Activism against Gender-Based Violence in Times of Conflict: Kurdish Women’s Movement in Turkey

By Elif Ege
Submitted to Session P4819 (Gender-Based Violence, Solidarity, and Advocacy, 2017 Annual Meeting
Kurdistan; Turkey;
Gender/Women's Studies; Kurdish Studies; Transnationalism;
LCD Projector without Audio;
During the peace process between the Turkish state and the Kurds, Kurdish women’s organizations in Turkey have participated to several different meetings by international institutions and transnational feminist organizations, and mobilized around international days (such as, November 25 International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women) in order to address the increasing ‘violence against women’ in Turkey and more specifically in Turkish Kurdistan. Through these meetings and demonstrations, Kurdish women activists underlined the obligations of the Turkish state under the international law and treaties, and encouraged the state officials to take action. However, the termination of the peace process and the recently perpetrated political operations against the Kurdish women’s movement (the arrests of the prominent Kurdish women activists and politicians, and the closings of the Kurdish women’s organizations) call for rethinking the role played by the “transnational leverage” (Ewig & Ferree 2013) in the activists’ negotiations with the Turkish state.

Based on in-depth interviews with Kurdish women activists from different organizations, my paper addresses this shift and asks: What types of mobilization strategies does the Kurdish women’s movement use to mobilize against gender-based violence in a context of increased war and conflict that obstruct transnational connections? And, in what ways do they implement international legal and political norms and regulations and resort to transnational feminist solidarity relations in their negotiations with the state? The scholarship on the women’s movements in the Middle East mainly addresses how the challenges that women face at the national level vis-à-vis their states encourage them to pursue transnational connections. (Al-Ali 2000; Hasso 2014) Transnational feminism literature also argues that global meetings and transnational connections energize women’s local mobilizations by providing them with the “legitimate” frameworks to articulate their issues and confront their states. (Brysk 1993; Keck & Sikkink 1998; Friedman 2003) In this paper, I will contribute to these scholarships by keeping in mind the recent shift towards the weakening of the international institutions’ power and the growing restrictions over transnational connections.