Women hold the key to tackling terrorism and political violence in Iraq, Israel-Palestine and closer to home, according to a new report published by the think tank Demos. Written by Scilla Elworthy and Gabrielle Rifkind, two experts with extensive practical experience of conflict resolution, Hearts and Minds argues that women should be chiefly responsible for driving a ‘human security’ approach to tackling the threat from terrorism.
The report examines the psychology of terrorism, especially suicide bombings. It outlines practical measures to implement a non-military approach to political violence across the globe, such as training significant numbers of women for the police forces, and supporting the role of women in development and education in areas of conflict.
Hearts and Minds will be launched Thursday 21st July 2005 by Rt Hon Clare Short MP and Major General Patrick Cordingley.
“The perpetrators of terror are overwhelmingly male,” say the reports authors, Scilla Elworthy and Gabrielle Rifkind. “Yet women can bring striking results in areas of conflict, since they are known to be effective communicators and to have a natural talent for building bridges. It’s high time we feminised our approach to security, by actively encouraging women to introduce their particular ways of doing things into all our efforts to deal with terrorism.”
Following the terrorist attacks in London on 7th July, the authors argue that British policy-makers must adopt an approach to dealing with the underlying causes of terrorism which fully engages with Muslim women. This would include:
- Encouraging and resourcing the establishment of Muslim women's groups. These ‘mothers’ meetings’ would serve as intermediaries with public bodies, and forums where issues and grievances within the community are raised and resolved.
- Ensuring that the Police and other public agencies employ women liaison officers to act as a point of contact with women in Muslim communities.
In Iraq, the report proposes a national education programme to inform women of their rights, raising awareness among men of the value of including women in every walk of life, including politics, and expanding training programmes preparing women to assume key posts.
“Two-thirds of the adult population of Iraq are female and most are well educated”, say the report’s authors. “But the lack of security resulting from the invasion has driven them back indoors. They are waiting to come out again. Evidence from the Middle East, Africa, the Balkans and other areas of conflict proves that it is cost effective to allocate funding to training women to play an equal part in peace education, conflict prevention, peace negotiations, mediation, and post-conflict reconstruction.”
The report points to the vital role played by women in de-escalating violence in a number of conflict zones including the Balkans, Northern Ireland, Kenya, Somalia and Afghanistan.
The report is also highly critical of the US military strategy in Iraq, which it says is responsible for fuelling the recent upsurge in violence. It makes a number of recommendations for areas of conflict, especially Iraq. These include:
- Encouraging civil society by supporting social movements such as the Middle East Citizens Assembly (MECA).
- Setting up centres of listening and documentation (CLDs) to document severe abuse and violations of human rights, and to assess damage and injury caused by the occupation forces
- Training and employing significant numbers of women in policing duties
- Working closely with religious leaders in areas of conflicts
They also propose a number of measures which could be implemented at a global level to reduce the incidence of conflict, including:
- Combining military and civilian peace-building by establishing a Human Security Volunteer Service
- A commitment by the five permanent members of the UN Security Council to cut the export of weapons
- Establishing a permanent and neutral Peace and Security Commission under the auspices of the United Nations
Notes to editors
- Hearts and Minds will be launched on Thursday 21st July, 6-8 pm. The launch event will take place at Demos, Third Floor, Magdalen House, 136 Tooley Street, London, SE1 2TU. Please register for the event by contacting Demos by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
- Hearts and Minds: Human security approaches to political violence, written by Dr Scilla Elworthy and Gabrielle Rifkind, is published by Demos on Thursday 21st July 2005. Copies can be downloaded from www.demos.co.uk/publications/heartsandminds or ordered from Central Books on 020 8986 5488.
- Dr Scilla Elworthy specialises in the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of conflict prevention and resolution methods, and is adviser to political and military policy-makers. She founded the Oxford Research Group in 1982 and Peace Direct in 2002. Gabrielle Rifkind is a group analyst, psychotherapist and specialist in conflict resolution. She is the founder and process director of the Middle East Policy Initiative Forum (MEPIF), and Human Security Consultant to Oxford Research Group.
- Demos is an independent think tank with a long-standing research interest in global security. This pamphlet is part of a wider programme of work on conflict resolution.
- The publication has been kindly supported by the Barrow Cadbury Trust. Visit www.bctrust.org.uk for more information.