OUR IDENTITIES WEAPONIZED: APWAPS’ workshop at the 3rd Asia Pacific Feminists Forum

Our Identity Weaponized:
Sharing Feminist Strategies of Resistance and Resilience Against Violent Extremism
3rd Asia Pacific Feminist Forum.
Chiang Mai, 7 September 2017, 14.30- 17.30.

This workshop has three objectives, namely (a) to develop better understanding on the phenomenon of violent extremism based on women’s experience; (b) to identify state’s role and review the impacts of its responses; and (c) gather ideas on future strategies based on lessons learned from our existing resistance and resilience strategies.

For APWAPS, this workshop is an initial follow up to one of our recommendations in conjunction with the Global Study 1325. Women in the Asia Pacific region have witnessed the growth of fundamentalist ideology and radicalization that lead to various acts of intolerance and violence. We by then encourage more attention to be given to analyze the situation based on women’s experience in order to gain more comprehensive understanding so that we are able to better respond to the situation.

To start the conversation on this matter, this workshop had three lead discussants: Jurma Tikmasan (Tarbilang; MCU-; the Phillipines) ; Banamalika Choudhury (NEthing; WinG-India); Dwi Ruby Kholifah (Aman-Indonesia). Facilitated by Kamala Chandrakirana (Nana), around 18 participants came to shared their thoughts and ideas for approximately 3 hours. The diverse background of the participants, in term of their background of issues, groups of women they are working with, countries of origins, and also age, contributed significantly to the richness of our discussion.

For many participants enduring prolonged conflict, violent extremism (VE) is a continuation of violent daily realities they are growing up with. In the same time, the situation has new characters and development, not limited to the actors, its relation to transnationalism movement and usage of religion in its identity politics. However, since most of us are preoccupied with the problems resulted from the conflict, we are distracted to pay adequate attention to the new development,. Hence, this has reduced our ability to respond proactively, but tended to provide reactive responses to the outburst of violence and campaigns of VE

We notice that failure of the current system of development and politics creates fertile ground for the emergence fundamentalist ideology, which is a perquisite for radicalism that lead to VE. This is even more so in conflict affected communities in which the people for generations suffer multilayers of injustice and see no possibility of state delivering satisfactory resolution to their situation. The fundamentalists are able to manipulate and utilize the situation, deploying religion violent argument, to win their power struggle.

As for women, the rise of VE has specific impact. On one hand, women and women’s rights are under attacks. Women are push to be more submissive and obedience. On the other side, concept of piety and equality before God has been utilized to motivate women to take active roles in defending religion. Women are no longer just the implementers of their reproductive roles and merely followers of their male relatives/husband, but active agents in committing acts of VE. Currently the roles of women are ranging to also be teachers of radical groups, logistics, campaigners, recruiters, attackers and even, suicide bombers.

We also observe that State plays active role either of provoking or aggravating the situation. In several countries, the State actively promote intolerant and fundamentalist ideas, as well as ignore and gain benefits from the presence of vigilante groups that attack members of society who criticize public policy but are deemed as against religion. There is also doubt on state’s neutrality in the rise of VE in relation to arms trade. In other setting, state’s reliance on militaristic approach exacerbates the situation. This will only result in failure in responding to the rise of VE, particularly in conflict affected areas where state’s usage of irrational force Increase sentiment against central government. In addition, the states’ programs for reintegration has yet to success. Meanwhile, the fundamentalist ideology seems to be successfully gain more influence in various institutions, formal and informal, both at state and societal levels.

In the midst of all these, we need to investigate further the empirical changes of patterns as well as root causes and consequences of VE, particularly to women. Feminist analysis, historical and multidisciplinary approaches have to be applied in this investigation. We also need to voice out our concerns through creative and innovative efforts, reaching out to parents, religious leaders, and youths in particular. Needless to say we also need to be able to strengthen our resilience strategies, as this is going to be a long and energy-consumptive struggle. Hence, APWAPS and all its affiliates need to continue this kind of exchanges of information and reflections, and find a collaborative space in endorsing our strategies. (A.Y.)

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