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Women in Black staging a protest in New Paltz, New York

Women in Black (Hebrew: ◊†◊©◊ô◊Ě ◊Ď◊©◊ó◊ē◊®‚Äé, Nashim BeShahor) is a women's anti-war movement with an estimated 10,000 activists around the world. The first group was formed by Israeli women in Jerusalem in 1988, following the outbreak of the First intifada.

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History

Responding to what they considered serious violations of human rights by Israeli soldiers in the Occupied Territories, the women held a vigil every Friday in central Jerusalem, wearing black clothing in mourning for all victims of the conflict.

The initiative soon spread to various other locations in Israel, with women standing weekly in main squares of cities or at junctions on inter-city highways. As was decided early on, the movement did not adopt any formal program other than opposition to the occupation. Local groups were autonomous in deciding such issues as whether or not to open participation to men as well as women, and there were many shades of political difference from one place to another.

At the peak of the Intifada there were thirty vigils in different locations throughout the country. The number dwindled sharply after the Oslo Agreement in 1993, when it seemed that peace with the Palestinians was at hand, and picked up again when violent events proved that hope to have been premature.

The first vigils in other countries were started in solidarity with the Israeli group, but then embraced other social and political issues. Especially notable were the Women in Black groups in former Yugoslavia, which in the 1990s confronted rampant nationalism, hatred and bloodshed, often meeting with violence from nationalists and persecution by police. In Serbia, Slobodan MiloŇ°evińá devoted several speeches to attacking them, calling them "witches" among other negative words.

While each group is free to pursue its own goals and activities, the women maintain regular contact via e-mail and the Internet, and hold annual international conferences. Their most common tactic consists of standing together periodically in various public places, usually in complete silence.

Controversy

In one instance, a United States grouping of Women in Black was accused of mocking and showing disrespect to American soldiers. The Athens, Georgia chapter was the subject of a letter to the Athens Banner-Herald in October 2007 for a protest at which an unidentified individual, said not to be a member of the military, allegedly dressed up in a U.S. Army uniform, put pacifist political buttons on it, and held peace signs with the Women in Black.[1]

Women in Black in Austin, Texas, was started to hold weekly vigils against US bombing of Afghanistan after the September 11 attacks.

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