Minggu, 08 September 2013

Conflict in Southeast Asia: From Muslim Women's Perspective

This is the summary of session on Expert Group meeting about Access to Justice Among Muslim Women in Conflict Area in Southeast Asia, few months ago held in Bali by The Asian Muslim Action Network (AMAN Indonesia). This session was talking about nature of conflict in Southeast Asia from Muslim Women's perspective. Because it is summary, you may find similar presentation in other website. 
Unlike the previous session, the‘talk show’ method (pictured) was applied to guide this session. The reason was to focus the sharing by having guidance from the moderator and to have a more informal discussion. The interview was framed under three elements of conflict analysis: (1) socio political context and impact of conflict; (2) actors for peace and conflict; (3) deep structural causes of conflict.

Irene Gayatri from Indonesia categorized conflict into two types, separatist and communal conflict. She considered conflict in Timor Leste and Papua to beseparatism. Meanwhile, communal conflict is often related to identity. In Madura for example, the minority Shia population is persecuted by the state because the majority in Indonesia does not recognize them as Muslims. Other post conflict situations in Indonesia are Ambon, Poso, Aceh and Papua, where the state maintainsa military presence. Papua also suffers from discrimination in terms of economic rights, and has been militarized since the referendum in 1963. In Ambon the situation is sometimes intense where Islam is sometimes used as a tool in local elections. In Jakarta also Islamic identity is used as a source of political power and a bargaining tool, especially in the elections for governor, where national parties use religious identityto garner votes. Religious sentiment was used during the conflict in Poso to mobilize the masses to attack each other. In Aceh the government in Jakarta gave local Islamic or shariahlaw as part of an autonomy packageto quell separatism. Now in the post-conflict environment, after the Helsinki peace agreement, there is little improvement in women’s situation and they feel they have no option but to accept shariah law. Women were not much involved inpeace processes, though historically women took active roles in fighting for independence from the Dutch colonialists. To increase the role of women, anew national action plan (NAP) on UN resolution 1325 will hopefully be effective in increasing women’s participation in peace processes and peacebuilding, capacity building for security forces, and reducing cultural barriers for women in the public sphere. 

In Cambodia there were several conflicts, but Farina So focused her presentation on the situation under the Khmer Rouge Regime from 1975 to 1979. The communist regime tried to remove imperialism and feudalism from people’s lives by sending people far away from the city and from the symbols of imperialism and feudalism. Moreover, the regime also killed intellectuals because they were considered as agents of imperialism and feudalism. Women were most vulnerable because all people were treated the same. There was no policy to make allowances for pregnant women, or women delivering babies, and women were dehumanized by being separated from their children and husbands. Though 65% of the post-Khmer Rouge population were female, women were excluded from formal peace talks. However they were active in promoting reconciliation at grass root level. 

Dehumanization is also happening in Myanmar. Ma Wai Wai from Young Women’s Network for Arakan highlighted that conflict in Arakan was not only about identity or citizenship but more about the crisis of the current government which needs support from the (majority Buddhist) population. According to the 1982 Citizenship Law, Rohingya were removed from the indigenous ethnic nationalities list of Myanmar. In the 1948 citizenship law there were 144 ethnic minority groups in Myanmar including Rohingya, but in the 1982 law, there were only 133 ethnic groups left. 11 groups were excluded. Most of those groups are Muslim. With the progress of democratic reform, gradually people have withdrawn their support from the military regime, however this has also caused demands for full rather than partial democracy. The violent conflict in Arakan State is not simply about identity card citizenship for Rohingya people, but economic interests interplayed with an identity crisis. More than 200 people died in the 2012 violence. Most of the rest live in camps. Yet, there has been no significant response from the government. 

The conflict in the deep south of Thailand is known as the bloodiest conflict in the region because of the number of deaths and victims. Angkhana Neelapaijit began with the history of occupation of Siam over Patani, the former southern kingdom. When Patani was conquered by Siam Kingdom 1755, gradually the Thai government forced the Malay speaking people at the South adopted new culture called “Thai”. Being part of Thailand, the Malay people should learn Thai language and culture Malay language was prohibited in the public sphere, it was forbidden to wear sarongs and practice local culture. The effort to bring back a prosperous Patani has been continuing for many years. Bombing, torture, kidnapping, killing, shooting, have been taking place with no clear perpetrators. Ms. Anchana Hem-menashared that detainees and their families lacked security support, and a lack of ability to speak Thai hinderedtheir access to justice and other services. Ordinary people are frequently deceived when trying to arrange legal documents and so on, because people are afraid of asking questions and for information from Thai officers: Anchana mentioned an ‘inferiority complex.’While men keep themselves at home to stay safe, women are exposed to the public sphere in order to earn money. But they do not have equal rightsin decision making processes. Moreover, it is more complex when Martial Law, Emergency Law and Criminal Law all interact in the south. 

“The Muslim Filipinos claimed that we were never conquered by the forces that came to the country,” Jurma Aming TikMasanexplained as the basis for the Mindanao Muslims’ struggle for self-determination. Through the Moro National Liberation Front, the idea of rejection of the majority system crystallized and led to tension. Lack of development support and mistreatment from the government worsened the gap. During the insurgency, women attained public participation as breadwinners, heads of household, weapons suppliers and so on. They had no choice as their husbands were hiding in the hills. In contrast, they were targeted with sexual violence, rape, and sexual harassment because no one protected them. Peace processes undertaken with the government’s narrative and policy to promote peace contradicts the reality where military force is still very present in the South. On the other hand, according to Mucha ShimQualitingArquiz, many Moro women have became politicians. The government used the strategy of involving Muslim Moro women as government officials to lead the community. 

Instead of having question and answer, the moderator asked participants to go back to the group country and be ready for any other participants to ask more questions. After 10 minutes discussion, the moderator concluded the session by highlighted three key points; (1) some of the common root causes of conflict are discriminatory laws, self-determination struggles, and politicization of identity; (2) impact on women include multiple barriers of access to justice, women headed houses, multiple barriers to participation and sexual violence. The strategies applied include civil society advocacy forhuman women’s rights, integration with other issues (so gender is not marginalized or downplayed), and inclusive national action plans on women, peace and security. *** 

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