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Bella Abzug Shouted Down After Attacking Soviets With AM-Women’s Conference

July 16, 1985

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) _ A discussion on U.S.-Soviet relations exploded into angry shouts Tuesday when former U.S. Congresswoman Bella Abzug of New York criticized a Soviet woman at the non-governmental Forum ’85 on women’s issues.

The outburst appeared to stem more from a language problem than a difference of opinion. It took place in a tent at the University of Nairobi campus, home for the forum being held concurrently with the U.N. Decade for Women conference.

Ms. Abzug seemed to misunderstand a complaint by Zoya Zarubina, a Soviet Foreign Ministry official, who said that women usually ″take the back seat and permit a handful of men in both our countries to take the important decisions which will effect the whole of humanity.″

Ms. Abzug said, ″I disagree with the Soviet woman who just spoke and said we should leave it to the men.″ There were shouts of ″That’s unfair 3/8″ and ″She didn’t say that 3/8″

The New York Democrat continued speaking, however.

″I’ve sat around too long and listened to women who say that matters of peace, matters pertaining to the megalomaniacal arms race with which our two countries are obsessed″ were reserved for males, she said.

Another Soviet participant, Natalya Berezhnaya, deputy chairman of the Soviet women’s commission, said she felt handicapped speaking after Ms. Abzug.

She said Ms. Abzug always served to remind her that ″human energy is more powerful than nuclear energy.″

Earlier, Ms. Zarubina criticized what she called American stereotypes of the Soviets as aggressors, citing the title of a U.S. film, ″The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming.″

″If we are so evil, if we are the aggressors, then why have we come here (to Kenya) at all?″ she asked.

″We, the women of the Soviet Union, feel that when you speak of division in the peace movement, you mean that yours is the true peace and ours is state-ruled,″ she asserted. ″But I want you to know that we, too, see that peace is paramount.″

Cora Weiss, of the Riverside Presbyterian Church in New York City, said, ″I believe that the state of the world right now is in the hands of a small group of people in our two capitals. And in a world that is torn by hunger and war and poverty, we cannot let that happen anymore.″

Nina Kovalska, a Ukrainian official, said, ″We Soviet women are tired of being met with suspicion. ... Whenever I meet an American woman here ... I want to say to her, ’We are people too, just like yourselves.‴

She said she has learned a number of new English expressions from the women at the forum. ″One of these is, ’Let’s celebrate our differences.‴

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