Mrs. Tawakkol Karman’s Speech in Istanbul on Asylum, Displacement and Immigration Women between Asylum, Displacement and Immigration  

First of all, I would like to welcome you to this important symposium organized by Tawakkol Karman Foundation, and I really thank you for your presence. It seems that we are all aware of the importance of the refugees issue, and of the suffering of millions of people around the world, which is becoming more and more severe over time because politics and special interests of states have outweighed humanitarian considerations.

A few days ago, I met with Nobel laureates Leymah Gbowee and Kailash Satyarthi, former Irish President Mary Robinson, human rights activist Kerry Kennedy and Algerian noted diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi while visiting the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan. A few weeks ago, I, along with some of Nobel Peace laureates, were on a visit to Bangladesh where we went to Rohingya refugees and saw their living conditions. I have visited several refugee camps in different places over the past years.

Regardless of differences in the degree of refugees suffering, I have come away with the conclusion that murderers and criminals bear a close resemblance to each other and that their victims suffer the same. 

The murderers in Burma, Syria, Yemen, Africa and everywhere an unjust war exists commit the most heinous crimes against civilians, making no distinction between men and women or between adults and children, demolish homes, burn farms and shops and force people out of their homes.

The international community and the major powers, alas, have shown little interest in increased numbers of refugees and the reasons behind this phenomenon that has grown in recent years, so that it looks as though there is an unspoken agreement or collusion between murderers and those countries claiming civilization.

According to 2017 statistics by UNHCR, more than 65 million people around the world have been forced from home, and this is the highest levels of displacement ever recorded by UNHCR though the number of refugees is still growing. Among this number are about 22 million refugees including over 11 million people under the age of 18. The UNHCR has also pointed out that 10 million people are stateless and cannot have an access to basic rights such as education, healthcare, work and freedom of movement.

Dear friends,
In March last year, I and my colleagues, Shirin Ebadi and Mairead Maguire paid a visit to one of the largest Rohingyas camps in Bangladesh, which accommodates over sixty thousand refugees. 

It was a difficult moment as we listened to testimonies from the victims who recounted unimaginably horrific atrocities  like mass rape and murder, shootings, stabbings, arson, vandalism, setting fire to bodies, beheading of children in front of parents and vice versa, mass displacement, land seizure, confiscation of property and etc.    

One of them said to me with great emotion that soldiers from the Burmese army came looking for her husband. He was outside the house. She was holding her baby when they took and slaughtered the child in front of her, and then threw the body into the river while the mother was forced to see the whole details of the crime.

Another woman told she and her six-year- old and eight-year-old kids were at home when soldiers broke into the house and gang-raped her along with the two little girls who now suffers permanent disability as a result. The mother and two children are the only survivors of a family whose members were all killed.  I do not want to go any further or repeat what international organizations and senior officials of important countries said when they regarded the Rohingya Muslims as the most persecuted ethnic group in the world. 

But I will ask you to work together to bring the perpetrators to justice and do justice to the oppressed. It is true that we will not be able to heal their wounds or bring their loved ones back to life, but we could bring their oppressors to justice for fitting punishment. The oppressed should not despair of justice. 

We have to help the Rohingyas by correcting  discriminatory laws and policies in Burma. As a reminder, over 647,000 Rohingyas refugees have fled to Bangladesh since August 25, 2017. In the end, the world have to put an end to such brutal discrimination and racism. 

The situation in Syria is also tragic. There are millions of displaced Syrians and refugees, and dozens of cities are being destroyed because the regime of Bashar al-Assad and his allies from states and terrorist groups insist on suppressing and annihilating the Syrian people, and yet some still bet on a settlement with a professional criminal like Bashar al-Assad. 

Any solution in Syria would never succeed as long as Bashar al-Assad remains in power. The suffering of the Syrians should be an incentive to impose a just solution as it is shame and unfair to let the Syrian people down at a time when they seek nothing but freedom. 

As for Yemen, the situation there is no less alarming. With support from Iran, the Houthi militia and the ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh carried out a coup against the legitimate authority, undermining the entire political process and causing a foregn military intervention by the so-called Arab coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Unfortunately, these two countries are now playing a destructive role in Yemen, where people today suffer from multiple wars, which in turn result in many different sufferings such as displacement, killing of civilians and targeting of life in general.

It is a shame for the United Nations and the UN Security Council to allow Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to turn Yemen into an open battlefield. Tampering with blood, freedom and independence of Yemenis must stop.

Any political solution should be based on UN Security Council resolutions on Yemen, as our country does not bear fascist militias or any foreign intervention.  I believe that the new UN special envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, should act according to this equation.

There should not be a possibility to have more than an authority and army as this would mean more war and death, and therefore an increase in the number of refugees and displaced people at the internal and external level.

Dear friends, 
I shall be brief. At the end of my speech, I would like to emphasize the importance of such meeting and similar ones in crystallizing ideas on how to support the refugees, contribute to doing justice to them, and prosecute the criminals who have caused deaths and displacement. I believe that we would never be safe if the perpetrators remain on their thrones and in office.  We must draw courage from those who live in refugee camps and never lose faith in returning to their homes and in the administration of justice. 

Many thanks!