General panorama of Conscientious Objection in the World

Presentation at the "International Meeting of Solidarity for Conscientious Objection in Colombia", Bogota, 18-20 July 2006


It is difficult to give a panorama of the right to conscientious objection within the available time - the world is big, and situations are quite different. Conscientious objection in Western Europe for example means something very different from conscientious objection in Eritrea, or South Korea, or Israel, or Russia, or Latin America. And you all know that even within Latin America situations vary, and it is hard to compare Paraguay with its more than 100,000 conscientious objectors with the situation here in Colombia.

Solidarity with war resisters in Turkey

Presentation at the international seminar "Unarmed Resistance: the transnational factor", Coventry, 15 July 2006

Introduction I myself am involved in supporting the Turkish war resisters movement since about 1995. This presentation is based on my own experience and discussions I had in the last 10 years with Turkish activists. It is therefore very subjective, and all views expressed are mine, and not the ones of the Turkish war resisters.

Reclaim the Bases

I want to talk about resistance to military bases in Britain, but will also say a few words about Spain. This might be surprising, but maybe it is less so when I explain my own role in this. I am not only working at War Resisters' International1 in London – an international network of pacifist and antimilitarist groups – but I am also part of the nonviolent direct action group D102, which was instrumental in setting up the network Reclaim The Bases3 in Britain. This network goes back to early 2003, before the start of the war on Iraq. The first call to reclaim the bases was taken up by War Resisters' International internationally, and was especially taken up by Alternativa Antimilitarista-MOC4 in Spain, with actions happening annually ever since.

One more fig leaf for the state

Why the Ministry for Peace is a particularly stupid idea

In PN 2472 Eddy Canfor-Dumas makes the case for a Ministry for Peace as part of the government. However, it seems he is so deeply rooted in government thinking that he does not even feel a need to explain why a ministry should be a good idea. We have ministries for everything that we (we? - or the government?) think is important, and obviously, peace is important, so we need a ministry as “part of government dedicated to pursuing and promoting peace”?

Celebrate, for now

Good news for a change from Turkey: on 9 March, gay Turkish conscientious objector Mehmet Tarhan was unexpectedly released from the military prison in Sivas, following an order by the Military Court of Appeal in Ankara. The reasons for his release remain unclear, but one possibility is that, even if finally sentenced, Mehmet Tarhan would be unlikely to serve more time in prison than he already has (he was arrested on 6 April 2005, and has spent almost a year in prison).

Socialism for the 21st century?

From 23 to 29 January the "policentric" World Social Forum (WSF) was held in Caracas in Venezuela, the country of president Hugo Chavez's "Bolivarian Revolution". No surprise then that the WSF received organisational and financial support from Venezuelan state institutions -- almost all ministries and the Metropolitan police, plus the nationalised state oil company PDVSA -- and that Chavez addressed the forum, and used it for one of his usual anti-imperialist speeches.
However, not everything is bright in the Bolivarian Revolution -- especially when you come from an antimilitarist background -- and the small but beautiful Alternative Social Forum, organised by Venezuelan Libertarians and anarchists -- and which took place in parallel to the state-sponsored event -- provided space for a more critical discussion of present day Venezuela.

Revolutionary impatience?

A group of seven war tax resisters — the Peace Tax Seven — are about to commence legal action against the British government by seeking a High Court judicial review of the policy of compulsory military taxation. Some in the peace movement have argued that this approach is not only doomed to failure, but also that it could end up doing more harm than good. Eager to learn more, PeaceNews asked the two sides to put their case. This is what they said:

Demilitarisation in the global context

When I got involved in the peace movement, back in the early 1980s in Germany, there was a sticker that was very popular. It read "Imagine there is a war and nobody joins"[1]

Of course, this is very naive, but still the idea is important, and it also it points to the important fact that every war is fought by people - human beings who could also make a different decision and "not join". My organisation, War Resisters' International, was founded back in 1921 to support people who don't want to join a war - conscientious objectors, war resisters, and deserters. But "not joining" goes beyond the mere refusal to fight, to join the military. War means that an entire society is organised to go to war - it is a mindset, and it includes participation on all levels of society.

A velvet revolution in Georgia?

The changes in Georgia might not be as positive as it seems on first view
After the parliamentary elections in Georgia on 2 November the opposition was very quick to shout "fraud"! What followed then was a well orchestrated wave of protests, which brought the Caucasus state to the brink of a civil war, and lead in the end to the resignation of president Eduard Shevardnardze. However, there is only one serious candidate for the new presidential elections, to be held in January: Saakashvili, the leader of the opposition movement. A revolution in Georgia? Hardly. WRI staff member Andreas Speck takes a closer look. (Graswurzelrevolution)

Impressions from a journey through the South Caucasus

When WRI planned a visit to the South Caucasus, to develop co-operation with local groups on antimilitarism and conscientious objection, it was clear that this wouldn't be an easy task. However, it proved even more difficult than expected.
I arrived in Tbilisi in Georgia on 26 July, on an Aeroflot flight from Moscow. Georgia, which suffered a civil war in the early 1990s, still has two unresolved conflicts - Abkhazia and South Ossetia. While there is no war at present, neither is there peace. Russian peacekeeping forces form the majority of the UN Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) which keeps the protagonists apart. However, Georgia accuses the Russian Forces of supporting both Abkhaz independence and South Ossetian separatism.


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