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Forum in Minneapolis, MN

Anti-War Activists Say No to U.S. Wars Against Women

by Meredith Aby-Keirstead and Brandi Bauer |
October 1, 1999
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Postering at night
Minneapolis anti-war activists post flyers that say "Wanted: Bill Clinton and Madeline Albright for genocide in Iraq and Yugoslavia." (Fight Back! News\Brandi Bauer)

Minneapolis, MN - On August 19, some 60 people gathered at Todos Los Santos Church for "Women on the Frontlines: the First Causalities of War," an Anti-War Committee forum on the human impact of U.S. policies towards Iraq, Colombia, and Yugoslavia.

After hearing speakers address the effects of war on women, activists called on the highest female government official, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, to take responsibility for her actions against women across the globe. Contrary to the view of liberal U.S.-based women's organizations, forum participants see Albright's role as anti-woman.

One audience member, Maraeka Hoover, commented, "The speakers were great and the forum was really informative. I really enjoyed Nina's [from Yugoslavia] speech. It was really inspirational because she spoke so honestly."

Forum speakers say that the reality of war is covered up by mainstream media. And, they said, when US wars target civilians, women are the hardest hit.

Layla Asamurai, of Life for Relief and Development, said the US war of bombings and sanctions has been a massive setback for women in Iraq. Before the war, Iraqi women were well-educated and had equal employment opportunities to men.

Sanctions have destroyed most of the economy, and jobs are almost impossible for both men and women to find. Women have been the first to lose their jobs due to lay offs, the need for a family member to stay with a dying loved one, or because making ends meet has become a full-time job.

The health care crisis in Iraq has killed 1.7 million people, the vast majority are women and their children.

Another speaker said that the US has a quieter, but central role in the oppression of Colombian women.

"In January, Congress allocated 300 million dollars in military aid to Colombia. The amount keeps adding up, and Colombia is the third largest recipient of U.S. military aid in the world, said Jennifer Molina, a student activist from the University of Minnesota. She said that U.S. military aid to the Colombian government fuels the civil war in her country.

According to Molina, "The burden of maintaining families ravaged by the warfare is left to women." The U.S.-funded civil war has forced some 1.5 million people to flee their homes. Molina says, "Women refugees have no sources of employment, housing, food, clothing or health care, and their children receive no education."

Nina Vukovith, who volunteers with a refugee assistance program at Saint Sava Serbian Eastern Orthodox Church, focused on the impact of US wars on women refugees from Yugoslavia.

The recent wars in Yugoslavia have left many widows with children. When these women are forced to immigrate, to the U.S. for example, Vukovith says they face the challenge of supporting their children in a culture that requires English, transportation, and a dual income.

She criticized Madeleine Albright, comparing her to garbage. Vukovith says she is sickened by Albright's role in U.S. foreign policy, as a diplomat and as a woman.

A banner reading, "Madeleine Albright you can't hide, we charge you with genocide in Iraq, Colombia and Yugoslavia," was signed by all who attended and will be sent to the Secretary of State when it's full.