750 Women Go Nude in Protest
750 nude women form a heart around the words 'No War' on a hillside near the town of Byron bay, 700 kilometers (435 miles) north of Sydney, Australia, Saturday, Feb. 8, 2003. The women said they wanted to send Prime Minister John Howard a message to recall Australian troops from the middle east. (AP Photo/Icon Images)
More than 750 female protesters shed their clothing during the protest, lying naked end to end on a grassy knoll on a private property, to form a heart shape around the words "No War" for an aerial photograph.
Australia has sent troops and approved an RAAF fighter squadron deployment to join US and British forces in the Gulf preparing for a possible war in Iraq.
But it has yet to publicly commit itself to joining any UN-approved or US-led military action in Iraq.
Today's larger-than-expected turnout for the 'Disrobe to Disarm', prompted by a similar protest in the US, even surprised organisers.
"I was completely overwhelmed," Australian jazz and blues singer Grace Knight, who led organisational efforts for today's protest, told AAP.
"I needed at the very least 67 women and I prayed for 250, and we got more than 750.
"What that tells me is that 750 women came and took the opportunity to get quite uncomfortable in a field - I know I felt quite uncomfortable - because we thought that was the only way we could get the federal government's attention."
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The former Eurogliders lead singer, speaking while rushing to catch a flight to Tasmania where she has a gig this weekend, said the nude protest group included babies, teenagers and elderly women.
"There were 80-year-old women there whose husbands were Vietnam war veterans," Knight said.
"We wanted to spell out a clear message very quickly, so we used the words: 'No War'."
She said that with hundreds choosing to bare all in the protest, and that it was limited only to women, demonstrated that many Australians were "extremely angry and frustrated" about involvement in a possible war on Iraq.
Australian comedienne, Mandy Nolan, assumed the role of 'Mistress of Undressing', synchronising the protesters and helping them through the disrobing protest, which was done in seconds, Knight said.
Easing participants' nudity nerves with humour, Nolan dubbed the event the "bush against Bush" protest.
One middle-aged woman had the words "Bare it all for the boys Down Under" written down her back.
"The protest was not visible to any other public area, we were there to ensure the women were not bothered by outsiders," a local policeman told AAP.
Smaller anti-war protests were staged elsewhere on in NSW and Queensland today.
The Byron Bay protest was one of a number of similar nude protests around the world, in a climate of increasing anti-war sentiment.
Late yesterday (AEDT), about 30 women scurried into the heart of Central Park in New York City, disrobing amid steady snowfall to display their deep misgivings about war.
In shivering temperatures, the American women used their naked bodies to spell out the words, "No Bush".
Prime Minister John Howard left Sydney on Saturday on a week-long trip in which he plans to meet with US President George Bush as well as UN, British and Indonesian leaders.