From the January-February 2023 issue of News & Letters
For over 30 years while Armenia and Azerbaijan have been at war, peace negotiations did not involve women. Because of their patriarchal cultures, feminist, pro-democracy, and peace activists are harassed and often jailed. Feminists on both sides aim to break this cycle of violence. Since 2020, activists and researchers contribute articles to the Feminist Peace Collective, an independent online platform introducing readers to feminist literature. Its anti-war statement says, “The answer to the aggressive behavior of the Azerbaijani authorities should come from the people of Azerbaijan. We cannot be in the same position in the war waged by the ruling class, which turns us, our resources, and our bodies into instruments!” Women’s Agenda, an Armenian NGO founded in 2020, involves women in peace talks on local, national, and international levels, noting women do much of the work of rebuilding post-war societies. Azerbaijani feminist “Nailya” is organizing a project in the neighboring country of Georgia for Azerbaijanis and Armenians to socialize, organize, and express themselves through the arts.
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In December, hundreds of acid attack survivors held a seminar in Delhi, India, demanding stricter laws against the sales of the chemical used to inflict blindness, disfigurement, and disabilities. A week before, a TV camera captured a boy under 18 throwing acid he bought online onto a 17-year-old girl walking to school. The video went viral, causing outrage and a campaign against online sales. In 2013, an Indian high court banned over-the-counter sales following a campaign by survivor Laxmi Angarwal, winning several gains for survivors, including access to rehabilitation. Her own 2009 legal case is still pending while her attackers roam free, but her foundation helps survivors access legal and medical aid. Her current petition against online sales reached over 10,000 signatures in two days.
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In November, Iranian women played a game of football (soccer) in London before the World Cup football games held in Qatar. They called on the British team to raise awareness during its match with Iran about Iran’s atrocities against women. Women are banned from football matches in Iran due to its “gender apartheid” that restricts women’s participation in public life. They paid tribute to Jina (Mahsa) Amini, murdered by police after being detained for allegedly not following Iran’s strict dress code. The group then joined 90 demonstrators in front of the Qatari embassy protesting Qatar’s “homophobic, sexist, and racist regime.” Their signs read, “Qatar arrests, jails, and subjects LGBTs to ‘conversion.’”
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In December, Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter held a vigil for at least 10 women murdered by current or former male partners in British Columbia, Canada, even though half of them had protection or no-contact orders. The two dozen women held signs with the victims’ names and a banner reading “No More Femicide!” They stated that there were likely many more victims, but this information is not made public. Their demands include B.C.’s chief coroner “publish a report any time a woman is murdered by her current or ex male partner.” They are “calling on the criminal justice system to properly monitor and supervise the whereabouts of men who pose a risk to women” and demanding stricter bail and release conditions. Hilla Kerner stated, “Women do not need meaningless bureaucratic mechanisms that leave them defenseless. They need measures that secure their safety and protect their lives.”