Now is the time we say ‘No More Stolen Sisters’”*
by Kathy Moorhead Thiessen
Today as I sit in Quito, Ecuador, a participant in the Christian Peacemaker Teams biennial gathering, messages are coming from both of my communities on two sides of the world. The calls have similar themes: sisters are being stolen; governments must investigate their disappearances and their murders; violence against women must stop.
From Suleimani, Iraqi Kurdistan, where my Christian Peacemaker team has been working with partners who have sought to help thousands of displaced minority groups, came a call from the Kurdish women’s group, Jian (Life). They proclaimed Sunday, 24 August a day for a civil demonstration on behalf of the Yazidi women whom members of the militant group known as IS (Islamic State) have captured and enslaved in the city of Mosul. Clandestine phone calls from a few of these women described desperate conditions and horrific abusive treatment. They told of women and girls forced to become wives of fighters and others sold into slavery.
Sixty activists from several women’s organisations and other civil society groups gathered in front of the United Nations office in the capital city of Hawler/Erbil. They demanded that the U.N. do more to help the Yazidi women and girls enslaved by the militant group. At the end of the march, several activists were able to take their message into the U.N. building to ask the representatives and the Kurdish Regional Government to act on this emergency and to take urgent measures to help the vulnerable women.
At the same time, in Winnipeg, Canada a group of Anishinaabe women have created a protest camp on a strip of land outside the Manitoba provincial government legislature. They are saying to the Canadian government that they have waited long enough for an investigation regarding the 1,200 missing and murdered indigenous women in Canada.
The impetus for this protest is the murder of fifteen-year-old Tina Fontaine, whose body was found wrapped in a plastic bag in the Red River two weeks ago. The Canadian federal government still refuses to acknowledge that the numbers of missing and murdered indigenous women are important enough to declare a national inquiry. As Justice Minister Peter MacKay rejected calls for an inquiry, he said, "The government is addressing the issue of missing and murdered aboriginal women in other ways." Yet, the indigenous women of Canada are still disappearing and many are turning up murdered.
These are messages from and about women of two minority cultures. They echo each other across the world—women are being treated like rubbish, something to be used and thrown away. This violence must stop. The Yazidi women of Northern Iraq and the Aboriginal women of Canada deserve to live in homelands where their lives are safe and considered precious. Their governments and the rest of the world are under obligation to make that happen.
*“Is now the time to make that change? Is now the time we say no sisters more stolen? We say that violence against women must stop. And if we go home and do nothing about this it’s a missed opportunity,” Wab Kinew
. (Canadian Indigenous musician)