Old wars, new wars. A woman's view

Old wars, new wars. A woman's view
Comment: Women and children are suffering in wars across the Middle East. If more women were in positions of power things would be different, says Baroness Tonge.
5 min read
30 Apr, 2015
Most war casualties since World War Two have been women and children [Getty]
I have recently been in Berlin which I first visited before the fall of the wall that divided the city between east and west. There is hardly a trace of it now, except for a double row of cobble stones waking through the city.

Berlin was almost completely destroyed in the last months of the Second World War, which occurred because one man was obsessed by power and the purity of his race. He wanted to dominate the whole of Europe and make us all subject to his rule.

I was born during the Second World War with fearful parents cowering with us children in bomb shelters during the German raids. We grew up playing on the bomb sites of the industrial Midlands with shortages of everything.

Nothing, however, can compare with the suffering of people in parts of the Middle East at the moment. Many column inches have been written on the causes of the present chaos, and I hesitate to do so now.

These views are my own and do not represent those of any political party in the UK.
     The Arabs gave us mathematics and the beginnings of science, so why is education so undervalued now?

I read recently that across the Arab world there are 21 million children and young people not receiving any education. How has it got to this position?

The Arabs gave us mathematics and the beginnings of science, so why is education so undervalued now? Is it because the ruling families in most Arab countries know that educated people will start challenging their rule?

It is a dangerous situation to have so many young people, particularly boys with no aspirations and no future.

No wonder they are turning to the madmen who have created the virulent and un-Islamic cult called the Islamic State group. They practise barbarism, but it appeals to ignorant and hopeless youngsters especially if it is linked, however wrongly, to their religion.

It has happened many times in the world before. Why did Hitler appeal to so many young Germans?

Young people with no education and nothing to do will follow anything that offers them a new life and a cause. That is why young men and women in the Middle East and in the more hopeless Muslim enclaves of Europe are joining this deadly cult.

Western foreign policy is to blame as well. Ever since the Sykes-Picot agreement after the First World War which betrayed the Arab leaders who had supported us and been promised a caliphate, we have been following the wrong policies.

The greed for oil of course has contributed, but so has the belief that 'we' should impose our form of democracy on foreign lands. This led many of our leaders to support the invasion of Iraq and Libya, after we had bombed Afghanistan and then stayed around to see 'democracy' happen there - if it ever does.

The international community's argument for the creation of the state of Israel after the Second World War was that it was a response to the Holocaust. But it was done in such a high-handed way at the expense of the Palestinians and their rights.

Israeli Zionists have treated Palestinians appallingly and continue to do so. Whatever they do they are always supported by the US and European governments, backed by Saudi Arabia and Egypt, because of the power of the Israel lobby.

Whatever the consequences for us, we should stop meddling militarily and give as much peaceful and humanitarian support as possible to countries in the Middle East, including the Palestinians. The people in those countries, especially Iraq and Syria, should start demanding education for their children, not guns and enticements to join the armed forces.

Iran can do it. Education there is of a very high standard, for women as well as men. They have not invaded another country yet, although they have been accused of much meddling behind the scenes and they have a long way to go with democracy.

The greatest deficiency for me, when I go to Middle Eastern countries is the lack of women in positions of power or decision making.
     Show me a country totally ruled by men that is successful. Not one exists.

I know all about religion and culture and its attitude to women, but no country can improve its economy and standard of living until women are given control over their own bodies and lives, and are able to take an active role in work and politics. Show me a country totally ruled by men that is successful. Not one exists.

Women and children do not create wars but they suffer disproportionately.

Extremists claiming adherence to their brand of Islam are now rampaging all over the Middle East, wanting to kill anyone who does not subscribe to their version of religion and using women as slaves.

As a mother and grandmother, as well as a politician of some experience, I would like to ask what they think is the point of all this?

Killing tens of thousands of people and destroying the cultures that were there? What for? What do they hope to achieve?

Does Allah really want this?

And for the West, Is it really all about controlling oil supplies? Do so many people have to suffer for that? Is there no other way?

ISIL or IS or whatever they call themselves (I again call them barbarians) are just making a peaceful solution in the Middle East much more remote.

The UK, EU and the US together with Arab League states should convene a conference as soon as possible and invite all sides in the conflicts now raging to sit down together and seek a just solution.

Israel, the Palestinian leadership, Hamas, Hizballah, together with President Bashar al-Assad of Syria and representatives of the Iraqi government, and Iran, should be forced to sit down together and thrash out an agreement.

And perhaps our leaders in the West could adopt policies to reduce our dependence on oil and economic growth, and start sharing the world's resources a bit more.

Women would do it differently.

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.