Speech by Mrs. Tawakkol Karman at Florida university Terrorism & Racism

About two decades have passed since the rise of "terrorism" as a global wave and as a concept guiding global policies. Today’s question to all is:

Is it time to leave global trends employing terrorism and instead adopt new ones that deal with it as a threat to everyone and promote cooperation for a world free from terrorism and from every attempts to exploit terrorism politically?


With a view to understanding and addressing terrorism, we will find ourselves digging into a broad matrix of root causes, including domestic and global realities of countries, international policies, culture, religious groups and economic and social conditions. In general, we have to look for objective reasons regardless of genes and without racial prejudice against certain people, religion or culture, as classifying others according to genes or prejudges is an act of racism that feeds off the same factors of terrorism.  


Let's shed light on the most recent place to have been hit by terrorism: New Zealand. New Zealand and its Prime Minister has offered the whole world a far-reaching and valuable lesson. The terrorist act aimed to split the New Zealand society into categories and deepen hatred among its different parts based on religion and belief.


That heinous crime targeted all of New Zealand. However, this would not have been perceived as so had the political leadership not realized it. New Zealanders have shown what it means to be a society governed by a state of law. They renounced terrorism and stood in solidarity with their fellow victims as citizens with the same rights. Nobody around the word said the terrorist attack is attributed to the New Zealanders’ culture, religion or ethnicity. New Zealand authorities have responded decisively and adequately on the terrorist act.  


Away from New Zealand, let us see what has been done with regard to terrorism within the framework of the so-called international counterterrorism cooperation.


Let us first ask: 


Does anyone in the world still believe there is a global anti-terrorism? Terrorism has not been fought. Instead, aspirations of peoples for change have been fought.


Democracy has been fought.


Principles of human rights have been fought.


Major Powers have celebrated terrorism under the name of "global anti-terrorism policy"


A president who does not hesitate to show off his racial attitude represents today the world’s greatest superpower. Except for New Zealand, western countries, especially in recent years, are experiencing a constantly rising wave of racism, xenophobia and anti-migrant sentiments.  


International efforts to combat terrorism have been confined to security measures and extrajudicial killings by unmanned aerial vehicles.


Following 2011, these efforts had been translated into open wars waged by dictatorships to oppress their peoples and and have led to killing tens of thousands of people under the pretext of anti-terrorism.


In Western countries, the consequences caused by Xenophobia and portraying Arabs and Muslims as terrorists are unmistakably clear. As evidenced by orientations of America and other western countries, the West apparently tends to adopt further isolationist policies, under circumstances where "foreigners" are rejected and demonized, and are portrayed as suspects and threats to security. Here, it seems as though terrorism" is a universal doctrine of governments and states but not a deviant ideology adopted by terrorist organizations, which the whole world has agreed to criminalize and cooperate to eradicate.


Throughout history, migration has been an inseparable activity of human beings and has not confined to the times of wars and violence that usually result in human tragedies, waves of displacement and migrations in the pursuit of safe havens and opportunities for survival and life.


Any trend to make the world a suitable place to live must take the human right to move, migrate and work as a basic criterion for it. Today, hundreds of thousands of people have been stranded and found themselves in the open as a result of armed conflicts and state collapses, and our human rights standards oblige us to make their suffering a global issue and be the focus of our attention.


Misguided trends are those establishing security on the basis of isolation, xenophobia and the revival of racist tendencies against minority populations of different origins and immigrants from different ethnicities or religious affiliations.


The stability of the world can not be achieved through isolation and racism or by exploiting counter-terrorism to classify peoples, societies and nations as enemies and terrorists. The rise of racism in the West raises our fears and concerns as much as terrorism does.


Our peoples suffer from tyranny, dictatorship and terrorism. State terrorism as embodied by regimes that have waged wars against their citizens to prevent change and crush peaceful revolutions demanding justice and democracy.


Would human beings forming our societies have to pay an additional price as first-world countries classify them as terrorists and let the rising racist isolationism slam the doors in the face of a limited number of refugees who have migrated in search of safe haven and better life opportunities?!


Two parties appearing to be two sides of the same coin have inflicted serious damages on us as Arabs and Muslims and have caused widespread destruction across the country.


Terrorism and the war on terror are exploited for political purposes unrelated to anti-terrorism nor to containing or eradicating terrorism. After 18 years of September 2001, we look forward today to a real fight against terrorism, which would never be achieved if the world continues to use the vague concept of terrorism to justify other objectives that promote but not fight terrorism. We aspire to the eradication of terrorism and to eliminating this ugly face of violence.


I am neither a politician pursuing own interests at international level nor part of a despotic regime resisting the winds of change under the disguise of anti-terrorism so that I reduce the fight against terrorism to a loose slogan, which makes no distinction between peoples and their just causes on one side and terrorist groups, terrorist cells and the culture of terrorism on the other.


The fight against terrorism first requires “the global war on terror” to be liberated from the misuse of the global order that has found in terrorism what meets its need to re-produce hegemony and defend huge interests devoid of morals and values.


In order to fight terrorism, I think such confusion should be ended. The cities of Mosul, Raqqa, Aleppo and other Syrian and Iraqi cities have been destroyed, tens of thousands of people have been killed and hundreds of thousands have been displaced within a carefully orchestrated plan by authoritarian sectarian regimes to reshape communities on sectarian grounds. All that has been done in the name of combating terrorism.


Imagine what kind of world where children and civilians are killed with explosive barrels and chemical weapons in the name of fighting terrorism! And the world remains silent.


This world knows very well that a revolution in Syria erupted in 2011 and that the Assad regime has brought the sectarian militias like Hezbollah and al Nujaba from Lebanon and Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq from Iraq. This world also knows well that the Assad regime has called Iran and its Revolutionary Guard to fight the battle and stay by him and has brought Russia to Syria to lead battles on the ground and bomb cities on behalf of the regime.


Is the destruction of cities with inhabitants inside a war against terrorism ?!


It is important to refine the concept of terrorism and expand the global war on terror to include a comprehensive strategy beginning by supporting democratic transformation in the vital area of the terrorist phenomenon.


Fighting terrorism and drying up its sources should start by democratizing countries that are fertile environments for the phenomenon of terrorism. Otherwise, there would be no way to talk about economic development and prosperity that create job opportunities and make societies be able to create a new climate of achievement and growth and catch up with the stable societies being capable of facing challenges such as terrorism by means of politics, economy, culture, education and flexible power tools.


Democracy, change and the peaceful transfer of power are the opposite of terrorism and violent groups of all kinds.


When freedom, democracy, rights and the rule of law prevail, terrorism and violence disappear and their fertile environment and sources are dried up. However, global policies run in the opposite direction of democracy and human rights.


Unfortunately, the world’s leading democracies have colluded with the counter-revolutions, as the interdependence and interconnection between global trends and regional interests have created a common desire to silence the voices of millions of people armed with nothing but the faith in their dignity and rights and in their right to citizenship, equality, justice and the free choice of their rulers.


No matter how far the global war on terror has gone in security measures, relentless wars and international alliances with dictatorships, a day will come when relevant parties admit they were wrong and their policies were futile.   


Such trends and misdirection would turn terrorism into a tool to reproduce the worst of what humanity has experienced: dictatorship, injustice, oppression of peoples.


It will be difficult to proceed with a genuine global fight against terrorism without ensuring that authoritarian regimes and major powers will not use the war on terror for military and political purposes or as a cover to crush opponents and popular uprisings whenever they feel they pose a threat to their hegemony and tyranny.


Much can be said about terrorism, means of combating it and ways to uproot its causes.


I see, however, that there is no point in talking too much about the fight against terrorism unless a dividing line between the war on terror and the war of tyrants on their peoples is drawn


This miserable weapon stained with innocent blood should be seized from the hands of those killing their people.


As superpowers, international community and long-standing democracies, you have to say very clearly that the last battle of a dictator contributes not to combating terrorism but to creating it.


You have to unveil state terrorism and hold assassins of the times accountable!


Terrorism is not fought by killing others but by giving them life and supporting their aspirations for freedom and for liberation from restrictions of dark dictatorships in whose cellars nothing flourish except death, extremism and hatred.


Why does the world offer us the bad choice between tyranny and terrorism?!


Could we fight both terrorism and dictatorship at once?


The answer: Yes.


Every war against terrorism is also a war against dictatorship.


Every struggle against dictatorship is also a struggle against terrorism.


Free peoples are always on the other side of the anti-life pair: terrorism and tyranny.


Terrorism and dictatorship are two sides of one coin.


We will not allow terrorism to be a lifeline for the decrepit dictatorships.


They themselves are the ones who have created terrorism, sponsored terrorist groups and used them to punish and oppress societies. They themselves are the ones who have caused their people pain in the name of religion and sharia, and imposed strict restrictions on their freedoms under the pretext of Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice.


The global revolution against terrorism begins by enabling peoples to exercise their right to self-determination and enjoy their rights; by freeing “the war to combat terrorism” from blood-stained hands and from the abuse of this globalized transnational violence.


We live in an interdependent world with intertwined interests and interrelationships. We have no choice but to reform this world, which belongs to all of us in the East, the West, the North and the South.


We will raise our voice for unified global policies to combat terrorism, racism and hatred and express our determination to build a coherent global vision that redefines human beings based on their common affiliation and interests, as well as on the common destiny of their lives and world.