A global anti-militarist and pacifist network ‘War Resisters’ International’ (WRI) recently organized an international webinar on ‘Pandemic and Militarization.’ Participants from more than a dozen countries from every continent shared their experiences. As a member of the WRI executive committee, I was involved in organizing and participating in the webinar.
Pacifist and peace activist participants in the webinar were concerned about the militarized response to the COVID-19 by their government in their countries. Governments and politicians are using language of war to talk about the situation and response to that. You’ve probably heard it yourself, COVID is an “invasion”, a “hidden enemy,” support the “frontline” workers in the “battle” against COVID.
We also noticed that governments are allowing militaries to take over the role of civilian public health response. In Nepal, the government handed over the dealing and purchase of testing kits and medical supplies to the military. Militaries are building make-shift hospitals and quarantine centers. Globally, instead of ensuring proper and effective civilian public health response, governments are deploying military and armed forces. For example, a military unit was in charge of quarantine in Israeli city Beni-Braq and got involved in logistics like delivery of groceries to homes.
Corona virus has become a tool and opportunity to oppress people. Several hundred thousand day workers and people in India faced police brutality.
In many countries, prisoners are seriously mistreated and dehumanized. They are denied their basic rights. Prisons are heavily overcrowded compared to their capacity that exposes prisoners at high health risk. El Salvador is one such example.