An intense experience

IssueDecember 2001 - February 2002
Comment by Coskun Usterci

I was attending a Council meeting of the War Resisters' International (WRI) for the first time and I thought, as many participants did, that the council meeting would be an opportunity to discuss our views, particularly in light of the threat of war.

But the discussions about this during the council meeting were short, due to a lack of time, and I was disappointed that it was mostly financial and administrative issues that were discussed. While this was how I felt then, I realised that when we went back to Izmir our discussions at the Council meeting had opened up our vision.

On the first day back in Izmir, we, as ISKD members (Izmir War Resisters), took part in a press conference together with various professional organisations, unions, associations and political parties and during the meeting after the press conference, we formed a coalition against war with them. One decision taken as the coalition was to initiate a campaign to collect signatures against the war using stalls in various parts of Izmir. Inspired by tales of a “listening project” heard at the council meeting, we talked to people at these petition stalls and collected signatures against war. At the very beginning of the seminar sessions I was worried because the world's agenda had changed completely. I was wondering whether the “Turkey-specific” topics would attract the attention of participants. It was too late to update the content of the programme.

But my fears were unnecessary. The excitement of participants at the opening session continued until the very last day with the same intensity. Antimilitarists who came from countries far away from each other and from different cultures soon became friends, despite language problems, and produced great ideas together.

I can't tell you about all the good and exciting projects put forward during the workshops at the seminar after the council meeting. But I do want to mention the discussions we had at the workshop dealing with globalisation.

We felt that the peace movement was already a part of the movement against globalisation, but also realised that the peace movement isn't actually very involved in anti-globalisation actions. We identified two important reasons why peace groups should take more active part in the anti- globalisation movement.

Firstly, resistance against globalisation - as enforced by capitalism and militarism - should produce an alternative, and nonviolence can be the philosophical basis of this alternative. Thus it is for peace groups to carry the idea of nonviolence to the anti-globalisation movement. Secondly, the movement against globalisation has great potential: it appears to be the most dynamic oppositional force - when “traditional” movements are very weak and some of the “new social groups” such as the “greens” have been absorbed into the system. In short, peace groups should make use of the dynamism of the anti-globalisation movement in working towards the success of the antimilitarist struggle.

For me the most exciting suggestion from the meeting was the idea of a peace caravan: a big caravan carrying peace activists which would travel around the world. The activists in the caravan would make contact with peace groups and the public everywhere they travelled and would try to spread the idea of peace through nonviolence training and seminars.

I imagined the peace caravan passing through Turkey carrying peace activists from all the neighbouring countries with which Turkey is in some kind of conflict. Even this was enough for me to espouse the idea, though we will need to take a long and exhausting journey to further develop this project and solve the financial problems.