SE Turkey’s conflict spurred gender equality for Kurds, panelists say

 

Decades of conflict in Turkey’s Southeast has helped politicize Kurdish women and promote gender equality in the region, participants at a women’s conference heard earlier this week.

Source: Hurriyet Daily News

Kurdish women and children have been politically active because the state has “produced [political] awareness” through its oppression of them, said Dilek Kurban, a columnist for daily Radikal.

“Why are the children and women in the streets? Because of the state. They are political; there is no turning back from this,” she said.

The Women Entrepreneurs Association of Turkey, or KAGİDER, and the daily Radikal organized the gathering earlier in the week to discuss the unique evolution of gender equality and women’s movements among the country’s Kurdish community.

Oral Çalışlar, a Radikal columnist who recently ran a series on Kurdish women, said war sprang from masculine culture and that the issue had been stuck in violence before “effective women” began appearing in the Kurdish movement.

Çalışlar said women who went to the mountains to join the fight suddenly became equals to men and added that this had helped diffuse the concept of gender equality throughout other spheres of life.

“The Kurdish movement became civilized through women,” said Çalışlar, highlighting the almost equal number of women in Kurdish legal political platforms.

Lawyer Reyhan Yalçındağ Baydemir, deputy head of the Human Rights Association, spoke of her childhood memories of “growing up at prison doors” and how these led her to study law.

“I was not playing with dolls when I was 5,” she said. “I was memorizing the right answers to keep away any police or soldiers who would bang on the door in the middle of the night.”

Yalçındağ said Kurdish women were not pursuing their own rights during her university years as the common problems of the Kurds were more at the forefront, but in recent years they had understood that “social patriarchy was giving them hell.”

Eyüp Can, editor-in-chief of Radikal, said his newspaper’s “Don’t make war, talk” campaign, which has asked for “500,000 radicals” to support dialogue instead of war had exceeded its target and now included at least 530,000 contributors.

“[The conflict] is a Turkish problem as much as it is a Kurdish problem,” Can said, adding that a solution could be found if both sides listened to each others’ stories.

Gülseren Onanç, head of KAGİDER, said they had begun to discuss the issue at the start of the government’s Kurdish initiative but immediately realized they did not know much on the matter.

Onanç said the meetings the group had organized with female parliamentary deputies on the Kurdish problem had proved very beneficial and added that they intended to discuss the matter more thoroughly in the future.

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