A Matter of Recognition

15th of May: International Day of Conscientious Objection: Take Action – Tell Us Your Story

Para Español, haz click aquí.

We invite you hand in a video with your story to our partner ACOOC (Collective Action of Conscientious Objectors). Here is ACOOC’s invitation:

Acooc-Logo

Next Friday, May 15th, we celebrate the International Day for Conscientious Objection. This date marks a very important occasion to both remember all those who have historically refused to participate in war and to propose initiatives that may help to promote the demilitarization of society. It is a day for us to remember, to learn and unlearn and to think deeply about ourselves in order to devise a different society where no one is obligated to fight and to go to war.

On April 8 of this year several NGO’s presented a proposal for a “Social Peace Service” before the Peace Commission of the Colombian Congress.  Such Peace Service would be equivalent to the Mandatory Military Service in Colombia. For that reason we want to invite you to send us your videos to objecion@objetoresbogota.org. Please give your name, the organization to which you belong, the city and the country where you send the video from. Please answer the question: Which service would you provide to your community if you did not have to present the military service? You can also send a message in support of this proposal.

All videos will be published via social networks on the 15th of May with the hashtag #Serviciosocialpaz y #DiainternacionalOX

Acción Colectiva de Objetores y Objetoras de Conciencia

ACOOC

Notes from the Peace Community: FORista Writes Home After Leaving Urabá

by FORPP Accompanier Gale Stafford

Para español, haz clic aquí

October 20th, 2014

Dear Friends,

I’m back, I swear I haven’t dropped off the face of the earth! (Or even permanently left Colombia!). It’s a busy time, but considering that I found a drafted email to you all from July that I felt was late then, I figure now is about as good a time as any to update you as to how things have been going (since May… almost six months ago…).

So May and June together almost marked the end of my time in the Peace Community. In the end of June, I had an unfortunate pair of incidents of theft of my bag (read: every important document, camera, and notebook, plus a couple other sacred objects – I’m physically fine, just irritated and a little shallower, wallet-wise) plus bug bites serious enough to need to get treated and healed a bit, and so got sucked to the big city of Bogotá for a couple of weeks to get everything in order. From there I had a brief return to the rural Community area, followed by a wonderful visit from my dear friend Heather, another brief stint in the Community, and zipped back to Bogotá. Since then it’s been a bit of a whirlwind, and I just haven’t gotten to scribble down my latest thoughts.

UNTIL NOW!

So because it is absolutely, utterly impossible for me to even summarize everything that has gone on in the last six months (sideways lookinatchu, stolen journal…), I’m going to take the remainder of this email recounting about the end of my time in the Community, and will tell more about things afterwards, and life in Bogotá, starting next time. So below, in no particular order, are notes in homage to and reflection on the nine months of my life in the village of La Unión, part of the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó. And after re-reading it, I’m realizing it’s a little epic again. Oops. It has been six months, so there’s that… Anyway.
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Apuntes de la Comunidad de Paz: FORista escribe a casa después de salir de Urabá

por Gale Stafford, acompañante de FORPP

For English, click here

El 20 de octubre, 2014

Queridxs amigxs,

Ya volví, y ¡les prometo que no me he caído del superficie de la tierra! (¡Ni salido permanentemente de Colombia!) Es un tiempo ocupado, pero considerando que encontré un ensayo a todxs ustedes del julio que me sentía estaba ya atrasado ahí, creo que ya es hora tan buena como cualquier otra a actualizarles de cómo me han pasado las cosas (desde mayo… hace casi seis meses…).

Entonces mayo y junio juntos casi marcaron los finales de mi tiempo en la Comunidad de Paz. A finales de junio, tuve un par de indicentes desafortunados del robo de mi bolso (lean: cada documento importante, cámara, y cuaderno, más unos otros objetos sagrados – estoy bien físicamente, solo irritada y un poco menos profunda, de manera billetera) más unas picaduras tan graves que necesitaban tratamiento y un poco de curación, y entonces me mandaron hasta la gran ciudad de Bogotá por unas semanas para arreglar todo. De ahí tenía una vuelta breve al área rural de la Comunidad, seguida por una visita maravillosa de mi amiga querida Heather, otro tiempito en la Comunidad, y me fui de una de regreso a Bogotá. Desde ahí ha sido un poco torbellino, y solo que no he podido garabatear mis pensamientos más recientes.

¡HASTA AHORA!
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Displaced and Duty-Free in El Tamarindo, Colombia

Check out this post by former FOR-PP accompanier Luke Finn about the situation in El Tamarindo, published on the NACLA blog March 24, 2014.

Chris, FOR Peace Presence, with Luis, of El TamarindoThe community of El Tamarindo lies about three kilometers outside the Barranquilla, Colombia’s fourth-biggest city and the largest conurbation and port on Colombia’s Caribbean coast. It was formed of 120 hectares of land in the municipality of Galapa, and is home to approximately 130 families, who have lived and worked on the land for anywhere between five and twelve years. Before they arrived, the region was wasteland: no one lived on the land and no one was listed as owning it. They have been occupying the territory in good faith.

Prior to their arrival in El Tamarindo, the majority of these families had lived not in Barranquilla, but elsewhere on the Caribbean coast, and even further abroad. They had been displaced by violence. One leader of the community had been born and brought up in the Chocó on the Pacific coast, had been displaced by violence in the 1980’s to Apartadó in Urabá Antioqueño, and then in 1995 displaced again by the wave of violence that overran the gulf region, finally arriving in Tamarindo 12 years ago.

Now she is being displaced again.


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A Matter of Recognition

by Alejandro Parra of ACOOC, translated by Gale Stafford of FOR Peace Presence

Para español, haz clic aquí

Mariopremio

Mario (third from right) with the other winners of the 2014 Muhammad Ali Award

On Saturday, September 27 in Louisville, Kentucky, 22-year-old Colombian conscientious objector Mario Andrés Hurtado Cardozo received the Conviction Award granted by the Muhammad Ali Center. This recognition is given to young adults under 30 years old who stand out for their work in social justice and the defense of human rights in diverse countries of the world.

Mario was selected among many others nominated in Latin America, due principally to his decision to refuse to be trained for war and to work for the rights of young people from working-class areas. These youth are the main target of recruiting by all of the armed groups in Colombia, including the country’s own army, the force which most ropes young people into the war in the form of obligatory military service.

Mario refused the obligatory military service; instead he opted to work for Hip Hop con Jóvenes (“Hip Hop with Young People”) of Soacha, the municipality of Colombia that receives the largest population of people displaced by violence. He also accompanied the denouncements of mothers who lost their children as a consequence of “false positives,” a practice of the army that consists of killing innocent civilians and then dressing them in uniforms of the armed guerilla faction in order to present them as “killed in combat” and therefore claim rewards. These types of actions have left 4,200 victims in the country, of which only 14% have been recognized as such and been financially compensated by the State[1]. After his work in Soacha, Mario joined the Acción Colectiva de Objetores y Objetoras de Conciencia (Collective Action of Conscientious Objectors), where he currently works as a legal counsel and defender of youth in risk of recruitment who, like him, denied military service.

However, there is a serious irony in Mario’s recognition, as in cases of many conscientious objectors throughout history. While other countries recognize his conviction and contributions towards constructing a peaceful society, in his own country, Mario is far from being recognized, and is rather ignored to the point that legal action is necessary in order to guarantee his right to conscientious objection. And now that he is finally able to practice this right, Mario is ostracized for his decision, as if the State wishes to sanction him for claiming that he can serve the country without needing to carry a weapon and be trained for war.

Just like the rest of Colombia’s conscientious objectors, because he has denied military service, Mario cannot claim his Law degree, nor can he practice as a lawyer. This is due to the fact that Mario has refused to carry a military booklet. In Colombia, military booklets are a type of mandatory identification young men are required to have, defining their military status and service. Because Mario has refused to carry one, no business or social entity can contract him, given that the State would impose economic sanctions for hiring a young person without said document.

It is contradictory that a government that says it is going for peace not only continues recruiting thousands of young people for the war, but furthermore, makes civil sanctions through the denial of fundamental rights to education and work to those who decide not to take part in it. “In Colombia it is much more profitable to have a gun than a professional title,” affirms a conscious objector who does not understand how the State offers higher education, economic grants and places of work for guerrillas or paramilitaries who, after having been part of the war, decide to demobilize. This is all while the very same State takes away the fundamental rights of the young people who have never shot against another Colombian and refuse to be trained to have to do it. Instead, it applies quantitative fines that, in the majority of cases, turn out to be impossible for conscientious objectors to pay because with their condition as objectors, they cannot even count on having a decent job.

However, conscientious objectors believe that it is more than the fact that the State does not want to recognize their political right and sanction to those who manage to be recognized as such. Really this is what they say that hides the profound fear that one day, the number of young people who make use of the right to objection will grow exponentially, obligating the State and the military forces to recognize something which they have always tried to deny: that the majority of young Colombians don’t want to take part in the war, and don’t believe in an anachronistic, discriminatory, and obsolete model of obligatory military service.

The amount of young Colombians linked with the public forces are around 412,000[2], at the same time the Army Recruitment Command proposes that the number of draft dodgers is around 800,000[3]. In any other social State of law, the military forces would have admitted that there is a serious problem that exists with the model of military service by now, given that the number of young people who disobey the law are double those who see themselves as obligated to submit to it. In Colombia they insist on treating those who refuse to take part in the war as delinquents, but they recognize and prize the combatants with all kinds of privileges and options for the citizens’ army.

What would Austrian suffragist Berta Von Suttner think? With her book Lay Down Your Arms!, she not only inspired the creation of the Nobel Peace Prize, but also was the first woman to receive said recognition. What would she say upon seeing that 100 years later the same Prize was awarded to the President of the most potent military power of the world? Upon learning that today, from the same office where the Prize is exhibited, he ordered the bombing of innocents with the excuse of controlling a fabricated enemy as the means to his necessities?

The recognition that today they give to this Colombian objector on an International level is an important deed –  it seeks to focus the attention on the necessity of transforming the absurd military logic that reigns in society, hoping that one day those who seek peace will be the model to follow, and not the citizens that the State insists on sanctioning and pursuing.

 

FOR Peace Presence provides protective and political accompaniment to ACOOC, and nominated Mario to the Muhammad Ali Center for the award in Conviction.

 

 

[1]Human Rights Watch’s World Report 2014 notes that, “as of June 2013, the Human Rights Unit of the Attorney General’s Office had been assigned investigations into 2,278 cases of alleged unlawful killings by state agents involving nearly 4,000 victims, and had obtained convictions for 189 cases.” (http://www.hrw.org/world-report/2014/country-chapters/colombia?page=2) In early 2014 the Attorney General’s office stated it is investigating cases involving 4200 victims. Many additional cases are being pursued in the regional offices of the Attorney General’s offices and unknown numbers of other cases.

[2]http://www.elpais.com.co/elpais/conflicto-armado/graficos/infografia-cuanto-le-cuesta-conflicto-armado-pais

[3]http://www.senalradiocolombia.gov.co/noticia/en-el-pa-s-cerca-de-800-mil-j-venes-evaden-el-servicio-militar