Current Events & Main Obstacles To Attaining Peace
In an interview to the Istanbul-based BirGun, Widad said:
“In my opinion, political instability and greed for power are the main obstacles to a lasting peace. In this context, the biggest problem we are facing is that the peace approaches that have emerged in the last decades have only managed to address the symptoms and that, in itself, has diverted the attention from the real causes of the conflicts… We have to acknowledge the need to uncover the very causes of today’s conflicts. It is vital to name things by their names and bring them to light to cooperatively and collectively find suitable solutions, and thereby build a lasting peace on a solid foundation of human rights, justice, understanding, trust and respect.”
On 1st September 2014, the Istanbul-based BirGun daily newspaper’s Ms. Omur Sahin Keyif (OSK) interviewed Dr. Widad about selected aspects of current events around the world.
The major topics of discussion consisted of:
1. The main obstacles in the way of attaining peace.
2. The current world’s events.
3. The plight of Yazidis and other minorities in Kurdistan region and Iraq.
4. The militarisation of the civil life, and the boundaries between war and peace.
4. Turkey and the Gezi Park protests.
5. Violence against women in Turkey.
The interview was conducted in English and published in Turkish.
OSK: What is the main obstacle in front of peace all over the world?
Widad: When it comes to the attainment of peace, we are facing not one but two obstacles. In my opinion, political instability and greed for power are the main obstacles to a lasting peace. In this context, the biggest problem we are facing is the peace approaches that have emerged in the last decades. The approaches taken have only managed to address the symptoms and that, in itself, has diverted the attention from the real causes of the conflicts. If we want to make a change in the lives of the millions of individuals affected by these conflicts we have to acknowledge the need to uncover the very causes of today’s conflicts. It is vital to name things by their names and bring them to light to cooperatively and collectively find suitable solutions, and thereby build a lasting peace on a solid foundation of human rights, justice, understanding, trust and respect.
OSK: As a peace activist, how would you evaluate the world’s condition in these days?
W: We are sadly going through a time of global instability and uncertainty. To define the scope of the problems, I would like to share some facts with you. A new study conducted by the Institute for Economics and Peace revealed a shocking truth, namely that only eleven countries in the world are currently not involved in conflict. This means that the majority of the world populations are not at peace. Further, the current conflicts threaten not only to destabilise regional security but also international security and sustainable development, which is depressing.
But even more depressing is the fact that there are currently over 16 million refugees who, risking their lives and the lives of their loved ones, have fled their homelands. In addition, over 27 million civilians have ended up being internally displaced within their countries. Overall, about 50 million individuals worldwide have been forcibly displaced as a direct result of persecution and/or national or trans-national conflicts. This estimate is the highest since WW2, but the actual number is believed to be higher because many displaced people have not yet been registered as refugees.
All these facts demonstrate that the world’s condition is dire and in urgent need for immediate attention from the global community.
OSK: Did you have a chance to follow the developments in Turkey? How would you evaluate the government’s and the police’s attitude during Gezi Park revolt?
W: Yes, I did and I can tell you I was saddened at many levels. As a human rights defender, it was my grave concern that the Turkish government had imposed new restrictions on human rights, including freedom of expression, association, freedom of the press, access to the Internet, as well as the legal processes that affected critical media groups, journalists, and the protestors who only wanted to exercise their basic human rights. The formation of the informal coalition in Turkey comprised of powerful media outlets and untouchable political figures will not benefit the Turkish society.
As a health professional, I was disturbed to see the police using tear gas and water cannon against peaceful demonstrators. To deploy thousands of riot police, water cannon and armoured vehicles against artists, civil society activists and intellectuals was not justified at all. It was a tragic turn of events to see civilians fell into coma as a direct result of inhaling tear gas. I recall the death of a 15-year-old boy who was in a coma after being hit by a tear-gas canister hurled by police. My thoughts were with the injured, the arrested and those who paid their lives to uphold human rights.
OSK: In Turkey, in the last years with the governmental steps, democracy, human rights and transperancy regressed. But the most important thing is that, the law, justice system is kind a vestigial. What is the importance of justice for creating and sustaining peace?
W: The recent developments in Turkey with the use of heavy-handed police tactics have been criticised abroad. As I mentioned, we were deeply concerned, observing the events in Gezi Park, to see that the government was not accountable to its people. The way in which the government dealt with the demonstrators illustrated the lack of an independent justice system that could hold the government to account and protect human rights. This threatens the ability to create a fair and well-functioning society. The protection of justice is vital because when justice is extended to everyone, the benefits will reach all sectors of society and the entire population will flourish and be able to live in peace and prosperity.
OSK: Do you think as the line between the military and the civil life bulures, the line between war and peace blures?
W: The more we rely on the military to solve our daily issues, the more we accept the militarisation of our daily lives and the closer we are to regard “violence” and the use of excessive force as the principal instrument to deal with any crisis, no matter how big or small. We risk to get used to see “war” scenes on a regular basis; the more boundaries we cross and the more steps we take in that direction, the less significant the civil society will become and suddenly, one day, we will discover that dialogue and democracy are terms in history books. As a result, the new generations will only master the language of violence and they may never enjoy the joy of peace and prosperity.
OSK: Violance against women is increasing all over the world? What are the reasons? In Turkey, crimes against women increased by 1.400 percent in 10 years. How would you evaluate the dramatic increase in Turkey?
W: The various forms of violence against women (VAW), such as sexual violence and domestic violence, are indeed major violations of women’s rights and constitute public health problems that require serious attention. Research on the causes of VAW focuses on a range of women’s civil, cultural, socio-economic, health and political rights. It is believed that factors contributing to widespread violence include but are not limited to gender inequality, low access to education for girls, exposure to abuse during childhood, child marriage, discrimination at work, inequality of land ownership, racial inequality and wealth inequality.
Since 2005, I have emphasised the importance of progress on women’s rights in Turkey and its neighboring countries. I am therefore disappointed by the failure to meet the commitments made to eliminate VAW, and the failure to make good on stated intentions to address honour killings and domestic violence once and for all. The dramatic increase you are talking about is a reflection of the lack of political will to (1) implement the existing laws on women’s rights, and (2) train the police forces on how to effectively handle reported cases of rape, honour killings and domestic violence. In general, mechanisms are needed to address mismanagement and corruption and to hold criminal suspects to account.
OSK: Yazidis are sieged by ISIS and the only help came from the Kurds in the Middle East, while the international communities are still in silence. Why are they still in silence?
W: First of all, I would like to thank all countries that have supported any minorities during the current crisis. I am forever grateful to anyone who has raised awareness about the Yazidis, the Christians and other minorities in the region, particularly those who are stimulating the debate and helping to ensure that the voice of those minorities reaches the world for the first time in history. My appreciation to all the local, regional and international agencies we are collaborating with to support the civilians affected by the ongoing crisis.
At the same time, I would like to emphasis that although some may think that the Yazidi tragedy was a human disaster that has been alleviated, the reports we’re recieving show that Yazidis are still suffering and that the humanitarian emergency continues to unfold. This crisis constitutes a threat to international security, and we therefore call on the international community to act immediately to ensure the safety and security of all civilians.
This is a crisis that deserves an international response. The plight of the Yazidis is a humanitarian disaster, and the world needs to make sure that the victims know they are not alone, that their loved ones still stranded on Mount Sinjar will be rescued. Apart from that, ISIS militias have kidnapped over 3,000 Yazidi women and girls in a fortnight. Without an international intervention, the victims face the bleak choice of:
- Converting and “marrying” one of ISIS militants or
- Indefinite imprisonment with daily rape by several men.
In other words, their future would be sexual slavery and slow death.
Sometimes, when faced with such crises, one may feel hopeless or overwhelmed by its complexity. But everyone has a role to play in ending the suffering of Yazidis. There are many ways we can show kindness to each other, and the time is now to do so. You can donate to charity, you can raise awareness, you can urge your political leadership to urge Qatar* secure the release of captured women and children by ISIS militias, you can send a warm wish to victims or you can express your empathy for the victims’ situation in the way you find suitable. No matter what you choose, you are showing your humanity and compassion.
*Qatar had successfully secured the release of the American journalist Peter Theo Curtis.