Women from 63 countries who participated in the 12th International Forum sponsored by the Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID) in Istanbul, Turkey on April 19-22 joined the International Women’s Alliance (IWA) in calling for the end of U.S. military presence in the Asia Pacific region. Women leaders participated in the IWA-initiated “U.S. Troops Out of Asia Pacific Now!” signature campaign which calls on the United States government to stop the deployment of soldiers and personnel and the construction of military bases and facilities in the region, and to pull its troops out of Asia Pacific, stating that the U.S. military presence creates nothing but havoc in the lives of women and girls. IWA was represented by its Chairperson Liza Maza in the four-day conference attended by more than 2,000 delegates from around the world. Women suffer grave human rights violations in the hands of American soldiers.
Violence against women and girls intensify in places where U.S. soldiers are deployed, as proven by the experience of Japan, South Korea, Philippines, Taiwan and Thailand, where the incidence of rape, abuse, and sexual harassment of women increase together with the presence of American soldiers and personnel. Presence of American troops also saw the proliferation of the rest and recreation industry in these places, where prostitution and sex trafficking in women thrive.
The petition criticized the new ten-year defense strategy revealed by United States in January which punctuates the Obama Administration’s “America’s Pacific Century”. The U.S. considers this shift in political, economic and military focus as an opportunity for the world’s most powerful country to secure all available resources in the world in the midst of the worst financial and economic crises in history. “For the oppressed and exploited peoples of Asia Pacific, most especially women,” the petition said, “this means the intensification of the U.S.’ wars of terror and aggression.”
The new defense strategy uses humanitarian missions and military training exercises as excuse to increase the deployment of American troops and war materiel all over the region, acquire more facilities and access for military exercises, and intensify U.S. military operations. Half of the U.S. military bases and facilities are in the Asia Pacific region.
The United States have for years been maintaining military bases and facilities and deploying troops and personnel in Australia, India, Indonesia, Japan, Pakistan, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea and Thailand. Almost a hundred American military bases and facilities, including depots, warehouses and barracks, are scattered in mainland Japan and Okinawa, with about 52,000 American troops deployed. In South Korea, there are around 40 U.S. military facilities, including the Kunsan Air Base and the Osan Air Base. Despite the ban on permanent deployment of troops under the Philippine Constitution and the abolition of the U.S. bases in 1991, around 4,000 are deployed at any given time in the Philippines under the Visiting Forces Agreement. In Singapore, the Logistics Group Western Pacific Command was established in July 1992, after the Subic Bay Naval Station in the Philippines has been abolished. In Pakistan, aside from the around 100-300 military personnel deployed, there are also thousands of American soldiers stationed in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border where the Pakistani resistance movement is known to be based.
The signature campaign “U.S. Troops Out of Asia Pacific Now!” continues to gather support from all over the world. IWA encourages women in Asia Pacific, Europe, North America, Latin America, the Middle East and Africa to sign the petition and join the global campaign against U.S. military presence in Asia Pacific. #