

There has been a slow growth of awareness-building trying to push UN Agencies to provide non-discriminatory and comprehensive health services including sexual and reproductive health services taking into account the special needs of persons with disabilities. A big step forward was the creation of the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict. The post is currently held since April 2017 by Under-Secretary-General Pramila Patten. She recently said “We see it too often in all corners of the globe from Ukraine to Tigray in northern Ethiopia to Syria and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Every new wave of warfare brings with it a rising tide of human tragedy including new waves of war’s oldest, most silenced and least-condemned crime.”

The Association of World Citizens (AWC) first raised the issue in the UN Commission on Human Rights in March 2001 citing the judgement of the International Court for Former Yugoslavia which maintained that there can be no time limitations on bringing the accused to trial. The tribunal also reinforced the possibility of universal jurisdiction that a person can be tried not only by his national court but by any court claiming universal jurisdiction and where the accused is present.

The AWC again stressed the use of rape as a weapon of war in the Special Session of the Commission on Human Rights on the Democratic Republic of Congo, citing the findings of Meredeth Turslen and Clotilde Twagiramariya in their book What Women Do in Wartime: Gender and Conflict in Africa (London: Zed Press, 1998), “There are numerous types of rape. Rape is committed to boast the soldiers’ morale, to feed soldiers’ hatred of the enemy, their sense of superiority, and to keep them fighting: rape is one kind of war booty; women are raped because war intensifies men’s sense of entitlement, superiority, avidity, and social license to rape: rape is a weapon of war used to spread political terror; rape can destabilize a society and break its resistance; rape is a form of torture; gang rapes in public terrorize and silence women because they keep the civilian population functioning and are essential to its social and physical continuity; rape is used in ethnic cleansing; it is designed to drive women from their homes or destroy their possibility of reproduction within or “for” their community; genocidal rape treats women as “reproductive vessels”; to make them bear babies of the rapists’ nationality, ethnicity, race or religion, and genocidal rape aggravates women’s terror and future stigma, producing a class of outcast mothers and children – this is rape committed with consciousness of how unacceptable a raped woman is to the patriarchal community and to herself. This list combines individual and group motives with obedience to military command; in doing so, it gives a political context to violence against women, and it is this political context that needs to be incorporated in the social response to rape.”

The prohibition of sexual violence in times of conflict is now part of international humanitarian law. However, there are two major weaknesses in the effectiveness of international humanitarian law. The first is that many people do not know that it exists and that they are bound by its norms. Thus, there is a role for greater promotional activities through education and training to create a climate conducive to the observance of internationally recognized norms. The second weakness is enforcement. We are still at the awareness-building stage. Strong awareness-building is needed.

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

Upholding International Humanitarian Law in Times of Armed Conflict: A World Citizen Appeal

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Europe, Human Rights, Humanitarian Law, International Justice, NGOs, Solidarity, The former Soviet Union, The Search for Peace, UKRAINE, United Nations, War Crimes, World Law on March 2, 2022 at 8:24 AM

By René Wadlow

The invasion by Russian troops into Ukraine has raised in a dramatic way the issue of the respect of international humanitarian law. There have been reports of the use of cluster munitions fired into civilian areas. The Association of World Citizens (AWC) was very active on efforts which led to the convention banning cluster weapons.

Regular military personnel of all countries are theoretically informed of the rules of the Geneva Conventions of August 12, 1949, and the Protocol Additional adopted in 1977.

When the 1949 Geneva Conventions were drafted and adopted, it was possible to spell out in considerable detail rules regarding prisoners of war and the protection of civilians, in particular Common Article 3 (so called because it is found in all four Conventions) provides that “each Party to the conflict shall be bound to apply, as a minimum, the following provisions: Persons taking no active part in the hostilities…shall in all circumstances be treated humanely without any adverse distinction founded on race, color, religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth, or any other similar criteria.”

The importance of Common Article 3 should not be underestimated. It sets out in straightforward terms important protections that all parties to a conflict must respect. In order to meet the need for additional protection, international humanitarian law has evolved to cover not only international armed conflict but also internal armed conflict. Today, international human rights standards are also considered part of international humanitarian law, thus providing additional protection for vulnerable population groups such as women, children, and minorities.

As situations of internal violence and strife proliferate, abuses committed by non-State actors, such as armed militias, are increasing concerns. Fundamental standards of international humanitarian law are intended to ensure the effective protection of human beings in all situations. The standards are clear. (1)

There are two major weaknesses in the effectiveness of international humanitarian law. The first is that many people do not know that it exists and that they are bound by its norms. Thus, there is an important role for greater promotional activities, the dissemination of information through general education, specific training of the military, outreach to armed militias, and cooperation with a wide range of nongovernmental organizations.

The second weakness is that violations of international humanitarian law are rarely punished. Governments too often tolerate these violations. Few soldiers are tried, or court-martialed, for the violations of international humanitarian law. This weakness is even more true of non-governmental militias and armed groups.

In fact, most violations of international humanitarian law are not actions of individual soldiers or militia members carried away by a sudden rush of anger, fear, a desire of revenge or a sudden sexual urge to rape a woman. Soldiers and militia members violating the norms of international humanitarian law are acting on orders of their commanders.

Thus, the only sold response is an act of conscience to refuse an order of a military or militia higher up and refuse to torture, to bomb a medical facility, to shoot a prisoner, to harm a child, and to rape a woman. Conscience, that inner voice which discerns what is right from wrong and encourages right action is the value on which we can build the defense of international humanitarian law. The defense of conscience to refuse unjust orders is a large task but a crucial action for moving toward a law-based world society.

Notes

(1) For useful guides to international humanitarian law see:

D. Schindler and J. Toman, The Laws of Armed Conflicts (Martinus Nihjoff Publishers, 1988)

H. McCoubrey and N.D. White, International Law and Armed Conflicts (Dartmouth Publishing Co., 1992)

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

An Unused but not Forgotten Standard of World Law

In Africa, Asia, Being a World Citizen, Europe, Fighting Racism, Human Rights, International Justice, NGOs, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, United Nations, War Crimes, World Law on December 10, 2021 at 10:33 PM

By René Wadlow

Genocide is the most extreme consequence of racial discrimination and ethnic hatred. Genocide has as its aim the destruction, wholly or in part, of a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group as such. The term was proposed by the legal scholar Raphael Lemkin, drawing on the Greek genos (people or tribe) and the Latin –cide (to kill) (1). The policies and war crimes of the Nazi German government were foremost on the minds of those who drafted the Genocide Convention, but the policy was not limited to the Nazis (2).

The Genocide Convention is a landmark in the efforts to develop a system of universally accepted standards which promote an equitable world order for all members of the human family to live in dignity. Four articles are at the heart of this Convention and are here quoted in full to understand the process of implementation proposed by the Association of World Citizens (AWC), especially of the need for an improved early warning system.

Article I

In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

Unlike most humanitarian international law which sets out standards but does not establish punishment, Article III sets out that the following acts shall be punishable:

(a) Genocide;
(b) Conspiracy to commit genocide;
(c) Direct and public incitement to commit genocide;
(d) Attempt to commit genocide;
(e) Complicity in genocide

Article IV

Persons committing genocide or any of the other acts enumerated in article III shall be punished, whether they are constitutionally responsible rulers, public officials or private individuals.

Article VIII

Any Contracting Party may call upon the competent organs of the United Nations to take such action under the Charter of the United Nations as they consider appropriate for the prevention and suppression of acts of genocide or any of the other acts enumerated in article III.

Numerous reports have reached the Secretariat of the United Nations (UN) of actual, or potential, situations of genocide: mass killings; cases of slavery and slavery-like practices, in many instances with a strong racial, ethnic, and religious connotation — with children as the main victims, in the sense of article II (b) and (c). Despite factual evidence of these genocides and mass killings as in Sudan, the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone and in other places, no Contracting Party to the Genocide Convention has called for any action under article VIII of the Convention.

As Mr. Nicodème Ruhashyankiko of the Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities wrote in his study of proposed mechanisms for the study of information on genocide and genocidal practices “A number of allegations of genocide have been made since the adoption of the 1948 Convention. In the absence of a prompt investigation of these allegations by an impartial body, it has not been possible to determine whether they were well-founded. Either they have given rise to sterile controversy or, because of the political circumstances, nothing further has been heard about them.”

Raphael Lemkin

Yet the need for speedy preventive measures has been repeatedly underlined by UN Officials. On December 8, 1998, in his address at UNESCO, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said “Many thought, no doubt, that the horrors of the Second World War — the camps, the cruelty, the exterminations, the Holocaust — could not happen again. And yet they have, in Cambodia, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, In Rwanda. Our time — this decade even — has shown us that man’s capacity for evil knows no limits. Genocide — the destruction of an entire people on the basis of ethnic or national origins — is now a word of our time, too, a stark and haunting reminder of why our vigilance must be eternal.”

In her address Translating words into action to the UN General Assembly on December 10, 1998, the then High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. Mary Robinson, declared “The international community’s record in responding to, let alone preventing, gross human rights abuses does not give grounds for encouragement. Genocide is the most flagrant abuse of human rights imaginable. Genocide was vivid in the minds of those who framed the Universal Declaration, working as they did in the aftermath of the Second World War. The slogan then was ‘never again’. Yet genocide and mass killing have happened again — and have happened before the eyes of us all — in Rwanda, Cambodia, the former Yugoslavia and other parts of the globe.”

We need to heed the early warning signs of genocide. Officially directed massacres of civilians of whatever numbers cannot be tolerated, for the organizers of genocide must not believe that more widespread killing will be ignored. Yet killing is not the only warning sign. The Convention drafters, recalling the radio addresses of Hitler and the constant flow of words and images, set out as punishable acts “direct and public incitement to commit genocide”. The Genocide Convention, in its provisions concerning public incitement, sets the limits of political discourse. It is well documented that public incitement — whether by Governments or certain non-governmental actors, including political movements — to discriminate against, to separate forcibly, to deport or physically eliminate large categories of the population of a given State, or the population of a State in its entirety, just because they belong to certain racial, ethnic, or religious groups, sooner or later leads to war. It is also evident that, at the present time, in a globalized world, even local conflicts have a direct impact on international peace and security in general. Therefore, the Genocide Convention is also a constant reminder of the need to moderate political discourse, especially constant and repeated accusations against a religious, ethnic, and social category of persons. Had this been done in Rwanda, with regard to the Radio Mille Collines, perhaps that premeditated and announced genocide could have been avoided or mitigated.

For the UN to be effective in the prevention of genocide, there needs to be an authoritative body which can investigate and monitor a situation well in advance of the outbreak of violence. As has been noted, any Party to the Genocide Convention (and most States are Parties) can bring evidence to the UN Security Council, but none has. In the light of repeated failures and due to pressure from nongovernmental organizations, the Secretary-General has named an individual advisor on genocide to the UN Secretariat. However, he is one advisor among many, and there is no public access to the information that he may receive.

Therefore, a relevant existing body must be strengthened to be able to deal with the first signs of tensions, especially ‘direct and public incitement to commit genocide.” The Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) created to monitor the 1965 International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination would be the appropriate body to strengthen, especially by increasing its resources and the number of UN Secretariat members which service the CERD. Through its urgent procedure mechanisms, CERD has the possibility of taking early-warning measures aimed at preventing existing strife from escalating into conflicts, and to respond to problems requiring immediate attention. A stronger CERD more able to investigate fully situations should mark the world’s commitment to the high standards of world law set out in the Genocide Convention.


Notes
1) Raphael Lemkin. Axis Rule in Occupied Europe (Washington: Carnegie Endowment for World Peace, 1944).
2) For a good overview, see: Samantha Power. A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide (New York: Basic Books, 2002)
3) E/CN.4/Sub.2/1778/416, Para 614


Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

Current Searches for Appropriate Forms of Government

In Africa, Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Human Rights, Humanitarian Law, Middle East & North Africa, NGOs, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, War Crimes, World Law, Yemen on October 8, 2021 at 6:52 PM

By René Wadlow

The Association of World Citizens (AWC) strives to respond to situations in this turbulent and frequently violent world by making proposals for the resolution of armed conflicts through negotiations in good faith and by making proposals for developing appropriate forms of government, often based on con-federalism, decentralization, and trans-frontier cooperation. A current focus is on the situations in Yemen (1) and Somalia. (2)

In March 2015, a military coalition led by Saudi Arabia attacked Sanaa, the capital of Yemen, held by a rebel force, the Ansar Allah Movement, commonly called the Houthis. Since that date, the armed conflict has continued, destroying the fragile economy, displacing a large number of persons, creating a humanitarian tragedy. So far, all mediation efforts have failed. The situation becomes more complex each day due in part to the rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

The state of Yemen was the creation of two separate units. One was the southern part originally known as the Aden Colony and the Eastern and Western Aden Protectorates under British rule. The northern part of the country had been under Ottoman rule until the end of the Ottoman Empire in 1918. From 1918 until 1962, it was ruled by Imams. In 1962, there was a military coup organized by officers who had been trained in Egypt and were influenced by Nasser’s views on Arab nationalism. The coup was followed by an eight-year-long civil war between the military forces called “republicans” and the forces of the Imam Bader. The republicans won, but the government was weak and unstable.

The south of the country after the British left took the name of the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen. In 1990, the two segments of Yemen were united, and the Republic of Yemen was established. However, the euphoria which had existed at the start was short-lived. The people in the south had been promised that their lives would be bettered after unification. Life did not improve, and many in the south felt marginalized. Today, there is a strong sentiment in the south for separation and independence.

When the fighting in Yemen stops, the creation of appropriate forms of government will have to be found. The return to two separate states presents real difficulties as people have moved from their original home areas due to changing economic conditions and to the armed conflict. Yet a single centralized government also seems impossible. As Martin Dent points out, where there is strong identity politics, there must be forms of government that fill the gap between unity and independence. (3) There is a need for Track II efforts to discuss possible structures of government in Yemen.

In Somalia, we have very similar conditions. The two Somali colonial areas, one under the control of Britain and the other under that of Italy were combined into one state in 1961. There had been a period of United Nations (UN) trusteeship after the end of the Second World War when the area of Italian colonial status had ended and before the two colonial territories were united. The political culture of the two territories was different. This impact of the colonial legacy was an element leading to the current situation. In January 1991, the military government of Siyad Barre was overthrown, and now different parts of the country demand independence, in particular Somaliland and Puntland, though their boundary claims overlap.

In addition to regional demands for independence, there is an armed Islamist movement, Al-Shabaab, which poses regional and international security issues which continue. Mediation efforts by the UN have not progressed. Again, Track II efforts may be helpful to find governmental structures able to provide autonomy without dividing the Somalia state into three or more independent states. (4) The Association of World Citizens stresses the need for creative thinking on the structure of a state, on the need for regional cooperation and a willingness to negotiate in good faith.

Notes

(1) Helen Lackner, Yemen in Crisis: Autocracy, Neo-Liberalism and the Disintegration of a State (London: Saqi Books, 2017, 330 pp.)

(2) Sarah G. Phillips, When There Was No Aid: War and Peace in Somaliland (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2020, 227 pp.)

(3) Martin J. Dent, Identity Politics: Filling the Gap Between Federalism and Independence (Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing, 2004, 232 pp.)

(4) Hurst Hannum, Autonomy, Sovereignty and Self-Determination: The Accommodation of Conflicting Rights (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1990, 503 pp.)

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

We Must Protect the Rights of the Hazara Population in Afghanistan

In Asia, Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Democracy, Fighting Racism, Human Rights, Middle East & North Africa, NGOs, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, United Nations, War Crimes, World Law on September 2, 2021 at 7:55 PM

By René Wadlow

The Association of World Citizens (AWC) is strongly concerned by possible repression against the Hazara population in Afghanistan, repression of such an extent that it could be considered genocide. While it is still too early to know what the policies and practice of the Taliban toward minorities will be now, during the past Taliban rule (1996-2001) there was systematic discrimination against the Hazara and a number of massacres.

There are some three million Hazara whose home area is in the central mountainous core of Afghanistan, but a good number have migrated to Kabul, most holding unskilled labor positions in the city. The Hazara are largely Shi’a in religion but are considered as non-Muslim heretics or infidels by the Taliban as well as by members of the Islamic State in Khorasan (ISIS-K), now also an armed presence in Afghanistan.

In the past there was a genocidal period under the rule of Abdur Rahman Khan. During the 1891-1893 period, it is estimated that 60 percent of the Hazara were killed, and many others put into slavery-like conditions.

To understand fully the concern of the AWC for the Hazara, it is useful to recall Article II of the 1948 Convention against Genocide.

In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, as such:

* Killing members of the group;
* Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
* Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about the physical destruction in whole or in part;
* Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
* Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

There have been repeated appeals to make the 1948 Genocide Convention operative as world law. The then United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, said in an address at UNESCO on December 8, 1998 “Many thought, no doubt, that the horrors of the Second World War – the camps, the cruelty, the exterminations, the Holocaust – could not happen again. And yet they have. In Cambodia, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, In Rwanda. Our time – this decade even – has shown us that man’s capacity for evil knows no limits. Genocide – the destruction of an entire people on the basis of ethnic or national origins – is now a word our out time too, a stark and haunting reminder of why our vigilance but be eternal.”

The 1948 Convention has an action article, Article VIII:

Any Contracting Party may call upon the competent organs of the United Nations to take such action under the Charter of the United Nations as they consider appropriate for the prevention and suppression of acts of genocide […]

Despite factual evidence of mass killings, some with the intent to destroy “in whole or in part”, no Contracting Party has ever called for any action under Article VIII. (1)

The criteria for mass killings to be considered genocide does not depend on the number of people killed or the percentage of the group destroyed but on the possibility of the destruction of the identity of a group. It is the identity of the Hazara and their religious base which is the key issue. Events need to be watched closely, and nongovernmental organizations must be prepared to take appropriate action.

Note
(1) For a detailed study of the 1948 Convention and subsequent normative development see: William A. Schabas, Genocide in International Law (Cambridge University Press, 2000, 624 pp.)

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

Appel Urgent à Cesser la Violence dans la Région de Jérusalem et Gaza

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Human Rights, Humanitarian Law, Middle East & North Africa, NGOs, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, Track II, War Crimes on May 13, 2021 at 2:01 PM

L’Association of World Citizens, qui s’emploie à mettre fin aux conflits armés par des négociations de bonne foi, adresse un Appel Urgent à toutes les parties pour mettre fin à la violence dans la région de Jérusalem et Gaza. Dans cette situation hautement inflammable, tout instant ouvre la voie à une montée du conflit. La violence peut entraîner une violence encore plus importante et s’étendre à d’autres endroits encore, une indication en étant les récentes violences dans la ville de Lod.

L’Association of World Citizens en appelle à toutes les parties afin de s’abstenir de toute action provocatrice. Comme le disait le Citoyen du Monde et psychologue Bruno Bettelheim, «La violence est le comportement de quelqu’un d’incapable d’imaginer d’autres solutions aux problèmes qui se présentent». En conséquence, l’Association of World Citizens en appelle à une pensée créatrice pour trouver de nouvelles approches en vue d’une vie en commun coopérative et harmonieuse entre Israéliens et Palestiniens.

Le Professeur René WADLOW est Président de l’Association of World Citizens.

Urgent Appeal to Halt Violence in the Jerusalem-Gaza Area

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Human Rights, Humanitarian Law, Middle East & North Africa, NGOs, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, Track II, War Crimes on May 13, 2021 at 2:01 PM

The Association of World Citizens, devoted to ending armed conflicts through negotiations in good faith, addresses an Urgent Appeal to all parties to halt violence in the Jerusalem-Gaza area. In this highly inflammatory situation, there can be an escalation to the conflict at any point. Violence can lead to ever greater violence and can spread to other areas, an indication of which is the recent violence in the city of Lod.

The Association of World Citizens calls upon all parties to refrain from provocative action. As World Citizen and psychologist Bruno Bettelheim wrote, “Violence is the behavior of someone incapable of imagining other solutions to the problems at hand.” Therefore, the Association of World Citizens calls for creative thinking for new approaches to cooperative and harmonious living together of Israelis and Palestinians.

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

Pourparlers de paix en Afghanistan : Les femmes qui devraient être reines

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Democracy, Human Rights, International Justice, Middle East & North Africa, NGOs, Solidarity, Spirituality, The Search for Peace, Track II, War Crimes, Women's Rights, World Law on March 8, 2021 at 7:00 AM

Par Bernard J. Henry

«Quand vous êtes blessé et abandonné sur les plaines d’Afghanistan, et que les femmes arrivent pour découper ce qu’il reste de vous, dépêchez-vous de rouler jusqu’à votre carabine, de vous faire sauter la cervelle et d’aller vers votre dieu comme un soldat», disait Rudyard Kipling, l’écrivain britannique dont le culte de la virilité, notamment militaire, transpire à travers son œuvre. En témoigne son poème «If», «Si …», traduit en français par André Maurois dans Les silences du colonel Bramble et parfois désigné par son vers final, «Tu seras un homme, mon fils».

Le même Kipling qui nous racontait, dans The Man Who Would Be King, en français L’homme qui voulut être roi, la fable de deux Anglais qui se jurent de découvrir le pays perdu du Kafiristan, niché quelque part entre Afghanistan et Pakistan, alors colonies britanniques. Ils y parviennent et, lors d’un affrontement avec des indigènes, un hasard fait que l’un des deux, Daniel Dravot, est subitement pris pour un dieu. Conduit à la capitale de ce pays rendu au culte d’Alexandre le Grand, il est proclamé fils du conquérant et couronné roi. Mais lorsqu’il épouse une jeune fille pour fonder sa dynastie, celle-ci le démasque. Dravot exécuté en public, son comparse supplicié puis libéré rentre en Inde en emportant sa tête encore ornée de la couronne.

L’histoire est fictive, mais le Kafiristan existe. Aujourd’hui le Nouristan, il est une province orientale de la République islamique d’Afghanistan, un pays où, loin des aventures viriles que rêvait Kipling, des femmes mènent une lutte quotidienne – une lutte pour la paix.

Vingt ans d’une paix introuvable

Depuis l’invasion soviétique de 1980, suivie de huit ans de combats entre régime communiste soutenu par Moscou et Mojahedin, combattants de la résistance – parmi lesquels se trouvait un groupe alors soutenu par les Etats-Unis, dénommé Al-Qaïda et commandé par un Saoudien du nom d’Osama bin Laden – le pays n’a jamais connu que la guerre, dont était sorti en 1996 l’ «Émirat islamique d’Afghanistan», créé par la milice islamiste des Talibans qui avait fait du même Osama bin Laden l’un de ses ministres, bien à l’abri pour lancer ses attaques terroristes contre son ancien allié américain le 11 septembre 2001. L’intervention militaire internationale qui avait ensuite mis fin à la folie meurtrière des Talibans n’a jamais engendré une paix durable.

Comme le chante Pierre Perret, “Quand la femme est grillagée, Toutes les femmes sont outragées.” (C) USAID

En presque vingt ans, plusieurs initiatives ont été lancées sous les présidences successives de Hamid Karzai et Ashraf Ghani, mais l’obstination des Talibans a mis à néant tous les efforts. Après un traité signé en 2016 avec un autre mouvement islamiste armé, le Hezb-e Islami Gulbuddin, des pourparlers de paix avec les Talibans se sont enfin ouverts en septembre dernier à Doha, la capitale du Qatar. Mais les discussions piétinent. Malgré des propos lénifiants, les Talibans démontrent encore et toujours la même haine d’une partie bien ciblée de la population, contre laquelle ils avaient déchaîné du temps de leur «émirat» toute leur répression – les femmes.

Les puissances étrangères engagées en Afghanistan n’ont pas oublié les cinq années de ce que les Talibans voulaient le régime islamique «le plus rigide au monde», ni les femmes cloîtrées chez elles, autorisées à sortir seulement sous la burqa et, lorsqu’accusées d’adultère, lapidées. Pas de paix au prix d’un retour à cette époque, insiste-t-on à Doha. Parfait. Mais s’il n’est pas question d’une paix aux dépens des droits des femmes, pourquoi alors maintenir les Afghanes en dehors des pourparlers ?

Les droits des femmes, nerf de la guerre

Réduites au silence sous les Talibans, devenues comme fantômes sous leurs burqas, les femmes ont su depuis 2001 profiter de leur liberté retrouvée. Certes voilées en public comme leurs sœurs iraniennes, dans cette République islamique d’Afghanistan dont le nom rappelle celui du voisin de l’ouest, les Afghanes n’en ont pas moins su faire entrer le vent dans leurs voiles.

Comme le rappelle Amnesty International, elles sont avocates, médecins, magistrates, enseignantes, ingénieures, athlètes, militantes, politiciennes, journalistes, bureaucrates, entrepreneuses, policières, soldates. Et ce sont aujourd’hui 3 300 000 petites Afghanes qui sont scolarisées, se préparant à marcher dans les pas de leurs aînées.

Et pourtant. La tentation existe pour Kaboul, du jour au lendemain, de décider que la paix avec l’irréductible ennemi taliban vaut bien de brûler les (re)conquêtes de ses citoyennes. Elles le savent. Farahnaz Forotan, journaliste de vingt-huit ans contrainte à l’exil car figurant sur une liste de personnes à abattre des Talibans, le sait mieux que toute autre. Pour dire le refus des Afghanes de voir leurs droits transformés en monnaie d’échange, elle a lancé la campagne MyRedLine (Ma ligne rouge) désignant la ligne à ne pas franchir à Doha.

Farahnaz Forotan

Dans l’État afghan, la paix s’écrit au masculin. Un Ministre d’État à la Paix a été nommé au sein du Gouvernement, auquel s’ajoute un Haut Conseil de la Réconciliation nationale dirigé par Abdullah Abdullah, ancien Ministre des Affaires Étrangères et candidat malheureux à la présidentielle de 2014. Pour l’équipe Ghani, la paix est une urgence, et qui dit urgence dit sacrifices. Les droits des femmes étant le nerf de la guerre, pour une paix qu’il faut obtenir à tout prix, le premier sacrifice sera de les brûler, craignent-elles légitimement de leurs propres autorités. Des mêmes hommes qui, salués voilà vingt ans comme les vainqueurs des Talibans, sont désormais prêts à de lourdes pertes à leur profit.

Et elles ont raison, car il est déjà un droit que le Gouvernement afghan leur a retiré en vue des pourparlers de paix – tout simplement, celui d’y participer. Impardonnable erreur.

Elles sauront faire la paix

Se croire habilité à toutes les concessions à l’ennemi parce que, l’ayant déjà vaincu une fois, l’on n’a pas réussi à le vaincre une seconde fois et qu’une paix doit être conclue d’urgence, un maréchal français l’avait déjà tenté, et depuis, son nom reste associé à la Shoah, même si, aujourd’hui comme hier, d’aucuns au sommet de l’Etat prônent une «patience malvenue», comme le chante Louis Chedid dans Anne, ma sœur Anne, envers le souvenir de l’inacceptable.

Si les hommes à la tête de l’Afghanistan sont prêts à emprunter ce même chemin, il leur faudra se souvenir que, pendant qu’entre leurs mains parlaient les armes, les femmes ont su mener leur propre lutte contre les Talibans, mais sans tuer ni blesser quiconque, luttant non pour le pouvoir mais pour le bien de toutes et tous, à commencer par les victimes les plus démunies des conflits armés, toujours et partout – les enfants.

Ainsi d’Ayesha Aziz, enseignante et directrice d’école, membre du Hezb-e Islami identique aux Talibans dans les idées mais qui, historiquement plus pragmatique, a conclu la paix avec le Gouvernement afghan. Avec Ayesha Aziz parmi les membres de sa délégation.

Ayesha Aziz (C) USIP

Déployant des talents de négociation et de diplomatie que d’autres s’interdisent de voir du seul fait qu’elle est une femme, elle a réussi à obtenir des Talibans l’ouverture d’écoles pour filles, des écoles qu’elle finance par le biais d’une entreprise de raffinement de pierres semi-précieuses qu’elle a créée et où elle engage des femmes par centaines. S’appuyant sur «le respect, l’humour et l’Islam», Ayesha Aziz obtient des résultats spectaculaires auprès de l’implacable milice islamiste.

Pour elle, la paix doit passer par le dialogue entre les femmes, celles du camp Ghani et les Talibanes, ainsi que par les zones rurales plutôt que par le sommet de l’État.

Très bien, pourrait-on dire, mais tout cela reste au niveau national et la paix se construit également avec des partenaires internationaux ; malgré tout son mérite, Ayesha Aziz ne semble pas taillée pour avoir affaire à eux. Si l’on pense ainsi, qu’à cela ne tienne. Palwasha Kakar, elle, sait parler hors de l’Afghanistan la langue que les décideurs doivent entendre.

Palwasha Kakar, lors de son témoignage devant le Congrès des Etats-Unis (C) USIP

Responsable principale du Programme Religion et Sociétés inclusives à l’United States Institute of Peace (USIP) de Washington, Palwasha Kakar a consacré plus de onze ans de sa vie à l’inclusion des femmes, l’engagement pour la paix des dignitaires religieux, la gouvernance et l’éducation dans son Afghanistan natal. A l’USIP, elle applique une approche comparative sur les femmes, la religion et la construction de la paix au Pakistan, en Libye, en Syrie, en Irak et au Myanmar. Son inspiration, elle la tient de ses sœurs afghanes qui, utilisant le cadre religieux, ont su négocier avec les Talibans pour des cessez-le-feu locaux, des libérations d’otages et des écoles pour filles.

Appelée à témoigner en 2019 devant le Congrès des Etats-Unis, témoignage capital au vu de la présence de deux mille cinq cents soldats américains en Afghanistan, Palwasha Kakar a rappelé que les femmes étaient essentielles au succès et à la durabilité de tout processus de paix, des pourparlers jusqu’à la mise en œuvre des accords, et qu’elles exigeaient une paix protégeant leurs acquis depuis 2001.

Pour les élus américains qui aimeraient trop Kipling, ce fut le temps d’un autre rappel. «A travers l’histoire de l’Afghanistan, les femmes ont toujours fait partie des processus de paix couronnés de succès. Même si l’on accorde toute la gloire à [l’empereur] Ahmed Shah Durrani pour avoir créé l’État d’Afghanistan moderne en 1747, c’est la contribution de Nazo Ana [poétesse et écrivaine] à l’unification des tribus qui se combattaient jusqu’alors pour ensuite affronter les Perses en 1709 qui fut la cheville ouvrière de la fondation de l’État afghan, ce qui lui a valu le titre de ‘Mère de la Nation afghane’. Quand les Talibans furent chassés du pouvoir en 2001 par les troupes américaines et leurs alliés, les femmes ont pris toute leur part au succès de l’accord politique du processus de Bonn et à la rédaction de la constitution qui a donné dix-huit ans de gouvernement démocratique stable, alors même que se poursuivaient les attaques des Talibans qui n’avaient pas été inclus dans le processus de Bonn».

Jadis, sans une femme, pas d’Afghanistan. Aujourd’hui, sans les femmes, pas d’Afghanistan libre. Demain, sans les femmes, un Afghanistan en paix est inconcevable.

La paix des femmes, seul espoir de survie

Professionnelles, citoyennes, militantes – mais indignes de donner la paix à leur pays.  A croire que les gouvernants afghans ont trop lu Kipling. Veulent-ils, à leur tour, être rois ? On le croirait pour peu, tant ils semblent craindre que, ceints de la couronne comme le fut Daniel Dravot de celle du Kafiristan, une femme censée les embrasser, mais refusant de se soumettre, ne les morde au sang et prouve que les faux dieux sont des mortels sans droit divin de régner.

Michael Caine (centre) et Sean Connery (droite) dans le film de John Huston L’Homme qui voulut être roi, d’après l’ouvrage de Rudyard Kipling, en 1975

Sans doute les femmes d’Afghanistan ne rêvent-elles pas d’être reines, laissant la futilité de ces fantasmes aux hommes pour se préoccuper de la vraie vie et de l’avenir. Mais lorsqu’il s’agit de rechercher la paix, juste et durable, impossible de ne pas penser qu’elles devraient être reines, autant que leurs compatriotes masculins se veulent rois, et pouvoir brandir leur sceptre face aux Talibans à Doha.

Blessé et abandonné sur les plaines d’Afghanistan, selon Kipling, il ne vous restait plus pour échapper à des femmes venues vous charcuter qu’à vous brûler la cervelle en un chevaleresque suicide. Sous les assauts des Talibans, c’est tout le peuple afghan qui git, blessé et abandonné, sur ses plaines rougies de sang. Voyant les femmes accourir pour le soigner et le relever, s’il leur prend la main, il saisit son ultime chance de survie. S’il choisit d’agripper son arme et se tirer une balle en refusant la paix des femmes, il voue son avenir à l’enfer.

Bernard J. Henry est Officier des Relations Extérieures de l’Association of World Citizens.

Nagorno-Karabakh: Uneasy Ceasefire, Key Issues Remain

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Europe, Humanitarian Law, International Justice, NGOs, Solidarity, The former Soviet Union, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, War Crimes, World Law on December 24, 2020 at 4:56 PM

By René Wadlow

December 9-10, 2020 marked the one-month anniversary of the ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh, known as Artsakh by the Armenians. The ceasefire was negotiated by Russia between Azerbaijan and Armenia. The agreement was signed by the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, the Azerbaijan President, Ilham Aliyev, and the Armenian Prime Minister, Nikol Pachinian. However, on December 11, the Russian Novosti Press Agency reported the first ceasefire violation, an exchange of fire between Azerbaijan and Armenian soldiers. There are some 2000 Russian peacekeepers on site, but it is always difficult to control a ceasefire. Moreover, a ceasefire is only the first step on what will be a long path of confidence-building measures and ultimately forms of cooperation.

Nicol Pachanian

The ceasefire agreement structures two safe avenues of road communication from the remaining Armenian areas in Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia. In the same way there will be a safe avenue of road communication from the Azerbaijan areas to Nakhichevan, an Azerbaijan majority area within Armenia. The avenue to Nakhichevan close to the frontier with Turkey will allow Turkish goods to cross to Azerbaijan and from there through Central Asia to the frontier with China.

Turkey considers the outcome of the ceasefire as a victory for Turkey, especially that the Turkish drones and weapons used by the Azerbaijan forces played a large role in giving Azerbaijan a military advantage. In contrast, the outcome of the ceasefire is considered by many in Armenia as a defeat, creating an instability for the current government led by Pachinian. The results of the ceasefire have led to the naming of a new Foreign Minister, Ara Aivazian, on November 18.

The conflict has led to a large number of new refugees, of displaced persons and hopes among those in Azerbaijan who had fled Nagorno-Karabakh as a result of the 1992-1994 armed conflict. The economy of the area, always marginal as Nagorno-Karabakh, a mountainous, largely rural area is largely destroyed. However, the area had highly symbolic meaning for both Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Ilham Aliyev

The Group of Minsk, created by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe after the 1992-1994 conflict has 11 States as members including Azerbaijan and Armenia. The Minsk Group has three co-chairs: Russia, France, the USA. The Group as a whole rarely meets. Rather it is diplomats from Russia and France who have met in bilateral meetings with representatives from Azerbaijan or Armenia. There has been little progress in finding confidence-building measures and virtually none on forms of cooperation.

Today, this armed conflict in an area that is troubled in a number of places may be a warning sign that negotiations in good faith should be a priority. The Association of World Citizens has been concerned with the tensions in Nagorno-Karabakh since the eve of the breakup of the USSR in 1991. We need to remain alert at possible efforts at Track II diplomacy or other forms of nongovernmental mediation.

Prof. René Wadlow is the President of the Association of World Citizens.

Mali: More Instability in an Unstable Region

In Africa, Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Democracy, Human Rights, Humanitarian Law, International Justice, NGOs, Solidarity, Spirituality, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, War Crimes, World Law on September 4, 2020 at 8:35 PM

By René Wadlow

The August 18, 2020 coup by Malian military leaders brought an end to the unstable government of Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, widely known by his initials IBK. He had come to power on March 22, 2012 in another military coup which had ended the administration of President Amadou Trouré. This 2012 coup highlighted the weakness of the government structures and the narrow geographic base of the administration’s power. This realization led to a revolt in the north of the country led by two rival Tuareg groups as well as Islamist militias of non-Tuareg fighters coming from other Sahel countries and northern Nigeria. Mali was effectively divided into two roughly equal half, each half about the size of France.

French troops were sent from France in January 2013 to prevent an expansion of the territory held by the Tuareg and the Islamists, but were not able to develop a stable administration.

Ibrahim Boubacar Keita

Mali had been poorly administered since its independence in 1960. Economic development had been guided by political and ethnic considerations. During the French colonial period, from the 1890s to 1960, the French administration was based in Dakar, Senegal, a port on the Atlantic with secondary schools, a university, and an educated middle class. Mali was considered an “outpost” (called French Sudan at the time) and largely governed by the French military more interested in keeping order than in development.

IBK’s administration was widely criticized by much of the population for its incompetence, favoritism, and corruption especially by family members such as his son Karim Keita. Islamist groups remained powerful in parts of the north and central Mali. The whole Sahel area, in particular the frontier area of Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso still has powerful and violent Islamist militias. This instability is an increasing menace to the coastal countries of Togo, Benin, and Cote d’Ivoire.

Over the past year, discontent with IBK has led to a loose coalition of opposition groups known by the title M5 – RFP, of which the conservative Islamic imam Mahmoud Dicko is a leading figure.

French soldiers deployed in Mali

For the moment, the Mali military leaders have formed the Comité national pour le salut du peuple (The National Committee for the Salvation of the People). It is led by Col. Assimi Gaita, a special forces leader. The Committee has said that it is forming a military-civil transitional government that will lead to elections in nine months.

The challenges facing Mali and the wider Sahel area are great, in large measure linked to the lack of socio-economic development, economic stagnation, and poor administration. The situation is made worse by the consequences of global warming and persistent drought. The military are not trained to be development workers. A broad cooperative effort of all sectors of the population is needed. Will the military be able to develop such a broadly-based cooperative effort? Mali and the Sahel merit close attention.

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

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