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Militarization of Europe, Racism & Xenophobia Towards Refugees

Thursday 3 November 2016, by siawi3

Source: WIB-Belgrade, 29.10.2016

This interview was conducted on October 10th in the afternoon in the Women in Black (WiB) space, and activists from Belgium, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Italy, Russia, Serbia, and Spain participated.

Anna Valente, WiB, Torino: “In the name of security, people are fully accepting the restriction of their civil rights and freedoms”
It is hard for people in our area to mobilize, since the economic recession is a barrier for people to stand in solidarity with others. It is not only, however, an economic problem, but rather the bigger problem is the fact that many people in Italy have racist mindsets. It is difficult to operate when public opinion is indoctrinated, and infected with the idea that military alliances are synonymous with safety. In the name of security, people are fully accepting the restriction off their civil rights and freedoms. It is very difficult to cultivate an antimilitarist discourse. People mostly feel the repercussions of militarization through increased military spending, since that is what causes the decrease in social programs.

Concha Martin Sanchez, WiB, Madrid: “Military spending has an impact on everything…”
The same thing is happening in Spain – military spending has an impact on everything. In Spain, people are aware of this on some sort of human plane, but through an economic lens people are keen to uphold the military production because that is how new jobs are created and that is how people keep their wages. The military and the police force are the largest employers, and those professions draw people to them because of economic reasons.

Mieke De Verde, WiB, Lueven: “A large protest against armament is held on November 10th in Brussels”
Many political parties want to “save” but at the same time they are against foreigners. In Brussels on November 10th will be a large meeting of peaceful organizations against armament. That same day, November 10th, politicians will be meeting with arms traders and producers. Activists from across Brussels who are against the arms trade will be there.
Mieke shared with us how she became an activist: “Until 1996, my life was very peaceful, family-oriented. I was dedicated to my children and my family. Then I went to Moscow and met new people. My husband was a diplomat. I went to an international women’s club. I am a woman that liked to work and I decided to go help out in an orphanage. I decided to learn to speak Russian. In my spare time, I liked to sing and dance. I spent five year in Moscow.
I then went to Sarajevo in 2001. I worked with children with different abilities. I worked in Bratunac. I spent four years in Bosnia.
I then returned to Lueven, and when I went shopping in Lueven in 2005, that was when I first saw Women in Black, and since then, I have been with them. I admire your group. You always have new ideas and always show those new ideas. I think that you display how you have to work with a lot of other organizations. We work with other organizations, but very few people attend. People refuse to read our pamphlets, they throw them out…”

Elena Vilenskaya, Saint Petersburg: “Whoever is able to, leaves Russia…”
I do not believe that all of Europe is beginning to resemble Russia. The majority of people in Russia support militarization because they view it as a way to restore national pride and joy, the revival of imperial power. This means that people are so weak and insecure of themselves that they seek this kind of power. People always choose security at the expense of freedom and human rights. There are no protests in Russia. There are so few of us, and all of us who protest against war know each other.
A lot of activists are exposed to threats, there are political prisoners among them and a lot of them are youth. Whoever is able to, leaves Russia…

Jadranka Milicevic, Sarajevo, Foundation CURE and WiB: “for us too, youth are fighting over jobs in the military…”
In Bosnia & Herzegovina we have a professional army, and for us too, youth are fighting over jobs in the military. Or to get into the UN. Civilians in the Federation (one of the entities in Bosnia & Herzegovina) need to serve in the army in the Serbian Republic.

Stasa Zajovic, WiB, Belgrade: “Every country that sells arms to Syria should be viewed as responsible for the war in Syria…”
All of our actions regarding refugees need to link several things – war – refugees – arms trade. Every country that sells arms to Syria should be viewed as responsible for the war in Syria. War, refugees, the arms trade, and smuggling are things that we have to keep in mind are connected. All of us women from all of our respective countries are accountable because we are selling arms to Syria.

Concha: I agree that we need to ensure that war and refugees are linked, just like solidarity with men who are deserters.

Anna: We have been organizing actions where we link war, refugees, and the arms trade for a long time.

Agreements following the street action on November 10th – organizing solidarity actions in support of protests against armament:
Mieke will send information about the action by November 1st 2016.
Anna Valente is tasked to distribute information to the network in Italy.
Yolanda: Madrid, Seville, Valencia, Palma de Mallorca all have WiB chapters in Spain, and Yolanda will distribute information about the action to them.
Stasa, WiB, Belgrade: To distribute information to the Balkan WiB network
Elena: I will try to get some political parties like Yabloko, for example, out to protests. It is, however, a very difficult situation. A lot of organizations are passive. There are very few people, but there is an organization called Democratic Petrovgrad. We are allowed to organize protests where there are 50 metres between each person. The police no longer harass us, but it is the civilians who spit on us.

Women in Black, Belgrade, October 2016