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Testimony from War Tribunal on Iraq by Müge Gürsoy Sökmen

Preface to World Tribunal on Iraq: Making the Case Against War


The World Tribunal on Iraq (WTI) was a collective effort involving hundreds of people from all over the world, most of them never having met in person. About twenty sessions were held in various cities of the world, focusing on different aspects of the war on Iraq. The findings of these sessions were incorporated into a culminating session held in Istanbul on 23-27 June 2005. This book consists of the proceedings of that session.


The war on Iraq was waged despite the unprecedented global opposition, which was manifested even before the war began. When the war started the antiwar movement did not yield and retreat; the protests against the war and the occupation continued.


Inspired by the Bertrand Russell Tribunal of the Vietnam War era, WTI aimed to record not only the crimes against the Iraqi people, but also crimes committed against humanity and against all other inhabitants of this planet. These records had to be kept, as a means of resistance to those forces that render our world unlivable, who invalidate all values that humanity has struggled to build, and usurp our hopes for the future. The records had to be kept because the US and its allies, who waged a war of aggression mobilizing everything at their disposal including lies and coercion, would not hesitate to rewrite history. Theirs would be a history of victors based on forgetting, one that would erase from view the history of the dissent.


When initiating the WTI process, we knew that the antiwar movement was not homogeneous; everybody had different reasons to oppose this war. The starting group included renowned experts in international law, people who worked for the United Nations on varying levels, peace activists, philosophers, political scientists, conscientious objectors, alterglobalization activists, and others with diverse identifications.


Some of us believed that it would suffice to improve the existing international institutions and international law, some of us believed that those should be abolished all together; some of us defined ourselves as world citizens, some of us gave precedence to national, regional or ethnic identities… But our common aim brought us together to work through our differences. It was clear that we needed to raise our voices, to resist and to find creative ways of resistance in order to reclaim our future, in order for the world to even have a future. It was also clear that we needed to work as hard as and be as creative as the enemies of humanity.


The process of preparing the tribunal was as important for us as its end result. We did our best to organize non-hierarchically in a horizontal network, and to include, rather than silence or exclude, debates and divergent views. We are left far behind our dreams, and have made many mistakes to draw lessons from, but at least we accomplished what may be called an “experimental assertion”: working together as a global subject, leaving a record for history, bringing together material that can be used in appeals to the ICC or the UN, or as legitimate grounds for conscientious objection, and creating a spark of hope for future collective work.


The Culminating Istanbul Session of the World Tribunal on Iraq consisted of presentations of documents and analyses regarding the various aspects of the war by a Panel of Advocates who addressed the general public and a Jury of Conscience that brought together people representing the conscience of the world. The sessions lasted three days and were divided into three main parts: "Bearers of the Responsibility of the War", "The Concrete Details of the War and Occupation" and "The Effects of the War on the Future of Our World". At the end of the three days the Jury of Conscience convened to issue a preliminary statement, and then worked via the internet for the following weeks to produce the more detailed statement that you can find at the end of this book.


We have not included in the book photographs of the horrific details of war. As we know, such details distance the viewer from the sight, leading to the illusion that those who suffer such wrongs are far and away from one’s self. Instead we wanted to say: we are all Iraqis, what they suffer is what we suffer, or may suffer tomorrow. Not only their land, but ours too, is subject to nuclear pollution that cannot be undone for hundreds of years to come. Our hopes for finding peaceful alternatives to settle conflicts are also shattered, our future also darkened.


This documentary book is the result of the labor and support of hundreds of people who volunteered their efforts throughout the process: Experts in law, politics, history, ecology, toxicology, archaeology, economy, sociology and philosophy who generously shared their knowledge; lawyers who worked for months to prepare the framework for prosecution; facilitators who took part in various stages of the process, trying to unite differing orientations towards a common aim and to resolve conflicts arising from differing views; translators; volunteers who ensured the smooth running of the sessions; individual funders who made it possible for many people to travel from different parts of the world; institutions and establishments who allowed us to use their resources; and most of all, antiwar dissidents from Iraq, who trusted us, acknowledged our legitimacy and endured various difficulties to participate in our session.


Our conditions of working together render it unnecessary for anyone to thank anyone else, because all who contributed to WTI did so because they wanted to and because they cared about the result. So rather than a situation where some can thank others, we have one where people have empowered and given confidence to each other.


We believe that the culminating session in Istanbul is only a beginning. Now the task is to disseminate these findings as widely as possible, and to make sure that whoever wishes to use this material can do so. We all have worked hard in this process, but unfortunately we still have a lot to do, because the US and its allies increasingly continue their attacks. And there is no force that we can trust to stop these attacks, except for the global subject who says “no”. This book is published with the hope that we will continue to answer pessimism of the mind with the optimism of the will and never cease our collective resistance.


Müge Gürsoy Sökmen, Editor

May 2006 


Müge Gürsoy Sökmen is one of the starters of the WTI process and a member of the Content Committee of the WTI Istanbul Culminating Session. Müge is an editor, translator and co-founder of Metis Publications (founded 1982). She has commissioned and prepared for publication hundreds of books, both fiction and non-fiction, by local and international authors, acting as the commissioning editor and foreign rights manager of the company. She has been a member of the editorial board of translation journal Metis Çeviri and of Defter, a critical thought quarterly. She has contributed to the organisation of many seminars, conferences and symposiums relevant to her editorial work. She is the editor of World Tribunal on Iraq: Making the Case Against War (Metis, Turkey, 2006 and Olive Branch Press, USA, 2008) and co-editor of Waiting for the Barbarians: A Tribute to Edward Said (Autumn 2008 by Metis, Turkey, and in Summer 2008 by Verso, UK). She has chaired the Writers in Prison Committee of Turkish PEN for many years and has acted as a peace and freedom-of-expression activist for over twenty years. Sökmen is a member of the Turkish Publishers Association, Turkish PEN and Alliance of Independent Publishers for an Alternative Globalisation. She co-chaired the Organising Committee Guest of Honour Turkey Frankfurt Book Fair 2008.

Additional Resources: 

For the Record: World Tribunal on Iraq 1/5

For the Record: World Tribunal on Iraq 2/5  

For the Record: World Tribunal on Iraq 3/5 

For the Record: World Tribunal on Iraq 4/5 

For the Record: World Tribunal on Iraq 5/5 

Documentary: World Tribunal on Iraq

More testimonies from the World Tribunal on Iraq

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