Women’s Role in Conflicts and War


Two days ago it was March 8th, the international women’s day. Something we ought to consider is why we have only one day a year to commemorate the situation for one of the two sexes, 50% of our species? According to my own view both we men and the women have positive and negative characteristics. We feel love and affection, lust, sexual desire,  we co-operate, help each other, but we are also envious, cruel, and tricky creatures. Ways to develop a better situation for both women and men and a relatively well-functioning world considering our globes’ situation is of the essence. When it comes to war, war-mongering and fights we men are often the most active part, even if women too sometimes are soldiers or instigators. The question is what kind of world we want and what we actually need?

Not long ago I got an invitation via e-mail from Parvin Ardalan, who’s an Iranian in exile here in Malmoe. She’s a journalist, writer and womens’ and human rights activist. She invited me to a film and panel debate called “Thinking of Women’s Role in Conflicts and War”. It was held this last Tuesday night on March 5th at the movie theatre Spegeln/The Mirror here in Malmoe. IFEMA/Imagenes and a new NGO called Feminist Dialog were going to show the Lebanese movie “Where Do We Go Now?” from 2011 by the female director Nadine Labaki. She’s until now most famous for the movie “Caramel” from 2007.

When I arrived to the movie theatre interested people had gathered to see the film. All in all we were approximately 30-35 people there. Many had some kind of background from outside of Sweden, but also “ordinary Swedes” showed up. I was glad to see the mix of people: young, middle-aged and old, also other men in different ages and of various ethnic background. I counted to eleven men including myself. Nowadays it’s “trendy” to care about humanity, both sexes and the environment we live in. This on a personal, local, national as well as a global scale. All the same there are many obstacles on the way in human behaviour and a harsh, raging planet. First the organisations that arranged this event showed a short film with women in Iran who take a stand against war and explained all the negative effects that war or a war-like situation has had on their lives. After this the feature film started.

Where Do We Go Now? is as I mentioned above directed by Lebanese Nadine Labaki who also plays the part as Amale in the movie. It’s her you see in the picture above. This movie from 2011 is a comedy and a fiction story set in the 1970’s. The story takes place in a village in rural Lebanon where Christians and Muslims live side by side. When the story starts the villagers have just got a TV for all to watch, Christians and Muslims are nagging on each other, but mostly in a rather friendly way. Amale and the young man who helps her repairing her house have a crush on each other. Suddenly the villagers get the news that blasts and killings have occured between the two religions in one of the cities. To stop the men from hearing war-news the local women decide to co-operate over the religious borders to hinder an outburst of war. They destroy the cables to the radios and the TV and both the Muslim imam and the Christian priest try to preach peace and unison. One of the elder women, Yvonne, pretends to get messages from Virgin Mary and the other women play along.

This film is one of the best I’ve seen in a long time and deserves its prizes. It’s played in a good way and the characters are both funny and moving, women and men alike. It also has dark traits and a serious message. Death occurs when the young man Nassim becomes the first casualty of war by accident. Some young men also have invited a team of travelling Russian female dancers. The local men go gaga over Tania, Olga and Katia, while the local women on both sides first are sceptical towards the Russians, but gradually involve the foreign women in their different plots to prevent the war from reaching the village.

When I saw this film I once more considered that we humans are humans irrespective of nationality, religion or skin-colour. Even if we have different customs, beliefs and looks it’s evident that the personality types are so similar all over the globe and in each generation. Our ways to dress, our technology changes and develop, our world changes too, but we humans are so alike if we bother to look underneath the surface, and beyond the obvious differences. The Christians and Muslims still fight, but so do many others. Both religions and political ideologies are used as pretext for power struggles, intolerence against dissidents and people with different life-styles, religion or convictions than the group oneself belongs to. We will always be divided into groups according to our different beliefs, but I believe that we never ever must forget our common human value and our common human heritage. We MUST find ways to improve our co-existence irrespective if we are women or men. It doesn’t matter if we are a computer technician from Tokyo in Japan, a hair-dresser from Amman in Jordan, a Jewish rabbi in Jerusalem, a university professor in Hamburg,Germany, a company owner in Mogadishu, Somalia or a banker in Sweden.

After the film there was a panel debate with Sholeh Irani, foreign editor at Feministiskt Perspektiv, debater and womens’ rights activist, Trifa Shakely, writer, activist and previous chief editor for the magazine Bang. Also Miriam Estrada-Castillo, previous legal advisor at the committee for anti-terrorism within the Security Council participated in the discussions. All these three women had wise comments when it concerned women’s situation in wars and conflicts, and mentioned e.g. the use of rapes and violations as a tactic in all wars to destroy the value of the opponent, as well as a defilement of womanhood at the same time. Strong, independent women are often percieved as a threat and something that must be quenched. Male-hating feminists are no better. That’s so sad. Too often we look for the negative aspects instead of what connects us. As a heterosexual man I love women. Why not find bridges for better relationships between the sexes instead?

If you want to get some more information here are a few adresses:

Women Against Sanctions, War and Militarization of Middle East, http://women-against-war.blogspot.se

Women United for Future of the Middle East, http://womenum.wordpress.com

Feminist Dialog, Malmo or Stockholm, +46-72930486, feministdialog@gmail.com

If you get the chance to see the movie Where Do We Go Now? I think you should. Take care.

Anders Moberg, March the 10th 2013



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