It has probably become more dangerous to be a woman than a soldier in armed conflicts.
Ireland's own experience of the Troubles gives them a unique position to lead the work on Women, Peace and Security. After a study visit, fifteen women from Turkey find that there are lessons to be learnt from Belfast and Dublin.
Fifteen women with varying degrees of power over policy and public opinion in today’s Turkey spent one week together in a comparative study visit to Dublin and Belfast. this group was painfully embodying that the word polarization is far from being replaced. On our last evening together, the Irish women’s struggle icon Jane Morrice asked the participants: What is the problem in Turkey? A silent sadness fell over the group. The hopelessness was tangible. Throughout the week the women had been saying that “we cannot speak peace now, we are too polarized.”
In Dublin we met with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade which proudly presented their revised 1325 National Action Plan, including the Troubles in Northern Ireland and the conditions in Ireland for refugees and asylum seekers with conflict experience. In the Irish NAP they write that their own experience of the Troubles gives them the unique position to lead work on Women, Peace and Security. In Belfast we met with former prisoners, activists and politicians who are deeply divided over the issue on dealing with the Past, responsibility and compensation and the fact that 20 years after the Good Friday agreement only 4% attend mixed schools.
Turkey is coping not only with 4000 refugees, like Ireland, but with millions. This is also a unique experience. “Ours kids play the same games and go to school together and we don’t have those abominable so called ‘peace walls’. That is a strength in our situation and a resource to our work as women leaders.” In the evaluation round there was not only hopelessness. The Turkish firsthand experience of conflict must also be put to use, it must develop into democratic contribution to mediation and peace resolution. And it already is doing so in its renowned scholars making contributions around the globe, see e.g. Inclusive Peace and Transition Initiative, The Graduate Institute Geneva, Women in Foreign Policy.
We left Ireland and each other’s company with some ideas on how UNSCR 1325 can strengthen women’s leadership for peace and security in Turkey, by drafting a shadow plan, writing a local manifesto, meeting for strength on women’s issues, raising voices of those seldom heard. I take away a deep impression of how much patience is needed for a realistic perspective on long-term peace building.