On the rainy Thursday morning after the first bombs fell on Baghdad, six women in burkas made a slow procession through the streets of Manhattan. Across the bellies of their long robes, the hooded women displayed statistics from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. One read, “23 million people live in Iraq. Half are children,” and another, “90% of war casualties are civilians.” Two of the silent demonstrators bore hand-painted images of fetuses on their abdomens.
The women, none of whom were Muslim, were led by costume designer Adelle Lutz and supported by the nonprofit arts organization Creative Time, the same group behind the Tribute in Light memorial. “I wanted to help put a face to those people who we have not been seeing throughout this conflict,” Lutz said.
As they visited places as varied as Battery Park City and Rockefeller Center, each woman kept a meditation in mind: May you be healthy; may you be happy; may you live with ease of heart and ease of mind; may you live in safety; may you live in peace; this is offered to all beings.
“It was a very quiet kind of protest,” said Lutz, who walked for 12 hours. “Every neighborhood was different. Sometimes it was hostile. People threw cigarettes at us, or swore. One man yelled, ‘Bomb now. Let God sort it out later.’” Other passersby were suspicious. “A few Muslims were concerned that we were wearing these costumes. Many women in Iraq don’t wear them,” Lutz said. “But I think once they understood they were glad, even grateful. Many people said, thank you, thank you.”