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Women in Black Stand for Peace
Women in Black held a vigil in Fresno today for justice and against war.
Women in Black Stand for Peace
By Mike Rhodes
Women in Black held a silent vigil for peace and justice today at California State University at Fresno. They stood at the Free Speech area for about an hour. Students and anti-war activists around the country protested against the war. For more information about today’s protests see: http://february15.wordpress.com/ . 3,124 U.S. soldiers have died in the war/occupation of Iraq.
At a flyer, available at the vigil, the background of the Women in Black group was explained.
“Women in Black” was inspired by earlier movements of women who demonstrated on the streets, making a public space for women to be heard - particularly Black Sash, in South Africa, and the Madres de la Plaza de Mayo, seeking the ‘disappeared’ in the political repression in Argentina. But WIB also shares a genealogy with groups of women explicitly refusing violence, militarism and war, such as the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom formed in 1918, and the Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp in the UK and related groups around the world opposing the deployment of US missiles in the eighties.
Beginnings in Israel
Women in Black as we know it today began in 1988 in Israel. In 1987, 20 years after Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza, the Palestinian intifada began. In response Israeli Jewish women began to stand in weekly vigils in public places, usually at busy road junctions. Starting in Jerusalem, the number of vigils in Israel eventually grew to almost forty. In the north of Israel, where the concentration of Arab communities is greatest, Palestinian women who are Israeli citizens were also active in Women in Black groups. Many local WIB groups made contact with women across the Green Line engaged in support work, e.g. visiting Palestinians in Israeli prisons.
Who are Women in Black?
Women in Black… is a world-wide network of women committed to peace with justice and actively opposed to injustice, war, militarism and other forms of violence. As women experiencing these things in different ways in different regions of the world, we support each other’s movements. An important focus is challenging the militarist policies of our own governments. We are not an organisation, but a means of communicating and a formula for action.
Any group of women anywhere in the world at any time may organize a Women in Black vigil against any manifestation of violence, militarism or war. Women in Black (WiB) actions are generally women only. Our actions often take the form of women wearing black, standing in a public place in silent, non-violent vigils at regular times and intervals, carrying placards and handing out leaflets.
Other non-violent actions
We use non-violent and non-aggressive forms of action. In addition to vigils Women in Black groups use many other forms of non-violent direct action such as sitting down to block a road, entering military bases and other forbidden zones, refusing to comply with orders, and “bearing witness”. Wearing black in some cultures signifies mourning, and feminist actions dressed in black convert women’s traditional passive mourning for the dead in war into a powerful refusal of the logic of war.
For more information, see: http://www.womeninblack.org
All photos by Mike Rhodes