Cindy Sheehan supports Iraqi women

Sarah Ferguson writes for the Village Voice, March 6:

Cindy Sheehan took another bust for the anti-war cause Monday. She was cuffed and forcefully dragged away from the plaza in front of the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, where she had marched with a delegation of Iraqi women in hopes of delivering a petition to demand the immediate withdrawal of U.S. and other foreign forces from Iraq.

Sheehan and three other women from the protest group Code Pink were charged with criminal trespass and resisting arrest for refusing to leave the plaza of the private office building at 140 East 45th Street, where the U.S. Mission, and the offices of Ambassador John Bolton, are temporarily housed.


Ann Wright, a former U.S. diplomat who resigned in protest of the American-led invasion of Iraq, said she was “horrified that the US mission had closed its doors” and was unaware of any offers made at the scene to meet with the delegation. “This was not a publicity stunt,” insisted Wright, who was a senior envoy in the U.S. embassies in Afghanistan and Mongolia. “I was a diplomat for 16 years, and I received petitions from all over the world. Nobody was planning an getting arrested or anything like that. The whole point was to get the message to the U.S. Mission, that women in Iraq and around the world want peace.”

And in fact, the arrests drowned out the voices of the Iraqi women the protest was intended to highlight. Before marching to the U.S. Mission, Sheehan and five Iraqi women held a news conference outside U.N. headquarters, when they blamed the presence of U.S. troops for exacerbating unrest in their country, and asked the U.N. to intervene to prevent a civil war from breaking out.

The Iraqi women denied that a civil war was already under way but said things could devolve quickly if terrorists and Islamic extremists continue to use the presence of U.S. troops to justify bombings of civilians and other targets.

“The resistance forces are using the occupation to provoke differences,” said Nadje Al-Ali, a writer and founding member of Act Together: Women’s Action on Iraq, which was formed in the late ’90s to oppose U.S. sanctions on Iraq. “The longer the occupation continues, the greater the danger of a civil war happening.”

Faiza Al-Araji, a civil engineer and mother of three, went further. “They are pushing the people to be in a civil war to justify their existence there,” she said of the U.S., voicing a theory now common among Iraqis. “It is so they can build their bases and continue with their efforts to dominate the region. Who cares about the Iraqis?”

Dr. Entisar Mohammad Ariabi, a pharmacist at one of Baghdad’s largest hospitals, broke into tears as she told reporters of the deaths and hardships she witnessed daily.

“U.S. occupation has destroyed our country, made it into a prison,” said Ariabi. “Schools are bombed, hospitals are bombed.”

She cited a report by the chief coroner in Baghdad who estimates they receive 1,600 dead bodies a month in the city, with perhaps 10 times as many injured. “Many of the injured don’t survive because of the shortage of medical supplies,” she said.

“Bush said he liberated Iraq. Well, thank you for liberating our country from Saddam. But now, go out! Please go out!” she pleaded.

With Sheehan and other activists still in jail, the Iraqi women and Code Pink organizers proceeded to Washington, D.C., where they will spend Tuesday lobbying Congress members against the occupation. On Wednesday, which is International Women’s Day, they plan to deliver their petition to the Iraqi Embassy and then march to the White House.

he Iraqi delegation was sponsored by Code Pink and Global Exchange. It includes Sunni, Shia, and Kurdish women—some secular, some not. Two Iraqi women whose families were killed by U.S. forces were denied entry by the U.S. consulate, which claimed they had “insufficient family ties” in Iraq to guarantee that they would return home if they were let into the U.S. Two others are still waiting in Amman, Jordan, to see if their visas will come through. The women plan a 60-city tour to speak out about what’s happening in their country.

“It’s going to be the women who are going to lead us out of the violence and toward peace,” declared Sheehan, speaking prior to her arrest. “We have the mother in us. And I’m calling on everyone, whether they’re mothers or women or not to follow us.”

See our last posts on Iraq, Cindy Sheehan and the politics of the anti-war movement.

  1. Sheehan put “through the system”
    Free Cindy Sheehan!
    Peace mom, three others held overnight after protest bust

    by Sarah Ferguson
    The Village Voice, March 7

    A lawyer for Cindy Sheehan and three other protesters busted Monday outside the U.S. Mission to the United Nations says they were roughed up during the arrests and then held overnight. They were finally released from jail late Tuesday morning.

    “It’s an absolute disgrace that they weren’t given desk appearance tickets,” said defense attorney Robert Gottlieb, who complained they were held for some 21 hours.


    Sheehan and the three activists were charged with criminal trespass and resisting arrest, a misdemeanor. Gottlieb accused the NYPD of further penalizing the women by putting them through Central Booking rather than releasing them from the precinct where they were initially held.

    “It’s been a new policy to hold people for resisting arrest,” said Gottlieb, who accused police of adding the charge after the fact. “They were definitely singled out.”

    Detective Joseph Cavitolo, a spokesperson for the NYPD, said the women were charged with resisting arrest because they had locked arms and did not go willingly. He said Sheehan and Code Pink co-founder Medea Benjamin did not qualify for desk-appearance tickets because they are out-of-state residents, and added, “There may have been other factors as to why they were held.”

    Gottlieb said Sheehan injured her arm during the arrest and requested medical attention at the precinct, though he did not know how serious the injury was.

    Photos shot by AP show her screaming as a police officer pulls her up by the arm and later looking rather uncomfortable inside a paddy wagon.

    Reverend Patricia Ackerman, a Code Pink member from Nyack, also reportedly suffered a wrenched arm and bruises.

    A central question remains: Why were there any arrests at all?

    State Department official said they offered to meet with the women as they marched into the plaza and accused Sheehan and the others of orchestrating their busts as a media stunt.

    “When the group showed up, we told them an individual or small group of individuals could come up,” says Richard Grenell a spokesperson for the U.S. Mission. “But they chose not to do that. They wanted a media event downstairs for the cameras.”

    Organizers insisted the arrests were never planned, and that they made a stand only after the US Mission refused to accept their “Women’s Call for Peace” petition.

    “We already had tons of media,” said Andrea Buffa of Global Exchange, an activist group that works closely with Code Pink.

    “We didn’t need the arrests. All we were trying to do was to get them to accept this petition, and they wouldn’t take it,” adds Buffa, who maintains they spoke to someone at the U.S. Mission to notify them of their plans just before the march set off.

    “People are frustrated that their government is not listening,” Buffa explained, when asked why Sheehan and the others chose to be arrested rather than simply walk away. “George Bush won’t meet with Cindy Sheehan, the US State Department won’t let Iraqi women from our delegation whose husbands and children were killed by US forces into the country, and now they won’t even accept our petition.”

    Earlier in the day, Code Pink activists and a group of Iraqi women had sought to meet with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and members of the Security Council to discuss their demands for the withdrawal of U.S. troops and an international peacekeeping force to prevent civil war in Iraq.

    Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is scheduled to meet with delegations of Iraqi and Afghan women in Washington on Wednesday, International Women’s Day, to honor their political achievements.

    But activists say Rice won’t meet with the delegation of Iraqi women who are touring the U.S. as part of Code Pink’s “Women Say No to War” campaign.

    “They don’t want to hear from the Iraqis who are against the war, even though they are the majority opinion,” says Buffa.

  2. From Global Exchange, Feb. 27
    From Global Exchange, Feb. 27 via CommonDreams:


    Nadje Al-Ali is a writer/researcher specializing in women in the Middle East. She is a founding member of Act Together: Women’s Action on Iraq and mother of a 3-year-old daughter.

    Faiza Al-Araji is a civil engineer, blogger (, religious Shia with a Sunni husband, and mother of three. After one son was recently held as a political prisoner by the Ministry of the Interior, the family fled to Jordan.

    Souad Al-Jazairy is a writer, journalist and TV producer. Souad is a very active member in the Iraqi Women’s League.

    Eman Ahmad Khamas is a human rights advocate who has documented abuses by the US military in Iraq. She is a member of Women’s Will, and is married with two daughters.

    Dr Entisar Mohammad Ariabi, a pharmacist at the Yarmook Teaching Hospital in Baghdad, has documented the deteriorating health system. She is married with five children.

    Dr. Rashad Zidan, a pharmacist, works in Baghdad and Fallujah with the Women and Knowledge Society to aid victims of war, especially orphans.

    Sureya Sayadi, a Kurdish woman born in Kirkuk, is an activist for human rights in the Middle East, particularly for the Kurdish people. She now lives in the United States, but her family is dispersed in Iraq, Iran and Turkey,


    Vivian Salim Mati is a widow who lost her husband and three children when they were fired on by U.S. tank fire as they attempted to flee the bombing of their neighborhood in Baghdad in April 2003.

    Kadhim Jawad (Anwar) is a widow whose husband and three children were killed by US soldiers at an unmarked checkpoint.


    After Killing Families, U.S. Bars Iraqi Women from Visiting
    by Brendan Coyne

    Feb. 17 – Earlier this month, the US State Department denied the visa applications of two Iraqi women who intended to participate in a speaking tour of the United States. Both women say that US troops killed their families. They were slated to travel with other women activists opposed to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

    In denying the visas earlier this month, the US Embassy in Amman, Jordan said it could not guarantee that the Iraqi women, Vivian Salim Mati and Anwar Kadhim Jawad, would return to Iraq after their visit, according to the anti-war organizers coordinating the circuit.

    In a joint statement, Global Exchange and Code Pink said that according to the embassy, the women’s applications were denied because they supposedly do not have enough family members in Iraq to ensure their return. The women were informed of the embassy decision on February 4, after traveling to Amman from Baghdad to apply for the visas, the organizations said.

    “It’s appalling that the US military killed these women’s families and then the US government rejects their visas on the grounds that they have no family to return to in Iraq,” Code Pink co-founder Medea Benjamin said. “These women have no desire to stay in the United States. We had a very hard time convincing them to come, but we told them how important it would be for their stories to be heard by Americans.”

    The groups were planning to host speaking engagements for the women in New York City and Washington, DC, in addition to helping them meet with legislators and journalists. The groups are urging people to contact the State Department and demand that the visas be granted.

    Code Pink member Jodi Evans said she met Jawad in a 2004 visit to Baghdad, a year after US troops killed the woman’s husband and three of her children as the family drove down a Baghdad street. Jawad is now raising a 2-year-old son and a daughter.

    According to a Human Rights Watch report on civilian deaths in Baghdad, troops opened fire on Jawad’s husband because he failed to stop at a “poorly marked” security checkpoint. She received $11,000 from the US for the wrongful slaughter of her family.

    In Mati’s case, US tank fire took the lives of her children and husband as the family fled the shelling of her neighborhood, according to the statement by Global Exchange and Code Pink. She said she has received no compensation for the killings from the US.

    The speaking tour would have been part of a series of anti-war events the groups are organizing around International Women’s Day on March 8, under the banner “Women Say No to War.” (The New Standard)