Fifth International Conference on War Tax Resistance and Peace Tax Campaigns - Hondarribia, Spain 1994

Saturday Noon: The Situation in Other Parts of the World

Pedro: A photographer from the most important newspaper of San Sebastián came here yesterday afternoon to take some photographs, so this morning it has appeared. The head name is Taxes for Peace and People who are working for this idea in different countries will have a meeting this weekend in Hondarribia. We have made several copies of it, we haven't given it to the people. Anyway there are more copies outside on a table. If you haven't got it, remember to take one when you come out. It's in Spanish of course, but anyway it can be a good souvenir. I'd like to call Cesar from Peru.

Where is Suhair? The Iraqian, Patxi, where is he? As it was in the program of the conference at a quarter past twelve, that is, we are in a small delay, we have time for hearing people talking about different countries, not from the western world or from the developed world. Yesterday we had the opportunity of hearing Elias from Palestine and now we'll have the opportunity to hear Suhair from Iraq. Well, he came from Sweden but he's from Iraq and Cesar Mercedes from Perú and they will talk us about their experiences. So I'll give them the word.

The situation in Iraq

Suhair: Thank very much for the conference, for telling me to come to speak about my situation and my country's and thank you for all. My name is Suhair. I'm from Iraq. You know that Iraq is one country from the third world and it's, I think it is a very old country. As people of Iraq became the victims of some politics or some conflicted ideologies around the world especially the ideologies during this century. I'm talking exactly about the communism and capitalism. As well as some many other ideologies or other beliefs or religions. So that's all problems for us. And excuse me if I don't speak very good English but I'll try to correct the situation.

My country is a very rich country in the nature and it's the first agricultured country and we have the petrol but as I said and as I cleared that, at the end of the seventies we're evolved with so many problems and ideologies which push our regime to be against with others, or to fight the other countries or the other ideologies which have, with the people have no hand in that problem. You all know that it was a big war between Iraq and Iran. That crazy long war which had very big effects against us, our lives, our economy and our situations. The war started after a new system or new ideologies came to Iraq and I think that ideology was not allowed from most of the world and they wanted to stop that, we can say ideology are dangerous for the world as they understood like that. And they reached a point that it would be stopped only by war and only by fighting. They couldn't stop it by negotiations or by talking face to face. Of course, war won't xxx, so who will become the xxx? Of course, we became, because we were very nice people and we were living in the long history of so many conflicted ideologies and we have been no experiences of the new technic in politic in the war.

Just we followed our beliefs, our old generations, what they did and what is good for the outside looking at the tradition, not what's good for us. There was not free idea or not free believing. Most philosophies and other ideologies were controlled by the government over us. So we paid the price for about eight years. We lost everything, so many families lost their expensive things in the life, their sons. Most of them lost two or three sons during that war. And in the end of that war because of the madness or craziness of our regime it was from itself or pushed by the other sides, he got involved with a bigger problem that was invading Kuwait. I mean that our religion or our government is concerned with one man because we have no democratic government, our president is not voted by the people. The people do not have the right to put the president. So the negative rest of the war between Iran and Iraq made countries very tired and it was a very big problem for the economy. And the sides that provided the war between Iraq and Iran, of course, they stopped their supporting or their helping after the war. Because from the beginning it was like a theatre, there was no help to Iraq for people or to make more progress or development in Iraq. It was for something that other sides wanted. This is why the Iraqi government stayed in the big problem, how they should solve this problem, this short in economy.

The government enforced to do other things that was the biggest problem and they got the invasion of Kuwait. Here our problem started. All sides and all countries that were beside Iraq to stop that danger or that problem that they believed was coming from this, after they got what they wanted, now they dropped out their hands and they said to Iraq: OK, it's not our problem. And now you are alone, and it's crazy and it's against the international law, so we must punish you. And all of you know that in 1991 the war started between Iraq and the world.

For me the war was not between Iraq and the world, for me, excuse me if I put it like that, for me and the Iraqi people we understood that the war was between the world and the Iraqi children. Because the results were just the short food and the cutting in medicines and the foods for only the poor people and the children, and the power that made the problem (the trouble) still like before and stronger. The ones who paid the price were just the poor people and the children. So and now the estimate for the Iraqi people just during two years it is about three million people that left Iraq around the world and one of them is me. It's difficult but there is not other alternative. Because we know that the power against us is very big and it's more than we suspected or thought. And today Iraq has become a country like a forest. And the Iraqi people are living in very difficult miserable conditions. So why was it like that and why did it happen? Why must we pay the price?

And I just want to ask all the world that if we are weak and if we aren't strong as the people and all the world know that other countries and other countries around us have got governments which are not democratic. What should we do? Why not that societies or organizations calling for peace or calling for helping all around the world not help us? And I mean not just us. There are so many countries needing help. I say why should we, the weak people, become the victims? OK They wanted to make some test for their technologies, for their ideologies. OK they should do themselves or with others, why? Because we are weak? I mean, not only the Industrial Revolution. Even the other philosophies. Everyone comes and has some idea in his mind and they wanted to prove it above the other people. And the more sadness or sorrow, at when you go out, you hear that, they believe in, and they guest you and they say yes, you have been wrong, you have failed. But the sides which want to reach the reality the fact it's very few. And I can even say that many know the facts but they don't want to say that's real. Because, perhaps, it's not good for their sides or for their economy or for their philosophies or ideology or like that.

I'll repeat what I said, please I want, and I ask all organisations that are working for peace, that are working to help innocent people all around the world to help and to look for matters in a real way and working hard. Just for the children.

Why should our children or our young people know, everyone you catch from the street he can count for you so many kinds of weapons, so many kind of bombs, so many kinds of rockets. But if you ask him about other things in life, he knows very little. But even that all difficulties or problems we have so many people they challenge. I'm speaking in general, that any peace of orient people scientist what's around the world, why he's being criticised and what must he do in his life, what's his message to the world xxxxxxx no? They are just learning how they are fighting, how to use the weapons. Where are these things coming from? Of course, from the origins from the government. Even the private education has right to build the child but also we know that the general system or regimen has right to throw the press, school. Our schools were just to teach us how to obey the office in the army, how to use the weapons and how to be spies against your neighbours, against your friends, if they talked right or if they have good ideas for your society or four your life. That's what we were learning from our governments, our regimes. During the Iraq-Iran war the government took young people. We know the international law says the limit for soldiers, obligated soldier must be eighteen, but in Iraq they took sixteen and seventeen ones. I have so many proves that so many seventeen year old youths they have been absent just a few days for the military, they did not refuse. But they have been some days, because you know that some times teenagers don't like to go to the army. But only during the war times they took them and they shot them in squares surrounded by people, and the parents must pay the price of the pistols that they shoot their sons with. Very little money, they come into the fathers, they say please money, you must pay for our shooting your son, because your son was not faithful for the nation, he doesn't like to go to the army, to defend the country from the enemy. Seventeen years and he must take care of all the responsibility of the crazy war, seventeen years, must stop the war, the dirty war that so many philosophers have been sitting and studying about how to do that war for so many years.

I hope I don't disturb you about that. So, that's my feeling and that's what I want to say to this conference: to work hard and as I said really from the heart perhaps I can get, and I can send even little of this conference information to my country to my people if I can. And the surprising things that I see here in Europe. There are so many things they do, democracy, and when I talk about them that I said that, we can not do like that, they become surprised and I don't believe so many people when I said to them. They are shooting the seventeen year old ones, they say no, it's not right, they are not things like that in the world. So a country like Iraq, people living a simple life, they are not so high cultured, because of the so many problems or so many trouble wars happening to them during their long history. Today everyone please, I said please: enough, for my country and for all poor countries in the world. Enough for us to be the fewer or the worst, we want to live in peace, in safety, for all of us perhaps, some people say they deserve to kill, they deserve to stop, they don't deserve to live in this world. Why? No, we are also human. Thank you.

That's I wanted to say. I also want to thank you all our friends here for joining this conference, to feeling with the others for the sadness. Thank you.

The situation in Latin-America

Cesar: My Name is Cesar Mercedes. My work is related to native populations because I am, myself, a descendent of Indians and because I work for integration in a multicultural society. I am also interested in the resolution of Latin-American problems. Talking about objection, military and trough taxes, I can say that we are just starting, thanks to the work of some pacifist groups involved in non-violence. As we know, the level of violence in Latin-America is huge, social violence, political violence, the violence of hunger. From these works, the Paraguayan group SERPAJ got interested in Conscientious Objection as a topic inside education for peace. We saw our young people worried about their military service and the Paraguayan group SERPAJ took advantage of the new elections to create a new Constitution and got to include in it some articles about conscientious objection that have been accepted but aren't quite easy to take into practice.

In this sense, Paraguay is quite a symbol (we all know about the military dictatorship). In the last years we have been getting off the military government but it's also said that the military still keep in the power. That's the reason why it's difficult to deal with such a subject as conscientious objection, Nowadays, it has been created a network for Latin-American objectors who are trying to gather together to talk among them to get bigger strength. It is very difficult to talk about military service in Latin-America. Sometimes people are more concerned about surviving, fighting against starvation. So it's a long term goal.

About this meeting I can say that it is important that we make contacts with the Latin-American network since they are very interested in what happens in Europe. I don't know what else I can say now. Anyway, thank you for your attention.

The discussion

Pedro: And now we'll have time for questions and answers. So if you want to make any proposals we will give you the microphone.

Question: I'm from Belgium. I just want to throw in an idea, not a concrete proposal. I'm just wondering whether this idea of (I'm speaking particularly to César in Latin-America) individual conscientious objection to military service is not a typical European idea, which of course, now s spreading all around the world, also in Latin-America. But would not it be more useful in Latin-America to do it in their own way? In the tradition of community thinking Latin-America has a long Indian tradition of thinking in community and not as individuals. Wouldn't it be much better if villages communities refuse to be introduced into the military and go into the army instead of just individuals refusing. I'm not sure if I'm clear.

César: I think is going to be done in our own way. We're looking for that way. We want to investigate how to combat that, since all the military structure comes from the West, it makes sense that we learn from the West about the ways to combat it. It's the same with Socialism. Latin Socialism is totally different from Western or Russian Socialism, but something was taken from there as well. Now, talking about native culture, the West is giving it its importance and it may start growing stronger. Different places give different standpoints.

Question: We would like to know about many countries in Latin-America, is there conscription in all the countries? Is it mostly the poor who have to go into the military?

César: The poor don't have much power to defend themselves. They are always influenced by the intelligentsia or powerful people, and don't have much time to learn ways of repealing this. they are more into survival, fighting against starvation. That's their first goal. When they get together, they create structures inside their groups, for their needs.

Generally speaking, there's a mandatory military service in every Latin-American country. Conscientious objection started in Paraguay and now we can find it in places such as Chile, Brazil, Argentina but not in an official way. Let's remember that in Paraguay it is in the Constitution although the military always try to forget it.

Question: César, do you know something about the history of how it came to be in Paraguay, that the Constitution allows this, how is it possible?

César: No, I don't know much about it.

Question (Italian voice): In relation with what our Belgian friend said, I'd like to say that we have experiences of group objection to the military in Europe like in the case, not far away from here, of towns who refused to give their lands for the Army to build their camps, who refused to pay military taxes and got that money for alternative projects, as an example of collective fight.

César: Talking about taxes, now in Perú you may have heard about the new wave of informal social life. People get used to not paying their taxes and the government can't reach all these people.

Question: It was very good for me to hear you speak about Iraq and Iran and I wonder really what we can do about it, if anything, but is there any hope after Sadam Hussein that something will be better, how long will it take before they have democracy? What can we do, if anything, and is there any hope after Sadam Hussein leaves? Or will it be a continuation of the same thing. Do you think Iraqi people are really for a big change of the military or will someone replace Sadam Hussein when he leaves?

Suhair: I just want to say that we as Iraqi people tried and we made very big struggle and uprising the end of the Iraqi and the Golf war.

We have eighteen cities or communities, sixteen cities were rising up against Sadam Hussein in 1992. The march of 1992 and at he same time there was the flying forbidden for the Iraqi forces from the Security Council of the UN. But when the people rose up, they allowed for the government to use the fighters against the people and you all know that.

Question: Will they care?

Suhair: Of course they will care and the strugglers will be killed, more than eighty-five persons. So I think the situation is difficult because it's himself the regimen dictator and he against his people, against his nation. It's difficult for the outside but I think also that it can serve of the countries, they provided this regimen. I think they can help a little to change his behaviour or his actions even it is difficult, but we know that. If we say that it's impossible that person or that a president to change with others' orders or what the others outsides. But we say that he did, when he accepted all the rolls of UN in the during quite area they forced him to accept all the laws that they wanted. To throw off the armies from Kuwait and he said yes, yes, yes he did all. And he allowed for ordered conditions. So I think that if it has results if the outsides helping. Because inside we did as we can.

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