By Carolyn O. Arguillas
(First of three parts)
At the Peace Assembly on Jan. 18 to push for the ratification of Republic Act 11054 or the Organic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, a frail, softspoken elderly lady — the lone female speaker in that gathering at the Shariff Kabunsuan Cultural Complex in Cotabato City — declared, in Filipino: “We are not only women, we are not only mothers, and we will not just sit down and wait for the future. We represent a huge number that would vote and make the Bangsa moro Organic Law win.”
The 66-year old Hadja Bainon Guiabar Karon, now a member of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) and appointed Chair of the Regional Commission on Bangsamoro Women (RCWB), lost her husband-commander, Ibrahim Gampong Sema, and five of her seven brothers – Datu Sangki, Datu Ali, Datu Kiram, Datu Sonny and Datu Ronnie — to the Bangsamoro struggle to assert their right to self-determination, a struggle she embraced at age 18 as a student activist under the Federation of Muslim Students.
Karon later headed the Women’s Committee of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) Central Committee and served as Social Welfare Secretary of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (Armm) under Governor Parouk Hussin (also with the MNLF) from 2002 to 2005. She was named OIC Vice Governor of the Armm from December 2011 to June 30, 2013, concurrently serving also as Social Welfare Secretary.
The audience fell silent as Karon, chair of the Federation of United Mindanawan Bangsamoro Women and Women’s Organizations Movement of Bangsamoro (Womb), recalled how she ran “ilang libong beses” to avoid getting caught in the crossfire, hid in foxholes to keep safe, go without food for several days and transfer to different places to save herself and her family, a narrative shared by thousands of Moro women, as well as women from the Indigenous Peoples and settler communities in the conflict-affected areas in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (Barmm).
“Ang araw na ito ay napakahalaga sa amin upang patuloy na maniwala na magtatagumpay tayo sa kapayapaan,” she said.
Along with other senior leaders of the MNLF and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Karon had hoped to see the end of the armed struggle waged by the liberation fronts. They did, 51 years after the Jabidah Massacre that changed the course of their lives.
They are embarking on a “new jihad,” this time as officials of the new political entity called the Barmm, the third attempt – “the third experiment” as cynics would say — at establishing an autonomous region that would truly allow the Moro people to chart their own destiny. (mindanews)