Reflections on a one-week meeting

IssueDecember 2001 - February 2002
Comment by Ferda Ulker, Coskun Usterci

The War Resisters' meeting may have had two parts - Council and seminar - but most of the themes discussed throughout the week were common to both: anti-militarism, conscientious objection, nonviolence, women in the anti-militarist movement, feminism, and the gay and lesbian movement.

The Council meeting of the War Resisters' International (WRI), which takes place in a different country each year, lasted for three days, followed by four days of seminars and workshops which took place under the title of “Anti-militarism and Feminism in Turkey: Practice and Ideology”. As the meetings took place right after the attack against the US on 11 September, the number-one topic was the winds of war that were blowing in the world. Throughout the week we talked about the impending war and about what we could do together.

The WRI Council meeting was routine for most of the participants, while it was new for about ten people from Turkey who participated as observers. Participants from Chile, Serbia and Georgia presented their country's reports in a general meeting which helped us all to get an idea of the local work they were involved in and the conditions experienced in those countries.

Co-operation and solidarity

During the week the WRI Women's Working Group and Anti-Militarist Feminists (an-fem) from Turkey met for the first time. For an-fem, which is a new group, the exchange of experiences was very important. Two concrete actions were agreed following a discussion about what kind of cooperation and solidarity the two groups might have: an-fem would be the editor of the next issue of the WRI Women bulletin. The other was for cooperative work to be carried out regarding the draft law on military service for women in Turkey, which was being discussed in the Turkish Parliament. Although we spent most of each day working, we all felt the pressure of the limited time available to us. Naturally, the first steps for many tasks will be developed through future communication. In the aftermath of this one-week international meeting, our conviction to “learn English” got stronger. I appreciated the patience and self-sacrifice of the interpreters!

Hope in nonviolence

The workshop that looked for an answer to whether nonviolence was a possible strategy in Turkey gave some hope for the future. This was nice because we didn't know exactly what the reaction of participants from Turkey would be, people usually show resistance to the concept of nonviolence. But the answer from most of the Turkish participants was either “possible” or “difficult but necessary” or “not possible but desirable”, which strengthened our hope for future. Most of the workshops were productive and ended with concrete proposals, unless the expectations were too high!

Strengthening our vision

On the last day of an exhausting week participants were still trying to open discussion on points they felt important. It indicated to me how important such meetings are, despite the difficulties in organising them. The energy and motivation we got as individuals from the international solidarity strengthened our vision and hopes for the future.

At a critical point we gathered as war resisters, talking about the “impending war”. Now while we are shouting “Say No!” to war on the streets, we feel the strength provided and renewed by the one-week meeting.