Logo SAVE - Sisters against violent extremism

02. May 2007

Women against Terror - group

f.l.t.r.: 1st row: Reem Aljarbou, Irene Montjoye, Rania al Baz
2nd row: Aicha el Wafi, Anita Pratap, Xenia Hausner 
3rd row: Hiba Othman, Elisabeth Kasbauer, Edit Schlaffer

Aicha el Wafi&Phyllis Rodriguez Museum © Xenia Hausner

Aicha el Wafi and Phyllis Rodriguez

Women against Terror © Xenia Hausner

“I am here to show that terror does not silence our voices”

Women against Terror - Matinee for a Culture of Peace in a Climate of Fear. April 22nd, Vienna

Terror became part of our lives, from bombs in Afghanistan and Iraq, blasts on the trains of European cities, to the horror in the evening news. Provoked by violence and promoted by rhetoric, the world is caught up in a climate of fear. So, it seems hardware alone is no way out. Military muscles alone will not produce positive results. And it is women, not armies, who are ideal agents for positive change. Women believe in the power of soft power. And women are experts in the soft power skills: listening, persistent negotiations and dialogue.
We must not be bystanders and pretend we have no control; we are all involved in the making of our society, we must wake up and shake up! (Edit Schlaffer)

On the podium:

Aicha el Wafi, a French citizen with Moroccan background, mother of Zacarias Moussaoui, the so-called twentieth hijacker who was sentenced to life-long prison for his accused role in the 9/11 terror attacks. Facing the international spotlight and being criticised as a mother she published the book "My lost son". When her son was trialled immediately after 9/11, she reached out to the victims of 9/11:
My son was sentenced to lifelong prison because the US government needed a scapegoat, a person they could make responsible for the attacks of 9/11. I always led my son into the right direction. He left my house at the age of 22 and got in contact with extremist groups, people now just look for power and authority.
The declarations made by my son in court hurt me in an incredible way. And it was not only painful for me, but also for the parents of the victims. My role in the fight against terrorism is to talk to the young people. I must have the chance to tell them about the trap into which my son fell.
When I met Phyllis the first time, I saw a hurt mother who was out of balance because the death of her son. We are two mothers who cried together and who consoled each other. And I would like to thank Phyllis for her courage and her amiability.

Phyllis Rodriguez, a Jewish US American, teacher and artist, and Aicha are very good friends, this is a friendship without borders, and a wonderful example for overcoming boundaries and creating a space for peace.
Phyllis´ son died in the 9/11 attacks in the World Trade Centre. Under the credo "Not in my son's name" she published a letter asking that no political revenge might be taken in the name of her son:
I have learned that my friendship with Aicha is not as unusual as one thinks. Since the tragedy and since Aicha's reaching out to me and other victim's families of 9/11, I have met and learned about many many people all over the world who have bridged the gap between themselves and the person or people who are considered "the other", or "the enemy". When Zacarias was arrested by my government, charged with six counts of conspiracy to commit terrorist acts, I didn't know if he was guilty or innocent at all. But when my government announced that it is going to try to get a jury to sentence him to death, I realised that I must do something. I didn't know what, because my husband, my family and I were devastated by the loss of our son. However, when I saw Aicha in the media I knew that some day I would want to meet her, when I am strong enough, to express my sympathy for her, as a mother, mother-to-mother. The first meeting turned out to be wonderful and it was very emotional.
When Greg was killed I thought I would never forgive the people, who murdered my son, but I have come to see forgiveness as more than a word; it’s a context, a process. Being able to reach out to Aicha has helped me heal. It has kept me from becoming bitter.

Anita Pratap
is an award-winning journalist from India, she was the first female CNN-anchor in South-East Asia and she covered terror and horror over three decades:
Across the world, people are trapped in terror situations – in Latin America, the United States, Europe, Middle East, Asia and the Far East. While the location, trajectory, motives and context of terror varies, it is fundamentally similar simply because of the universality of human emotions. The grief, fear, desires and hopes of victims are the same. Likewise, the anger, greed and hate of the perpetrators are similar. Conflicts are inevitable in life, that is the philosophical point of views, but how we deal with conflicts is what matters. Conflicts can even cause positive effects. The panellists show how terror, war and conflicts can have positive impacts: reconciliation, hope, peace for themselves and with “the others”.

Hiba Othman
is an activist for peace and a university professor for Mathematics in Beirut. The UN representative for the World Safety Organisation (WSO) was raised and educated in a climate of fear all her life:
I was the kind of girl who celebrated birthdays in hiding places. The Happy Birthday songs of my parents were covered by missiles and bombs. The most touching thing in wars is the concept of time: time is not any more the time you know, time just passes so that you will survive. The concept of the day is not the day, you are just facing the continuing attacks, you are just waiting for the daylight to fade.
What I believe in are methods of reconciliation and education to create peace and a culture of peace. What I believe in is creating peace curricula that start in the very beginning. I was recently reading a book, entitled "All I need to learn I learned at kindergarten". If you start education at this level and if you go out until middle school high school and university level - reconciliation techniques, conflict resolution, acceptances of differences and others, human rights, tolerance - then the world would be a better place.

Also from Lebanon came Zeinab al Saffar, a journalist who presents "In their Eyes", an English language weekly political news programme at al-Manar TV, the media-arm of Hezbollah:
I covered the war in Lebanon last July. One day, missiles came down right next to our studio and it was my job to report live. I just thought: Don't forget me in the studio, come and get me. But I did my job, and no matter how I describe it, it's nothing like living it, living the fact that the missile is going to explode and the building is going to collapse and you're trying to broadcast the news live. Fortunately, we managed to finish and escape from the building before it collapsed. This gave me more and more power to go on, because this was real terror - an attempt to silence the voice, a media station, just because they didn't want the people to know what was really going on on the ground. This is real terror, and this is why I'm there to stand up. I am here to show that terror does not silence our voices.

Rania al-Baz was one of the first female and well known news presenters in Saudi Arabia. She became famous for a very sad reason: her husband has battered her face in a way that it could only be restored through numerous operations. Rania spoke up to show the world that terror takes place on a daily basis:
The kind of violence I experienced was not a violence of religion against religion, or state against state - it was a violence I experienced because of my husband. As a result of this abuse, my face was disfigured. This is the core story, but even more important is who I am today. I am a Saudi woman who is extremely happy today; I have a new place to stay, a new job in a new broadcasting organisation and I have obtained law custody to raise my children.
Terrorism has different faces: domestic violence is terrorism, political violence is terrorism, killing innocent people is an act of terrorism.
I hope that today everybody looks into my eyes and learns from my story how hope can be born from a wound of failure.

We kindly thank director Herbert Föttinger for the chance to organise the matinee in the Theatre in der Josefstadt:
I am really moved that this event, this kick off for a serious of discussion panels does not take place in any congress center, but on the stage of a theatre. I think that the theatre is a magic place, a space for dialogue.

Federal Chancellor Dr. Alfred Gusenbauer officially opened the matinee:
This morning I was trying to imagine what my life would be like if I did not have the incredible good fortune to be born in a prosperous, stable democracy like Austria but in one of the terror-ridden places of our planet. I was trying to imagine how I would cope with the daily fear that my daughter might be killed by a car bomb on her way to school. How I would cope with the fear that my partner might not return from the grocery store because somebody had decided to blow himself up in the middle of a crowd of shoppers. I was trying to imagine how much courage and inner strength it takes to master the daily chores under the constant threat of random violence.
If we ignore the fact that the fight against terror is a fight for freedom, we might loose both.

It was - unfortunately - not possible to include an Israeli participant; for Lebanese civilians it is forbidden by law to share the same table with people from Israel. We cannot go beyond this rule, we cannot achieve what top-politicians and diplomats could not achieve so far. But there will be a follow up event, a podium where we will invite speakers from Israel.

Please click here to read some press articles (in German) regarding the Matinee.

We cordially thank:
Theater in der Josefstadt
Hotel Pension Domizil
Gasthof Zimmermann
Trimedia Communications
Cordial Theaterhotel
Bücher am Spitz

The conference is sponsered by the Austrian Ministry for Social Affairs, Generations and Consumer Protection - BMSG.


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