Note from the LeftEast editors: The attempted rape, murder, and burning of 20-year-old university student Özgecan Aslan on Feb. 11th touched a nerve in a society where male-on-female violence has been a chronic problem. Massive demonstrations throughout Turkey followed soon after, but what will it take to stem the surge in femicide over the last decade or so?
(And an AntiNote: in a characteristic attempt to draw connections between issues and interests across movements and contexts, we would also like to emphasize evident ideological and geographical overlap between radical feminism in Turkey and the Kurdish women’s movement, which has found such striking expression in Rojava and the fight against ISIS in particular. We thus invite our hungrier readers to a second helping of Anatolian feminism, from Kurdish revolutionary scholar Dilar Dirik.)
“Women face the most extreme cases of violence when they attempt to become independent of men. The religious-conservative ideological imposition that women should behave according to their purpose of creation is the discourse that perpetuates violence against women because it encourages men to “punish” women who step outside the confines of patriarchal family.”
Mattia Gallo: Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan said that women are not equal to men. This public statement is only one piece of a policy pursued by his party of conservative neoliberalism, a policy that increases precarity and poverty for men and women, and which tries to control and subordinate the role of women. What have been the effects of this policy on Turkish society since 2002, the year that brought Erdoğan’s party, AKP, to power? What are the issues that feminists have faced?
Selin Cagatay: This is not the first time that Erdoğan has stated his disagreement with gender equality. In 2010, when he was prime minister, he said, “I do not believe in the equality of men and women. I believe in equal opportunities. Men and women are different and complementary.” More strikingly, he said this at a consultation meeting with women’s NGOs, which included long-standing feminist organizations, during which he addressed women exclusively as mothers.
Transcribed from the 21 February 2015 episode of This is Hell! Radio and printed with permission. Edited for space and readability. Although we have cut this transcript down significantly less than we generally do, we strongly encourage you to listen to the audio, to fully appreciate the emotional intensity of the conversation.
“The people of Kobanê were about to face a massacre, and the president of Turkey just wore his sunglasses and made macho statements. He exploited the desperate situation in Kobanê.”
Chuck Mertz: We’ve been talking about all the new challenges to the traditional seats of power around the world, from the Islamic State and how it challenges our notion of the modern state, to SYRIZA and how they’re standing up to the Eurozone’s austerity policies, to Spain’s Podemos, who have created a whole new form of democracy, even to the extra-statecraft of free trade zones that exist outside nations’ and a people’s laws.
But there’s something completely unique happening in Western Kurdistan, a new kind of democracy, and it’s led by women, and they are fighting and beating the Islamic State. Here to tell us about Rojava, Kurdish refugee Dilar Dirik is an activist of the Kurdish women’s movement, and a Ph.D. candidate in the sociology department of the University of Cambridge, where her research focuses on Kurdistan, the Kurdish Women’s Movement, and the PYD (Democratic Union Party) which has existed in the Rojava territories since 2004.
Transcribed from This is Hell! Radio‘s 17 May 2014 episode and printed with permission.
This is only an extended excerpt, edited for readability, and does not include the entire range of issues covered in author Melissa Gira Grant‘s interview with host Chuck Mertz; listen to the whole thing here.
“Most people are doing work they don’t feel really great about, and if they had other options would prefer to do something else—but we wouldn’t describe their boss as a pimp. We wouldn’t describe capitalism as their pimp.”
Chuck Mertz: Writer and journalist Melissa Gira Grant is the author of Playing the Whore: the Work of Sex Work. Good morning, Melissa.
Melissa Gira Grant: Hey there, thanks for having me.