WLUML statement on the first anniversary of September 11th

WLUML notices with dismay that the attention of the international mainstream media is focused on a single event that, although tragic and condemnable, overwhelms all of the other issues which remain to be addressed and resolved.
A year ago, in our statement, WLUML highlighted the need to address the poverty and deprivation, injustice and exploitation experienced by many people in our communities which we know fuels extreme and violent attitudes. It is also our experience that women and marginalized groups bear the brunt of economic inequalities and politico-religious extremism.
Over the past year, with the exception of networking efforts led by feminist and progressive human rights organizations, there has been no sincere effort on the part of world leaders to build bridges and break down the divisions both within and across communities and countries. If anything, these divisions have been strengthened by the misguided retaliation to the events of September 11th.

Vengeance is indeed not Justice

Under the guise of bringing the perpetrators of terrorist acts to justice, the US led coalition has taken a hypocritical, futile and devastating militaristic approach which has been particularly visible with regard to Afghanistan and Iraq as well as in their response to the situation in Palestine/Israel.

While the Taliban are no longer in power, the US led coalition has installed a government which is dominated by warlords whose record on human rights and treatment of women is little better. This was not a war to 'save Afghan women' as illustrated by the case of Sima Samar, the Minister of Women's Affairs of the Afghan Interim Administration. When a case of blasphemy was recently filed against her it was a clear warning that all those who spoke out for a peaceful, just and democratic Afghanistan would be silenced. Powerful forces continue to resist the creation of space for women's political participation and for the participation of those who do not have the backing of weapons.

The promised reconstruction of Afghanistan has not started. The combined impact of a continuing lack of security, local corruption and the disruptive effect of the UN and donor agencies flooding the local economy means that it continues to be in disarray. Children are not returning to school either because their teachers are not being paid or, for example, boys are contributing to their family's survival by washing UN cars. The lack of economic welfare may well lead to Afghans once again looking to other alternatives, including the Taliban. Furthermore, plans for the country's future economic development are entirely geared towards the exploitation of the country and its population by multi-nationals.

The prospect of an attack on Iraq is horrifying for a number of reasons. There is an ongoing humanitarian disaster in the country, condemned by Denis Halliday who in 1998 resigned as first UN Assistant Secretary General and Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq stating, "We are in the process of destroying an entire society. It is as simple and terrifying as that. It is illegal and immoral." Any military attack on Iraq will exacerbate the loss of civilian lives without achieving its purported aim. Moreover such a move would inevitably lead to a backlash among politico-religious groups across Muslim countries and communities. This will surely increase terrorism globally and worsen the condition of women locally.

After September 11th numerous promises were made to address the escalation of violence in Palestine/Israel. However, in Israel an extreme Right government remains in power while the legitimate protest and struggle of the Palestinians continues to be hijacked by extreme right fundamentalist forces. We know from experience that the rise of such forces will inevitably work against the interests of people, especially minorities and women in Palestine.

WLUML fails to understand how this militaristic approach, symbolized by the biggest increase in the US military budget for two decades, can lead to global peace and stability.

Misguided Retaliation/Misguided Alliances

In order to build an hegemonic 'global coalition' in the war against the 'axis of evil', the US and Britain have struck deals involving arms, intelligence and cash with regimes in the Middle East, Asia, Central Asia and Europe. This effectively means supporting regimes that are alienated from their people, a reality that is systematically exploited by the leaders of extremist politico-religious groups.

In September 2001, WLUML noted the moves towards sweeping restrictions on civil liberties under the guise of the crisis. Indeed, highly restrictive legislation has been cynically revived or introduced in order to silence all those who question state policies - even when these are unrelated to the 'war on terror'. This disregard for human rights principles at the state level is being reflected at the international level by the US-led coalition's complete disregard for the rule of international law. For example, it has attempted to undermine the establishment of an International Criminal Court and to sideline the United Nations.


There is no indication that the past year has seen any reduction in the threat of terrorism. On the contrary, the 'war against terror' has fuelled resentment, leading to the radicalisation and increased recruitment by politico-religious extremists of people in Muslim countries and communities. This has both global and local consequences. In the aftermath of September 11th, WLUML has witnessed a narrowing of the space available to voice alternative and secular perspectives. Racism against 'the other' - whether 'Muslims' or 'Arabs' in the diaspora, or 'Westerners' in Muslim countries and communities - has steadily increased, both at the state and non-state level. Women as the bearers of identity have been particularly vulnerable. Politico-religious groups have used all this as an opportunity to further legitimise their extremist discourse and actions as confirmed by the growth in indiscriminate violence against progressive voices of dissent. Women are particularly vulnerable to such developments as illustrated in various countries where there have been recent sentences of stoning to death of women (even if subsequently overturned) or attempts to introduce Hudud laws which seek to control women’s bodily integrity and rights.

Whether violence is perpetrated by state or non-state actors women are left to face the consequences - nothing in the past year has addressed this.