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Women in Black

Seattle Women in Black -
is part of an international network of women who stand in silent vigil, calling for peace, justice and non-violent solutions to conflict.  The group has been standing in vigil at Westlake Park in downtown Seattle for over three years

Any woman who strives for peace and justice is  welcome to join us any Thursday, 5-6 pm, wearing black/dark clothes.  Please keep silence unless you are leafletting.

Men in support of Women in Black are welcome to leaflet (1 or 2 at once) or to stand silently in a group beside the women's vigil.

For more information about schedules and policies, please email seattlewomeninblack@speakeasy.org


An Overview of Women in Black
by Shelley Anderson,
director of the Women's Peacemaking Program of the International Fellowship of Reconciliation.

Networking:  the international women's peace movement called Women In Black is an example of its power.   This informal organization, with no centralized offices or leaders, links women in countries as far apart as Israel, India, Yugoslavia, the UK, Indonesia, Spain, Azerbaijan, Italy, the USA, Turkey, Germany, Denmark, and Canada.

The group's approach is simple and direct.   Participating women stand publicly in silence, dressed in black as a sign of mourning for lives lost to violence.  And they don't go away.

These actions first started in 1988, when Israeli women began lining busy streets, holding signs protesting the Israeli occupation of Palestine.  The women's persistence attracted media attention.  Using e-mail, these original Women in Black linked with sympathetic groups around the world, and so created a wider and wider network.  On June 8, 2001, to mark thirty-four years of Israel's occupation, Women in Black called for vigils all over the world.  Women and men in over 150 towns and cities, from Chicago to Melbourne, Toronto to Tel Aviv, responded with demonstrations.

The key to the success of the June 8 action was flexibility - the time and place were decided by local organizers - and broad outreach.  "The principle is simple, and can be done by one person or a group.   "What we have in common is End the Israeli Occupation," wrote Women in Black Israel.  "The more vigils equal the more impressive the media coverage equals the more the political leadership around the world will get the message."

The approach has spread to causes outside the Palestine issue.  On October 9, 1991, women in Belgrade began a sustained public nonviolent protest against the wars throughout the former Yugoslavia.  By the year 2001, Women in Black Belgrade had organized more than 400 protests in Belgrade and elsewhere in Serbia and Montenegro.  The actions included various May 24 International Women's Day for Peace and Disarmament events, such as the peace performance We pace slowly in order to get there safely held in Belgrade's Republic Square.

In 1993, women in New York City began a monthly vigil in solidarity with Women in Black Belgrade.  Women in Black in London organized speaking tours for survivors of the Srebrenica massacre and protested against sanctions against Iraq.  Women in Black in Bangalore raised public awareness about the traffic in women and girls.

We are women acting on the streets

This persistent public resistance to war and injustice has attracted support from different quarters.  In 2001, Women in Black International received the Millennium Peace Prize for Women.  Stasa Zajovic from Women in Black Belgrade accepted the award in recognition of "...our international Women in Black network.  Recognition of our nonviolent resistance to war and militarism, recognition of our disloyalty to all nation states, our civil disobedience against war.  This prize is also recognition for our alternative women's politics outside establishment and official spheres.  We are women acting on the streets.   That's precisely why this prize instills hope in the possibility of transforming international institutions."

Also in 2001, eight Danish and Norwegian parliamentarians nominated Women in Black for the Nobel Peace Prize.  Women in Black in Israel and Serbia were chosen to represent the network.  Women in Black Belgrade were the first in Serbia to reach out to ethnic Albanians in Kosovo/a, while the group in Israel has always insisted on dialogue and reconciliation.  All Women in Black groups around the world represent an inclusive vision of peace that rejects sexism and racism.

In response to the threat of US military retaliation against Afghanistan, Women in Black groups in Italy, Germany, the UK, Spain, Denmark and elsewhere held antiwar vigils on September 26.  Many members of Women in Black in New York City wore black headscarves to show solidarity with Muslim women who have been harassed in revenge for the September 11 terrorist attacks.  They passed out a flyer which called on the Bush administration to "step back" from war.   It stated, "We mourn the dead and feel deep sympathy with the bereaved and injured.  Those who perpetrated the violence must be brought to justice under international law."

Women in Black groups operate independently but get a sense of strength in being connected through e-mail lists and personal contacts with women peace activists across the world.  To foster this sense of strength and solidarity, in 1992 Women in Black Belgrade started organizing international meetings.   Some 250 women from sixteen countries attended the tenth anniversary meeting of the anti-militarist network, held August 23-26, 2001 in Novi Sad.  After participants were greeted by the mayor, Nada Bregun, the conference began with an overview of the history of Women in Black's first decade.  There were plenary sessions and twenty workshops on topics such as Macedonia, trafficking in women, feminism, and militarism.

The network is growing stronger.   Unfortunately, current events show that it is needed now more than ever.  In September, faced with US preparations for war against Afghanistan, Women in Black groups throughout Europe, India, the USA, and Canada wrote to world leaders, saying:

   A war waged by the US and its allies will cause the death of many innocent people, will destabilize many governments and societies, and its long-term effects on relations between and regions of the world will be disastrous.
   Terrorism cannot be defeated by such means.  We have to ask why so many people around the world have felt mixed feelings in response to the suffering of the USA.   While poverty and hunger, injustice and exploitation, are experienced by so many, and the policies of the rich countries are seen as contributing to them, genuine despair will sometimes turn to desperation, and will fuel terrorism.
   We urge all political and military authorities, national and international, to turn away from strategies of war and combine their efforts in seeking strategies for an inclusive, just and equal global society.  Without that, we will never see peace.

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