WLUML statement on the war on Iraq

Within hours American and British military forces are expected to attack Iraq in a war that has no international legal sanction.
Within hours American and British military forces are expected to attack Iraq in a war that has no international legal sanction. It is a war that is condemned by millions of people across the world, including a very substantial portion of the American and British populations, who feel diplomatic avenues and peaceful measures have not been fully explored.
The network Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML) expresses its deepest opposition to this illegitimate and illegal war, which it feels will cause long-term damage to the chances for global peace, the upholding of the rule of law and international consensus-building. It will have particularly negative consequences for the cause of women’s rights in Muslim countries and communities.

WLUML also extends its solidarity to the Iraqi people, already suffering under the combined weight of dictatorship, sanctions and ongoing aerial bombardment. They will undoubtedly be the main victims of the military campaign, the subsequent anticipated humanitarian and ecological disasters, and inevitable political upheaval in their country.

The role of the American, British and other governments in keeping Saddam Hussain in power and in arming him with devastating weapons must not be forgotten. Their abandonment of the struggles of the Kurdish people and other minorities in Iraq must also not be forgotten. Any government's claim to be acting out of a desire to limit the global spread of weapons of mass destruction and concern for the rights of all Iraqi peoples must be questioned in the light of geo-strategic interests. The US administration’s linkages with transnational oil interests are well-known, as is the fact that USAID has already cynically invited tenders from US companies for the post-war reconstruction of Iraq.

WLUML fails to understand how a military campaign, inevitably accompanied by internal chaos, will ensure that whatever weapons of mass destruction, if any, held by the Iraqi regime will fall into ‘safe’ hands. The safest hands were those of UN weapons inspectors who have now been forced to leave Iraq under the threat of an impending US-led attack. If such weapons do indeed exist, the bombing of Iraqi military installations will surely mean that they are detonated, which is what the war is supposedly attempting to prevent.

At the time of the US-led bombing campaign in Afghanistan, the world was promised concrete efforts towards a Middle East peace settlement in order to lessen global opposition to the campaign. This peace settlement is nowhere in sight while the situation worsens day by day. Nor has regime change in Afghanistan brought peace to areas outside Kabul, where internecine fighting continues and human rights abuses appear to be increasing again. Last week the world community dismissed US President Bush’s latest announcements regarding Israel and Palestine. This shows that the world will not be diverted by false promises and will continue to oppose the US-led subversion of all international and humanitarian norms.

Above all, WLUML is deeply concerned with the long-term impact of these events, and especially the cause of women's rights in Muslim countries and communities. This will not only deeply damage future prospects for women’s rights but undermine all previous gains they have made through years of struggle.

In many of the countries linked through the network, we have seen how the US and British governments’ response to the September 11 outrages have actually strengthened the extremist misuse of religion for political gain. For the first time in Pakistan’s history in 2002, politico-religious parties were elected to head provincial governments and immediately began threatening to curtail the activities of women’s development organisations and to introduce policies that would limit female education opportunities. Extremists were similarly strengthened in contexts as diverse as Uzbekistan, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Mali and Nigeria. In all such contexts the space for democratic discussion and diversity of identities has narrowed, and in each of these contexts women have been a prime target.

As witnessed in the aftermath of September 11 the threat came not only from such extremist forces but governments across the world who were opportunistic and exploited the situation to crack down on all internal dissent. There are now concerns that governments, notably that of Israel, may again take advantage of the world’s attention being focused in other areas to carry out oppressive agendas otherwise likely to draw strong international criticism.

Against this background, a war in Iraq can only further strengthen those extremist forces who seek to manipulate religion for their own political ends, making peace and social justice an ever more distant dream.