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WOMEN AND PEACE PACK UPDATES

pack information

CHOOSING PEACE 3 Pack pages 21-24))

CONTENT

Part One HALF THE POPULATION

What women have been saying
Being a mum as well as a scientist
A feminist viewpoint
India's silent revolution


Part Two WOMEN IN WAR

Guerrilla Women
A Woman's Influence
Women In The Armed Forces
Annette's letter
Martha Gellhorn : death of a fearless reporter
Women Reporting War


Part Three CHOOSING PEACE

Standing up to be counted
Greenham Common

Healing Wounds
Keeping Going
Women Writing About War

Hawks and Doves: Protesting for East Timor
Bianca Jagger
Aung San Suu Kyi
Mary Robinson


1. Hawks and Doves: Protesting for East Timor

Page 21 of the Pack left Andrea, Joanna, Lotta - and Angie, who had worked with them and said that she would continue their protest by disarming more Hawk aircraft - under arrest. What happened to them?

The four were put in prison to wait for their trial. At last, on July 23 1996 in Liverpool Crown Court, the trial began. The prosecution took two days, centred on evidence from British Aerospace. The main issue was the nature of the damage the women had caused and exactly how much it cost. When a senior manager was asked, 'You're obviously greatly concerned about the damage which was done to this Hawk - do you have any concern about the damage which could have been done to the people of East Timor by the plane?' he answered, 'No'.

The prosecution showed the jury the report and the video film which the women had left in the plane. The video showed Indonesian troops shooting East Timorese civilians at a memorial service. The prosecutor's case was that the women's action was entirely for publicity purposes - to which the defendants replied that there were plenty of ways to get publicity without running the risk of a ten-year jail sentence.

The defence took three days. The women explained to the court that under British Law one is allowed to use 'reasonable force' to prevent a crime. They thought what they did was 'reasonable', because for three years previously they and thousands of others had tried every other peaceful way they could think of to stop the sale of Hawks to Indonesia; but none of these had worked, and the planes were about to be sent to Indonesia.

Here is Andrea's account of waiting for the verdict:

'We sat holding hands, and I tried to concentrate on why we'd done the action, and to remember that, whatever happened, what we'd done was right and nothing could change that. Then the jury foreman stood up. The court was completely silent as the clerk asked him for the first of seven verdicts (four counts of conspiracy, three of criminal damage). In a very clear voice he said, 'Not guilty'. There was a gasp which filled the court. The four of us sat there, gripping each other's hands tightly and hardly daring to breathe. It was logical to suppose that if the first was 'Not guilty', the rest would be, but we couldn't relax until the last verdict was read out. Then the judge dismissed the jury, said we could be released, and almost ran out of the courtroom, which by now was erupting. There was a huge cheer, the jury (or most of them) broke into huge smiles, lots of people burst into tears, hugs were exchanged. Fifteen minutes earlier we had been brought into the court as prisoners; now we were going out as free women - to be met by a bank of cameras and journalists shouting questions at us. Being acquitted and released was pretty disconcerting in itself; being suddenly thrust into the media spotlight gave the whole event an almost surreal feeling. After a few minutes I'd had enough. I went to look for friends and family. And I did something I'd been longing to do for six months: I ran as fast as I could round the square in front of the court. In prison we were not allowed to run.'

Since then there have been other protests, trials and acquittals. And in 1999 the situation in East Timor hit the world's headlines as the country embarked on its first elections amid terrible scenes of violence. Arguments about supplying arms to Indonesia, and to other countries where they might be used against civilians, continue.




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ANGIE

Angie has continued her work as peace and environmental campaigner. After the trial she said, 'There is no way of changing your society unless you are willing to change it yourself. if you expect other people to do it, then change doesn't happen. you have to be able to confront evil when you see it, and you have to be willing to take the consequences of your action. I would lose my integrity and humanity and get very depressed if I didn't do this.'

In 1998 she joined hundreds of others who demonstrated against nuclear weapons at Faslane naval base, home of Britain's nuclear submarines, and was imprisoned again. From prison she wrote: ' Our attempts to disarm the submarines have been conducted in gentleness and concern. We are not a threat. Nuclear weapons are a threat - a physical, moral and spiritual blight.'

In 1999 Angie took part in a protest against a laboratory complex linked to the Trident nuclear submarine system. The sheriff ruled in favour of the protesters' argument that they had been acting to prevent a crime under international law.




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2. Bianca Jagger

Bianca continues to work hard to support people in trouble. 'With work like this you can't be unavailable. It has to be your first priority.'

She has taken part in protests supporting Tibet, a country harshly ruled by China. She has supported the Kurds oppressed by the Turkish government. And she went to Kosovo, working with a BBC Newsnight team there: they were on one occasion forced at gunpoint to a Serb military base and interrogated. After this she reported back to Britain and other European countries on the situation there.

'Tragedies like Kosovo can seem so daunting one can feel powerless in the face of them. But we should not.' Bianca is sad that young people have lost trust 'in politicians and the possibility of change. If I could believe that they could accomplish real changes, I would want to enter politics. But now, I can be more effective as a human rights activist.'




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3. Aung San Suu Kyi

This remarkable woman is still continuing to face difficulties with her now famous courage and dignity. She is still urging people to bring about political change without the use of violence: 'if we do it with violence we'll never get rid of the idea that violence is the way to tackle problems. As for problems, running away is not going to solve any.'

The repressive government is still (May 2000) in charge, though it has faced increasing criticism from other countries round the world.




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4. Mary Robinson

Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland, now United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, has been kept busy round the world, and is characteristically outspoken.

Of the NATO bombing of Kosovo in 1999 she said: 'When you say that what you're doing is for humanitarian reasons, you must be careful not to make significantly worse the humanitarian situation of a high proportion of citizens.' At the same time she condemned the 'vicious abuses' carried out by Serb military against the Albanian Kosovars, while recognising that many people in Serbia 'are starved of contact and support to help them build a society of human rights'.

In the autumn of 1999 the violence in East Timor inspired Mary to speak out against abuses of human rights everywhere. She feels that we are all responsible, in that we should all be looking for the courage to find ways of building societies free of all human rights abuse. Mary quotes the words of a Chilean poet, Marjorie Agasin, who published a book of writings by women on the subject of human rights. Marjorie 'wanted to show through the voices of women throughout the world the power to heal through words as well as the power of resistance'.

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