In a long conversation, an Iraqi woman told me about Saddam Hussein killing her husband. At the time, her son was only one year old. She moved over her pain, however, bringing up her child with the hope for a different Iraqi future. Now, both mother and child still live under oppression and chaos. After ten long years under the siege of sanctions, today war, civil conflict, ethnic and sectarian disintegration, and the looming threat of dividing Iraq prevail. “Should I give up hope,” she asked.
In the United States, Cindy Sheehan and Sue Niders, along with other American women who have lost their children to war in Iraq, have established the “Golden Star Families for Peace.” Their organization has become the pedestal for anti-war movements, fighting to reveal the truths about what is actually happening in Iraq.
In Palestine, two women standing at either side of the equation have been struggling to unravel the truth blacked out by misleading media. One is Um Jabr Washah, representing the families of Palestinian prisoners. The other is Amira Hass, who wrote in Haaretz about the Israeli occupation devastating the life of the Palestininas in Gaza, 99.5% of its population, for the sake pf Israeli settlers who make for the remaining 0.5%. Hass says that 1719 Palestinians were killed in Gaza by Israeli fire since September 2000; two thirds of which were armless civilians. Children under the age of eight made up 379 out of the victims, Children under the age of sixteen made up 236, women made up 96. No condemnation or compensation were extended to the bereaved Palestinian families for their losses. Israeli settlers, however, have been compensated financially, apart from the new houses they were given.
Um Jabr’s words resonate those of Hass. She said to al-Jazeera TV, as representative of Palestinian prisoners of conscience, that the Palestinian people have paid with life for truth, right and freedom. She asked how the bereaved mothers could find joy unless their rights were acknowledged and returned. She wondered how one could be free unless one’s land is free. Um Jabr then called on women in the world to stand by the Palestinian women in their daily ordeal for life and freedom.
Had they been able, both Palestinian and Iraqi women would have joined Cindy Sheehan in her anti-war movement. They would have joined any and all international movements that call for ending wars, occupation, illegal settlement and oppression. They would have fought in their ranks for truth, so that truth can bring peace and justice.
In these concurrent women movements, women from different countries around the world are calling for the very same things. They are calling for life against death, for freedom against oppression, and for peace against wars and aggression. They stand against the death of their children, as well as the death of other women’s children. Through pain, they have realized that there are things on this earth that are worth living for. They are fighting because they believe that truth will eventually prevail.
Will the world one day pay heed to these women who are nurturing hope in pain? Will their voices become the platform for action for peace against war? These women are mothers who lost the children they brought up. Will the hope they were left with bring them together across borders? Maybe then mothers in the US, Palestine, Iraq and the Golan Heights could become the drops in one human stream marching towards truth and justice. Maybe then countries won’t be short of women candidates for the Nobel Prize for Peace.