As part of the CSW61, the Feminist Alliance for Rights (FAR) held a panel on peace and security entitled “Women’s Struggles in the Middle East.” The discussion was led by two of FAR’s steering committee members—Hibaaq Osman of Somalia and Fatima Outaleb of Morocco. The women highlighted the need to recognize that economic empowerment is not possible without peace in the Middle East.
“The current travel ban is really a Muslim ban”: Arab Feminists Re-Frame Peace and Security
A report on FAR’s first public panel discussion, ahead of the 61st Session of the Commission on the Status of Women(CSW)
Photo: FAR Steering Committee Members at their first public panel discussion (From L to R): Sharon Bhagwan Rolls (Fiji), Hibaaq Osman (Somalia) and Fatima Outaleb (Morocco)
The 61st Session of the CSW (CSW61) begins today at the United Nations in New York, against a backdrop of much political tension around immigration issues, refugee rights and other human rights concerns set in motion by a Trump presidency. As part of launching its first public event, FAR organized its first panel discussion on peace and security right before CSW61, entitled, “Women’s Struggles in the Middle East.” The discussion was led by two of FAR’s steering committee members—Hibaaq Osman from Somalia and Fatima Outaleb from Morocco, both leaders of Karama, an organization that works to end all forms of violence against women in the Arab region, and strengthen their rights; it was moderated by Sharon Bhagwan Rolls, from FemLink Pacific, Fiji.
With the CSW’s priority theme this year as women’s economic empowerment in the changing world of work, the panel highighted how women’s economic rights cannot be realized without peace and security. Both Hibaaq and Fatima explained that civil society organizations in the United States and Europe need to advocate for peace and security measures that go beyond the surface and deal with the root causes of war and instability, particularly focusing on denouncing weapon’s trade.
“Peace has become expensive,” Hibaaq said. Though translating peace into investments such as education, healthcare, transportation and food infrastructure might prove to be more sustainable in the long run, it is arms trade that is more profitable than that of basic goods and services for a dignified life. “Peace is not in our hands,” Fatima said, “Governments know how to make peace, but arms trade and oil is what equates to money.”
Security Resolution 1325 (SR 1325), a UN mechanism on women, peace and security, has the potential to create and sustain peace, yet it is too often underutilized or poorly executed. Overall, the occurrence of conflict should not be the primary indicator of peace and security. Despite this, SR 1325 reporting occurs in conflict countries and not within those with a direct hand in creating the conflict or supplying arms, which creates a massive gap in accountability.
This method of prioritizing is short-sighted. For example, SR 1325 emphasizes the protection of women as a component of peace, not just during times of war, but this is rarely the reality. Overall, the occurrence of conflict should not be the primary indicator of peace and security. Despite this, SR 1325 reporting occurs in conflict countries and not within those with a direct hand in creating the conflict or supplying arms. Overall, the occurrence of conflict should not be the primary indicator of peace and security. Despite this, SR 1325 reporting occurs in conflict countries and not within those with a direct hand in creating the conflict or supplying arms, which creates a massive gap in accountability.
For both Fatima and Hibaaq, the current refugee crisis is a direct result of arms trade, destruction and bombing of countries in the region. The massive displacement of people is a result of this violence, so they have no alternative but to flee in desperation from cities that have been destroyed. Despite the urgency of this humanitarian crisis, the United States and European countries, which have a direct role in arms sales and bombing of these countries, refuse to deal with the underlying causes of war and conflict. In the United States, the recent policy issued by the Trump administration is a clear example, which Hibaaq emphasized, “Let’s be clear, it is not a travel ban, it is a Muslim ban.”
Both Fatima and Hibaaq highlighted the importance of protests and solidarity by civil society in the United States, which were instrumental to oppose the Muslim ban. “These are key voices and roles to continue influencing the political agenda, especially in support of the women who often bear the brunt of war’s impact.”
FAR Steering Committee Members Introduce Themselves
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This public event was also an opportunity to introduce the current steering committee members of FAR, who had gathered in NY prior to the CSW for FAR’s Steering Committee meeting.