Pinar Selek: 15 years of State harassment

Pinar Selek is a feminist sociologist who has been imprisoned and harassed by the Turkish government for nearly fifteen years now on fabricated charges after Pinar wrote a thesis on the subject of the Kurds.

She is living in exile in France but the Turkish State is again trying to get her extradited: the last episode of a saga in which she is endlessly acquitted by a lower court and then re-condemned by a supreme court that over-rules the judgment.

More detailed information on her case can be read here.

Pinar Selek

The next Supreme Court appeal trial for Pinar Selek will be held on April 30, 2014. The International Spokesperson of Pinar Selek Solidarity Committee in Turkey is seeking for organizations and individuals willing to sign a statement in support of Pinar. If your or your organization would like to help, please contact Ms Yesim Basaran (, Ms Karin Karakasli ( or Mr Onur Fidangul (


The short unhappy life of the “Committee on Equality of Opportunity for Women and Men” in Turkey

Source: Open Democracy, by Ozlem Altiok

Policy aiming to address Turkey’s real and persistent problem of gender inequality must be formulated in consultation with feminists. Unfortunately, there is ample reason to doubt that a government that refuses to name a problem can solve it, says Özlem Altıok.

On October 14, Anadolu Ajansi (AA), Turkey’s official news agency, reported that “The Committee on Equality of Opportunity for Women and Men” (KEFEK) would be replaced with a “Committee on Family and Social Policies” as part of draft legislation to change parliamentary bylaws. A few weeks later –  because their attention was focused at the time on another piece of draft legislation dubbed the “women’s employment package” –  feminists called on the government to halt any such change until they could comment.

Given Turkey’s many pressing issues –  including what Deniz Kandiyoti calls atangled web of religion and politics that the ruling Justice and Development Party (JDP) helps to weave, and the unhappy marriage between democratizing reforms undertaken to facilitate Turkey’s accession to the EU and the repression of political dissent –  this issue may appear inconsequential. But what may seem like a simple change in name is important because it illustrates the fragility of the institutional mechanisms for protecting women’s rights and ensuring gender equality in Turkey.

There is some irony, too, in the fact that feminists now find themselves defending a name they did not initially like. When the Turkish parliament voted in January 2009 for the creation of a permanent “Committee for Equality of Women and Men,” feminists, who had worked for this outcome for a decade, felt victorious and happy. But their joy was dampened when, in a last minute maneuver, the JDP changed the name to “The Committee on Equality of Opportunity for Women and Men.”

In a fax signed by more than 100 women’s organizations, women’s rights activists objected that their goal was “equality in practice,” not “equality of opportunity.” Arguing that the state must ensure equality between women and men by taking positive action and instituting positive discrimination, women’s organizations urged parliament to keep the original name, which had enjoyed widespread support. Ultimately, they failed to remove “of opportunity” from the committee’s name.

So why does the change in the name of this parliamentary committee – one that women’s rights activists did not even like in the beginning – upset them today?

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Solidarity with protestors and women’s rights activists in Turkey

Women In Development Europe (WIDE+), a network of which Roj Women is a member, has released a statement of support with women’s rights activists in Turkey.

Source: WIDE+ blog

During the last weeks, youth, environmentalists, women’s activists, health workers, teachers, lawyers, intellectuals, unionized and non-unionized workers, non-governmental organizations, citizens, the faithful and non-believers, LGBTIQ individuals, artists, athletes, home makers, soccer fans – women and men from all walks of life have united at peaceful street demonstrations around Turkey expressing their opposition to the neoliberal-Islamist government under Prime Minister Erdoğan. They have succeeded in placing equality, democracy, pluralism and diversity on the top of the political agenda in Turkey, and in Europe as a whole.

As European feminists and women’s rights activists, we express our solidarity with the protestors in Turkey. We deplore the repression and massive state violence against people who exercise their basic freedoms of dissent and assembly.

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A call to engender Turkey’s peace process

Turkey’s agenda for peace aims to overcome the decades-old Kurdish question and raise democratic standards. While welcoming this initiative, Yakin Ertürk questions whether the end of conflict will bring peace to women if gender equality issues are not adequately addressed.

Source: Open Democracy

Turkey has entered a political point in time with a strong drive for peace. This historic moment not only means ending the three decades of armed conflict that has hijacked efforts towards democracy, but it also means embracing a new social contract that transcends the current deadlock concerning particular Kurdish demands, and more general issues of national identity. While the prospect for peace is understandably received with a general enthusiasm and cautious anticipation by the public at large, a constructive dialogue within the parliament has not yet been forthcoming.

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Helping women is called ‘divisive activity’

Source: Feminkurd

The first hearing of an application by the Van Prosecutor’s Office to close down 10 organisations conducting activities within the city, including Van Women’s Association (VAKAD), was held in early April at the Van 3rd Court of First Instance. The case has been adjourned until 17 May 2013.  

The case statement which was submitted to the Van 3rd Court of First Instance and which contained reports by anonymous witnesses claimed that the organisations in question were instructed by other parties. Among these organizations was Van Women’s Association, which was founded in 2004 and the case file contains statements of anonymous witnesses about the organization as well as notes from the searches conducted.

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Erdoğan’s Deadly Pro-Life Agenda: Recruiting Unborn Turks in the War on Kurds

For years Erdoğan has been warning of Turkey’s downfall, fearing that “They want to eradicate the Turkish nation!” and “If we continue the existing trend [of decreasing birthrates], 2038 will mark disaster for us,” and calling upon Turkish women to fulfill their maternal duty. But who is this unnamed enemy and what does Erdoğan have planned for them? 

By Melissa Seelye

The fact that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s recent decision to wage war against women’s right to abortion in Turkey was borne out of the controversy surrounding the Uludere massacre, in which 34 Kurds were killed by Turkish F16s in December 2011, is no coincidence. Following much criticism and a prolonged investigation of the incident, Erdoğan suddenly re-directed his rhetoric of blame-shifting and evading a public apology to the victim’s families during a speech in May 2012 to the Women’s Branch Congress of his Justice and Development Party (AKP). In it he condemned both abortion and Caesarean births, infamously announcing: “I know these are steps taken to prevent this country’s population from growing further. I see abortion as murder, and I call upon those circles and members of the media who oppose my comments: You live and breathe Uludere. I say every abortion is an Uludere.” The racist implications of this statement suggest that Erdoğan’s fertility crusade is much more a product of his ongoing paranoia surrounding the persistently higher birthrate (compared to the rest of Turkey) in the predominantly Kurdish regions of Southeast Turkey, than of his commitment to a moral or religious attack on women’s rights.

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DİKASUM reveals its latest report on women’s issues in North Kurdistan

The Practical Centre of Research for Women’s Issues (DİKASUM) has been working under the Diyarbakır Metropolitan Council’s Women and Family Directorate for 12 years. Their latest report reveals many of the challenges and risks women face in North Kurdistan.

Source: Femînkurd

DİKASUM, which has prepared a report based on the profiles of 74 women who were admitted to the Diyarbakır Metropolitan Council’s Guesthouse for Women (women’s refuge), revealed that 58% of women suffer physical violence, 63.5% suffer psychological violence, 13.5% suffer sexual violence and 16.2% suffer economical violence.

The report was launched in conference room no. 2 at the Sümerpark Common Living Area in the presence of the Metropolitan Council’s Head of Social Services Semra Kıratlı, Director for Women and Family Ayten Tekeş, DİKASUM coordinator Özlem Özen and experts from DİKASUM.

DİKASUM coordinator Özlem Özen stated that 218 women had applied to the centre in the year 2012 and that these women were provided with counselling as well as psychological and legal support. She added that 74 of the women who applied to DİKASUM were admitted to the Women’s Guesthouse, together with the 51 children they had with them.

The report which is based on the profiles of these 74 women who were admitted to the Women’s Guesthouse  revealed that 48.6% of women had official marriage certificates, 24.13% did not, 18.9% were single and 8.1% were divorced. The report found that 33.8% of the women had arranged marriages, while 27% had married by their own choice and 20% had been forced into marriage. The report also revealed striking figures about the ages at which women got married. It was observed that 32.8% of women married before the age of 18 and 20.4% gave birth before that age.  Continue reading

Many girls in poor families, especially in the east and southeast of Turkey, married off

Women’s rights activist and lawyer Canan Arin was unlawfully detained on 23 June 2012 for speaking out against child marriages in Turkey. While her trial continues, she is living under permanent threat, but refuses to be silent. Open Democracy spoke to her.

Source: Association of Women in Development (AWID)

As an active lawyer and trainer you were invited to Antalya Bar Association to speak about violence against women. After your talk you were detained. What happened?

Canan Arin : I was the co-founder of the Istanbul Bar Association, Women’s Rights Enforcement Centre and worked as a trainer there.  The Antalya Bar Association was opening a Women’s Rights Enforcement Centre and the lawyers needed training. I gave a talk on violence against women in the form of early and forced marriages in the context of training.

I used two examples to illustrate my point. One was the Prophet who married a girl of seven. The second was the head of the Turkish Republic who was engaged to his wife, the first lady, when she was 14 and married her when she was 15. These are facts.  As I spoke, a group of young men got up and started shouting at me. They said I was insulting and going off the subject. I denied this and said they were free to leave the conference room, which they did.

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Social support work aimed at women in Turkish Kurdistan

Services for divorced women and women whose husbands are in prison recently launched in South East Turkey   

Source: Femînkurd

Şahin, the Minister of Family and Social Policies, reported that the Ministry had started a joint project with the Ministry of Justice in order to provide social support for the wives and children of male prisoners.

Şahin, who addressed the Turkish Grand National Assembly Planning and Budgeting Committee on the budget of the Ministry of Family and Social Policies for the year 2013, informed the audience about the provision of shelter, fuel, education and textbooks as aid for underprivileged families.

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Meet the 12-Year-Old Girl Who Risked Prison to Revive Her People’s Language

The Turkish government recently lifted a decades-old ban on speaking Kurdish in schools, but a young Kurdish girl fighting for full rights says they still have a long way to go.

Source: Jenna Krajeski

MedyaTeachingJSK for post_bnr.jpg

Medya Ormek teaches Kurdish in her classroom, a renovated chicken coop on the roof of her family’s home.

On a hot day in mid-June, 12-year-old Medya Ormek and her family gathered together, sitting on pallets or plastic lawn chairs, to watch Kurdish news and music videos on a small television. To cope with the temperature, they have moved the contents of their sitting room into the shady entrance to their three-story Diyarbakir home, where a breeze from the open door and the rickety ceiling fan make the midday bearable. One of Medya’s sisters serves hot tea and the conversation turns, as it always seems to in this urban heart of Turkey’s Kurdish southeast, to politics. That day, they were discussing the recent announcement by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan that schools in Turkey would now offer the once-banned Kurdish language as an optional lesson. In the media, it was heralded as an “historic step,” but Medya and her family disagreed.

“There are 20 million people in north Kurdistan. An optional lesson is shameful,” said Medya’s father. “And I don’t trust Erdogan, I think that he is lying.” Only time will tell if his suspicions are borne out, but this family has good reason to worry about the government. Young Medya has been on the front lines of the Kurdish struggle to revitalize their language, long restricted in Turkey, teaching classes in her home at great risk to both herself and her family.

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