1325 PeaceWomen
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“I wish to appeal to women all over the world, young and old… that they love only those men who are willing to clearly declare themselves against all violence”
GERMANY, 1947 – 1992

She studied International Relations in Washington and received her Master’s Degree in Political Science and European Integration at the University of Amsterdam.  She worked in the public sector at the European Economic Community, and belonged to the Social Democratic Party (SPD) of Germany until Die Grünen (the Green Party), the German ecological party that she helped to found,  was created in 1979. She was a green parliamentarian from 1982 to 1987.  As an ecologist, pacifist and feminist, she worked tirelessly in the fight against nuclear weapons.  She was also involved in the fight for human rights in Tibet and she worked to help improve the lives of children with cancer.  She stood for non-violence and gentleness in politics, a field to which she believed hope and heart should be added.

I met Petra Kelly in Berlin, in 1983, at the second European Nuclear Disarmament Convention.  I remember her small figure on that huge stage, and the immense strength that was transmitted by the conviction in her voice. Here, six years before the fall of the Berlin Wall, the unification of Germany was discussed, albeit the main objective of that meeting was to organise a European campaign against NATO’s decision to deploy Pershing II and Cruise missiles against the Soviet Union.  In a photo that I still have saved from that day, she is standing on the platform with Gert Bastian, her partner, A NATO general who had ascended to a life of pacifism.

It was in the United States, where she moved to live with her family, where Petra learned about the Nazi crimes and German silence; about the existence of the concentration camps and the drama of the Holocaust.  Her country’s past would have a profound effect on her.  In the US, she witnessed first hand the dramatic events that marked an era: the movement against the war in Vietnam, the assassinations of Martin Luther King and of Robert Kennedy. Reading the book “On the Duty of Civil Disobedience” by Henry David Thoreau and seeing it put into practice by Martin Luther King would bring her closer to a life of non-violence and created for her moral guidelines which she never abandoned.

Whoever was lucky enough to have met Petra coincided in the opinion that she was a passionate, open-hearted woman with a great sense of romanticism.  When, due to her new political orientation, she left the SPD, she cried at the thought of abandoning the party of Rosa Luxemburg. For a whole generation, our generation, her commitment and her ideas filled us with enthusiasm, and gave us an example to follow an our own lives..

Antinuclear pacifism, the pacifism of the eighties, had Petra Kelly as its greatest exponent. She was opposed to all uses of nuclear energy, civil or military. She considered cancer to be the punishment received by a society that had engaged in scientific developments alien to nature:  nuclear advancements, the chemical industry, the development of pesticides, poisoned foods and the contamination of thevsea and air.

In 1970, the death of Petra’s younger sister Grace due to cancer was what ultimately drew her closer to the nuclear problem. She felt a strong connection to Hiroshima and its victims, to the health problems of the uranium mine workers in Malaysia and Australia, and to those affected by nuclear testings.  She always believed that it was radioactivity that had brought about the death of her younger sister, whom she honoured by creating foundation in her name that investigates the problems and possible solutions of cancer.

Her pacifism was whole-heartedly put into use in her commitment to the politics of the new German ecological party founded in 1979. “Die Grünen” was a new party, an alternative which she defined as an “anti-party party” whose key policies were non-violence, ecology, social justice and feminism. From the beginning, the new party raised huge expectations. It sought to give a voice in Parliament to those unable to defend themselves: to social movements, to animals and to plants. We of course still remember the brave gesture of a parliamentarian breastfeeding her baby in her seat at Parliament. It needed to be shown that society does not take into account the issue of children in its organisation and structures; that the private and the public are at odds because they have been created of by men who are not responsible for nursing children.

Petra Kelly appreciated and defended the deep relation between nature and life.  She believed that politics should be reconstructed upon a revision of norms and consumption with respect for nature, which is the root for all life. She preached that the earth and everything growing on it are not simply merchandise, and that we are all interdependent.  She proposed a life of simple means and rich ends.  Following the Gandhian path, she proposed substituting “consumer liberty” for “self-limitation liberty,” without seeing limitation as a loss.

Every disaster that happened in every corner of the world, every case of suffering, every attempt at peaceful resistance was condemned or defended by Petra Kelly. Her causes ranged from the thousands of seals that died in the North Sea in 1988 due to the toxins in their tissues, to the situation suffered by the inhabitants of Tibet who were repressed by the Chinese Government.

She greatly valued the work done by women, and she rebelled against the subordination they suffer under the patriarchal system. She believed in equality, in political leadership by women and in the universalization of care, matters in which still require much debate.  She felt close to the women of the Third World who defend both life and nature; to the women of the Chipko movement, in India, who defended their forests; to those of Belau opposing nuclearization; to those who took part in the democratic movements in the Philippines, South Africa and Central America, and to indigenous women from so many places in the world.

Petra was neither an easy person to deal with nor was she particularly sweet.  She was irritated by the human rights defence rhetoric, which she did not see reflected in the German government. Above all, it seemed to her totally unacceptable that military, economical and strategic considerations and objectives held more weight and influence in the political agenda than human suffering.

Petra believed that politics needed spirituality, reconciliation, sincerity, memory and the ability to express regret.  She maintained insistently that the German government should apologize to Guernica for the bombing by the Condor Legion during the Spanish Civil War.

In the nineties, internal conflict undermined the initial strength of The Greens.  In October 1992, Gert Bastian and Petra Kelly were found dead in their house in Munich. According to the police, Bastian shot Petra as she was sleeping and then killed himself. There were no other signs of violence and the security system had not been sounded. Sara Parkin, a party colleague and the author of Kelly’s biography, does not believe that it was a joint suicide, that Kelly did not decide her death.  Her writings and her life lead me to believe the same. Using her line of reason, we can still continue to weave a present day that is more just and humane.