Open letter to Christiane Taubira, French justice minister

We are writing to you because we are sure, like us, you were deeply shocked when you heard of the assassinations in Paris of three Kurdish women human rights and peace activists on 9 January 2013; and furthermore because we are aware of your dedicated work for the rights of women, minorities and other marginalised peoples.

Sakine Cansiz, Fidan Dogan and Leyla Soylemez were shot in the middle of the afternoon at the Kurdish Information Centre in Paris, in a building under 24-hour surveillance by the French authorities and in circumstances that would suggest the murders were well-planned and undertaken by a professional killer.

Each of the women was well known and well-loved as an active member of the movement for Kurdish liberation in Turkey.

Sakine, Fidan and Leyla were part of a long and important tradition of Kurdish women’s liberation, which has always been intimately tied to the struggle for Kurdish self-determination.

It is a cruel injustice that Sakine, Fidan and Leyla, members of a vanguard women’s movement that integrates Kurdish women’s liberation with the struggle for social democratisation, were killed just days after peace talks with the Turkish government were announced. That same week, Turkish military operations were expanded across the southeast of the country and in the Kurdish regions of Iraq, in flagrant violation of international law.

We ask that you please ensure that the authorities charged with investigating the murders carry out a complete and thorough investigation. We ask that you ensure that the co-responsibility of the French state in the assassinations, wherever it is proved to exist, be presented to the public.

We ask also that the systematic criminalisation of Kurds in France, which is the context in which these murders have taken place, be finally put to an end.

We would also hope that you will use your influence to encourage the other European governments to support a peace process that goes beyond simple demands for disarmament and instead recognises the needs and efforts of all Kurdish people who are involved in the movement for civil, political, economic and gender rights.

Finally, we would hope that you are able to show support for Kurdish women who are the leading actors in this long struggle for Kurdish liberation.

With our best wishes,

Margaret Owen, director Widows for Peace and Democracy (WPD) and patron of Peace in Kurdistan Campaign; Mary Davis, professor of Labour History, and patron; baroness Helena Kennedy QC; Gillian Slovo, novelist; Jean Lambert MEP; Jill Evans MEP; Caroline Lucas MP; Annette Lawson, chair, National Alliance of Women’s Organisations; Gareth Peirce, human rights lawyer; Martha Jean Baker, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom; and 100 other women.

Peace in Kurdistan Campaign and others

Paz paco pace paghidait

Do you speak/know a rare or unusual language? My ongoing research translates ‘peace’, and some other words, into as many languages as possible.

The aim is to keep a permanent database, and also to construct banners in the future with peace words from different languages. The project has been running since 1995.

If you would like to help, please email me at the address below stating the word, the name of the language, and if possible the country/countries or region where the language is spoken.

Joan Baez wrote an essay in which an alien comes to Earth, and a general wants to find out about the aliens’ (military!) technology. Finally, the general says: ‘But you still haven’t said anything about WAR!’

The alien says: ‘What is war?’


Karl Sadil, PeaceWords


Last Saturday I went to Waddington to protest about drones and I took the opportunity to ask a number of people whether they knew where Britain’s nuclear weapons are designed and made. 

Of course, the results are anecdotal but I was shocked to find that many of these people, all of whom were against nukes, had no idea where we make our bombs.

When prompted, most of them knew the word ‘Aldermaston’, but had no idea what was made there. I wonder whether it is important for them to know what is made at AWE [the atomic weapons establishment]?

I reckon that more than two-thirds of the people I spoke to did not know where Britain’s bombs are made – their guesses ranged from Brighton to Faslane, taking in Derby.

They were all pleased to have information about Action AWE, and to hear about the Wool Against Weapons project, pink knitting to make a long piece to stretch seven miles from Burghfield [also part of AWE] to Aldermaston in 2014.

We have a really big task to get people to realise what goes on just west of Reading and the horror of it. Or do we just ask MPs not to vote for renewal even if they have no idea where we make these horror bombs?

Action AWE: www.actionawe.org

Wool Against Weapons: www.woolagainstweapons.co.uk 

Sarah Lasenby, Oxford


I am puzzled by Pete Laurman’s letter (‘Mightier than the demo’, PN 2557). Does he really think MPs bother to read letters from us hoi polloi? (Especially when many are sent as part of a campaign?) 

Or is his suggestion that we so fill the Westminster waste-paper baskets that there are insufficient dustcarts in London to clear them?

I can see that the latter possibility might have a use (though the necessary tree devastation would be worrying) but think that, on the whole, William Morris’s implied suggestion — ‘The Westminster Dunghouse’ — would appear more effective as well as greener.

Laurens Otter, Wellington