Thursday, May 27, 2010

SAVE Conference Update--the first two days...

On May 24, 15 women from Pakistan, Yemen, Northern Ireland, Palestine, Israel, Bosnia, Indonesia, India, and Somalia came together to start a week of intensive workshops to launch SAVE’s first global campaign: Mothers for Change! which seeks to empower and enable women to fight violent extremism on the front lines—in their homes and communities, where people may be hijacked by radical ideologies. In this training camp, the participating women—SAVE leaders and future facilitators—have already had the chance to learn about and model a variety of strategies for forming mothers groups in their home countries and to start dialogue processes to initiate understanding and conflict resolution.

The workshops are taking place in Carinthia, Austria, where the participants have the chance to create a shared group identity and develop a coordinated plan for the implementation of Mothers for Change! Despite the range of educational and professional backgrounds and the variety of ethnic and religious affiliations represented within the group, the determination of these women to transform their societies has brought them together in a common purpose.

The SAVE workshops offers a platform to women activists around the world to share and learn from each other. Representatives from Women Into Politics, an NGO in Northern Ireland, are leading the workshops to share the community-based strategies that they have developed to help bring together Catholic and Protestant groups in their country. Activists from Yemen and Pakistan have found commonalities in the challenges they face in societies with restricted women’s rights and low literacy rates, and they have been able to learn from each other and exchange ideas for the future. Other activists from Bosnia, Somalia, and Palestine are able to discuss crucial implementation strategies with their peers, such as reaching out to target groups, defining a clear mission, and moving from vision to reality.

These workshops also allow women the ability to offer fellowship and support across boundaries through both shared grief and hope. The participants are taking part in Storytelling workshops, which are process-oriented dialogue sessions for conflict resolution and reconciliation. The SAVE Sisters are being trained to be Storytelling facilitators, and they are learning how they can foster constructive dialogue in their countries and to reach out to vulnerable female populations through community education. In these ways, concerns about social, economic, and political stability are being paired with issues in the security realm in order to re-envision lasting solutions to global security problems. These new voices are critical to the development of alternative security solutions—to moving from ideological discourse on a theoretical level to tangible policy solutions that create change at the community level, utilizing female “Know How” and women’s central role in the family and civil society.

Friday, May 7, 2010

SAVE India Workshops, April 2010

On April 26, 2010, SAVE India launched two workshops for the wives, daughters, sisters, and mothers of the police constables who courageously protected lives during the 26/11 attacks. “Our Stories, Our Future” was a week-long empowerment workshop using “Storytelling” as a tool to begin to articulate personal encounters and to listen to the lived experiences of those impacted by violent extremism. Through the accompanying workshop “Swimming into the Future,” SAVE taught an important skill and built strong bonds of friendship between the participants. Swimming is used for confidence building and for getting comfortable with one’s own body.

You can see photos of the workshops below. Enjoy!

You can find out more at the following links!

The Ghost of Terrorism in Yemen, by Fahmia al Fotih'

The whole Yemeni society was rocked last week when a high-school graduate blew himself up in front of the British ambassador convoy. Thank God that the ambassador was not hurt—only three passersby were slightly injured. It might be true that such a horrific act is not the first of its kind in Yemen, but the reactions of Yemeni people were outraged by such a crime that is considered a new phenomenon for Yemenis.

This looming act has occupied all the daily newspapers, TV and Radio programs, and even in ordinary people's chit-chats. Indeed, it has replaced and put off the heated debates on child brides issue that have been the most controversial topic in Yemen for weeks.

The attack was condemned nationwide by all the Yemeni society segments alike. I still remember my grandma' reaction: she held her head between her hands and exclaimed, "That young boy must be insane! He is going to hell!" At the moment, a group of students have started touring seven governorates to raise awareness about the threat that terrorism is posing among youth.

It might be true that the violent act was not the first of its kind in Yemen, but in a way it was surprising. People here were all caught up in and overwhelmed by their own problems, which has forced them to unconsciously forget about al-Qaeda and terrorists. But such time-to-time violent acts come to wake them up and remind them about the ghost that haunts us and which is more fatal!!

Until now, nobody has claimed the responsibility of the attack despite the fact that Yemeni security bodies have confirmed that the attack had al-Qaeda style. But I doubt that as first, the attacker had primitive explosive materials and second, we did not hear anything from al-Qaeda. If it was al-Qaeda, they would be boasting about it!!! It is not al-Qaeda style!! That increases our fears and worries.

Even more, it becomes obvious that it is difficult to identify what a terrorist looks like! I was staring into the photo of the young suicide bomber examining his facial features in attempt to find criminal hints. I have always thought that criminals and terrorists have “bad guy” marks and that they could be more or less recognized by their facial expressions and characteristics (I guess I am very much influenced by the bad guys in Hollywood movies). But Othman's face, the suicide bomber, had the same innocent features that I see in the majority of young people of his age! Carrying the school bag and pretending to jog had added more innocence to his character on the day of attack. That is why, I think, the master terrorists chose him for this dreadful act.

I have been reading and reading all the news related to Othman’s life and trying to analyze all stories that talked about Othman’s life. He excelled in his studies (usually terrorists tend to target and recruit smart young people). His father said that he did not know his son's friends and Othman used to spend periods away from home. It seems that there was a stage when there was no communication between the son and his parents. With whom did Othman stay in Marib, where he was supposedly trained as a terrorist? How did he end up in Marib? For sure, Othman must have gone through stages of radicalization. If a correct intervention was made at any stage, Othman might have not chosen the radical path that led to death. Othman's friends say that he did not have the guts to kill a fly!!! How was he then able to go and explode himself? Othman, according to the news, did not trigger the explosive but somebody else did it from far away.

Yet still I feel there is something missing and nobody can explain except for the ones who were close to him, like his mother. I am curious to meet his mother and learn more about him. It is essential to know and study the details and lives of these suicide bombers so we can learn how to protect more young people.

Without a doubt, there are many factors intertwined here. It is not just the family role here, there is also Othman's institute, which happens to be AL-Eman University, which is believed to be the extremists' academia. Was it a coincidence? It was reported that even the department which Othman was attending is teaching Islamic teachings and Shara'iah! The violent act carried out by one of its graduates has nothing to do with Islam. One of the core teachings of Islam is that life is valued, and taking one's own life is one of the biggest sins. Besides, the one who kills himself is guilty of a big crime.

There are ample misunderstandings about jihad and about Islam, and the majority of mosques reinforce these misconceptions. Add to that an educational curriculum that is full of jihad and calling for violence instead of highlighting the peaceful side of Islam that calls for tolerance and respecting the other. There is a dire need for overall reform for our school curricula, and our mosques need open-minded and tolerant preachers.

Yemenis already have enough problems and such violent acts only worsen the situation and make it more complicated. Strengthening security measures and carrying preemptive actions are not enough to dry up the terrorism sources and end up radicalization.

The attack of course has spread fear and terror among the foreigners as well as Yemenis but at the same time this case poses a number of question marks and challenges. Parents find themselves in a puzzle. Some wonder what the hell makes these young people finish their lives in a second at an age when they are just blossoming! Most importantly, parents start to seriously question how they can protect their young and their beloved ones from the ghost of terrorism and from falling in the hands of terrorists! Many questions that just leave one wondering: when will the day come when we can all live in a terror-free world?

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Triangle of Peacebuilding, by Lily Zakiyah Munir

Women, faith, and peace are crucial elements of a peacebuilding process. A woman with faith and peace is a powerful force in peacebuilding both at home and in public. A mother of a peaceful home radiates love and peace to her loved ones in the family. It goes along with an Arabic saying, “Family is the first school in one’s life.” A mother is the first teacher who will lay the foundation for her children’s future. The natural blood bond between a mother and a child is fundamental for this purpose.

However, this important role will not materialize if the mother is entangled in a violent situation in her family. Domestic violence has an unimaginable and multi-pronged impact on women. Dehumanized, helpless, deprived, worthless, inferior—these are some of the adjectives that can illustrate the feelings of a victim of domestic violence. It is no surprise, therefore, that peace has been declared as a prerequisite for women to achieve equality and development. This trilogy of equality, peace, and development was coined back in 1985 in Nairobi as a forward-looking strategy for the advancement of women. This momentum was preceded by the decade for women in 1975-1985. The spirit of equality, development, and peace was reinforced in Beijing in 1995, where 35,000 women from all over the world gathered and expressed their solidarity and mutual support for each other in a global sisterhood.

Now, how is faith related with women and peace? Faith is like a double-edged sword. It can be a source of inspiration for peace and peacebuilding. But it can also be hijacked to crush peace. Islam, for example, literally means “peace and submission.” The religion is laden with teachings on peace, tolerance, respect for diversity, freedom of religion, equality of all human beings, and more. But these teachings are not always manifested in the lives of the Muslims. Thus, there are people who claim to be Muslims but do not implement Islamic values and principles on peace.

The gap between Islamic teachings and their reality is also found in the area of women and gender. There are numerous verses in the Qur’an which are explicit about women’s equal status with men as well as women’s rights and their obligations in both public and private spheres. But these teachings that would serve to emancipate women do not seem to be internalized and absorbed in the minds of many Muslims. Their mindsets, often shaped by patriarchal cultures, are too resistant to discern new progressive ideas regarding women.

Women, constituting half of humankind, cannot be left neglected. We need to tap into their potential as valuable resources. Along with other advances, women have moved forward from passive recipients of peace to becoming active agents of peacebuilding. The important role of women in peace building is recognized globally as stated in the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325.

Women worldwide, stand up! Fight against oppression and injustices. With your active role, our dream for peace will come true…

Lily Zakiyah Munir is a noted Islamic scholar and activist in Indonesia as well as the founding member of SAVE Indonesia. In Indonesia, she is the director of the Center for Pesantren and Democracy Studies (CePDeS), an NGO which she co-founded in 2003. CePDeS envisions the birth of progressive Muslim leaders through democracy and human rights education in Muslim society. SAVE Indonesia, which has mobilized several hundred students against violence and terrorism to date, and maintains their network through monthly reunion meetings. Lily started the youth camps “because of deep concerns about the violence which has emerged using religious doctrines and dogmas mainly targeted at youth. We hope these camps will give birth to a new generation of Indonesian youth who will internalize the values of love, peace, and appreciation of diversity.” You can find more of Lily's work here. For more information about Women without Borders or SAVE, you can visit us on the web at, follow us on Twitter at, and join us on Facebook!

Flash Points: Edit Schlaffer presents SAVE on CBS