Women get active at CodePink
- Published: 13 February 2010
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CodePink is a grassroots anti-war activist group that was created in 2001. Almost 10 years on, its numbers have grown and its agenda expanded. Natalie Becquet reports on the activist women and men who are determined to bring peace and diplomacy to the world.
"We call on women around the world to rise up and oppose the war in Iraq. We call on mothers, grandmothers, sisters and daughters, on workers, students, teachers, healers, artists, writers, singers, poets, and every ordinary outraged woman willing to be outrageous for peace. Women have been the guardians of life-not because we are better or purer or more innately nurturing than men, but because the men have busied themselves making war. Because of our responsibility to the next generation, because of our own love for our families and communities and this country that we are a part of, we understand the love of a mother in Iraq for her children, and the driving desire of that child for life." - Starhawk, Co-Founder of CodePink.
After the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, with Bush determined to declare war on Iraq, a group of like-minded women banded together to form a grassroots anti-war activist group with the intention of promoting peace and diplomacy in place of the Bush administration's policy of aggression and domination.
Medea Benjamin, Starhawk, Jodie Evans, Diane Wilson and almost 100 other women participated in CodePink's first action in 2002 by staging a 4-month vigil outside the White House, ending with a 10,000 strong protest that included representatives of Greenpeace, Women for Women International and Global Exchange, among others.
In the 8 years since that initial protest, CodePink has continued to grow. Although predominately made up of women, men are often seen demonstrating in pink alongside their sisters.
At present, there are more than 100 branches in the United States alone, with dozens of others scattered throughout the world. As CodePink's influence expands, so does their list of objectives. Current campaigns include calling for the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan, open diplomatic dialogue with Iranian leaders and the closure of Guantanamo Bay as a centre for incarceration.
CodePink has a unique approach of incorporating humour and creativity into their campaigns for public awareness and policy change. Wearing the signature pink clothing, they hold an annual Kiss In on Valentines Day at military recruitment sites displaying slogans such as “Don't Enlist, Stay and Kiss” and “Make Out, Not War”.
Other methods have been more controversial. Codepinkers have confronted members of America's congress with red paint on their hands and carried effigies of dead bodies to represent the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children killed in that war.
In 2008, co-founder Medea Benjamin was voted number 4 in a poll of influential women changing the world for her work with CodePink, coming in behind Oprah Winfrey, Melinda Gates and Hilary Clinton. Prominent endorsers of the organisation include Susan Sarandon, Noam Chomsky, filmmaker Oliver Stone, Roger Waters of Pink Floyd fame, and activist Cindy Sheehan, whose son was killed while fighting in Iraq.
Not everyone is so enthusiastic about the efforts of CodePinkers. Right-wing extremists have called for activists to be shipped off to Afghanistan and forced to wear burkahs.
Accused of being traitors and supporting terrorism because of their advocacy for transparency in the judicial process regarding suspected terrorists, CodePink protesters have been subjected to death threats and harassment. Earlier this year while on a mission to get aid into Gaza in the form of medical and educational supplies, CodePinkers were refused permission to cross the border by the Egyptian government, who called them 'hooligans'. After a personal appeal to President Mubarak's wife, a few members of the delegation were allowed access.
None of this seems to dampen the enthusiasm with which CodePinkers fight for the rights of their fellow human beings. The passion, dedication and courage shown by members continues to inspire, and while they see the powerful effect that their creativity and hard work has on policy makers and public opinion, I doubt the ladies of CodePink will lay down their rose coloured banners any time soon.
Visit the CodePink website to get involved.
After a successful career in the fashion industry, Natalie Becquet decided to return to her true passion of writing. She has a special interest in social justice issues and is the founder of the Australian branch of CodePink. Natalie's articles and poetry have been published in both online and print mediums and she is a regular contributor to a subsidiary of Salon.com.