Women’s Approach to the Peace Process – Suggestions for a Lasting Peace
The United Nations emphasizes the importance of ensuring the security of women and children in processes of resolution and peace-making, and it encourages all member nations to make plans and develop programs in this area. WFPI has determined that, as of today, Kurdish people in general, and Kurdish women in particular, have very serious legal, cultural, and economic security problems in Turkey. The primary issues here are losses caused by the war, the village guard system, dispossession, the constant threat of imprisonment, rape and harrassment by security forces and the absence of any prosecution or justice. In order to ensure the security of Kurdish women what is necessary is to first and foremost decrease the number of security forces stationed in Kurdistan, put an immediate halt to the construction of military fortresses, provide education and services in the mother tongue, compensate damages suffered during the war in a manner that considers women equal beneficiaries, prosecute war crimes and uncover the truths of war. It is also necessary to develop policies to combat discrimination in Western cities.
Kurdish women have made it clear that they feel more safe and confident in terms of defending themselves both against men and against security forces in areas where women guerrillas are present. In a similar fashion, women are also able to defend themselves in many arenas in areas where the Democratic Free Women’s Movement is strong. Due all of these reasons, it is necessary to act in collaboration with the Kurdish Women’s Movement in all plans and programs attempting ensure women’s security, and to invest in policies that shall further strengthen and empower this movement.
This report is comprised of the Women for Peace Initiative’s findings resulting from the contacts it established and observations it made between May 2013 and January 2014. A couple serious disappointments with regards to the process of resolution were experienced while the Initiative was carrying out its activities and writing this report. While these were taking place, the women in the Initiative were worried just like all other women, they were witness to the anxieties surrounding the possibility of the dissolution of the process, and to the desire for it to work. First and foremost amongst these disappointments came the wall that is being erected between Nusaybin and Rojava, and the killing of three people during a popular protest against the destruction of the graves of guerilla fighters. What has become apparent is that Kurdish women have been proven right in all the worries and apprehensions they voiced throughout the process of resolution. The process is now at a standstill, but the hope for peace is still not lost. Desire and hope are not sufficient, however, when comes to reaching a resolution or building peace.
The “democratization package” that was publicly announced by Prime Minister Erdoğan on September 30th, 2013 and that was then sent to the Parliament on the 6th of December 2013, has still not passed into law. Moreover, this package does not contain what the state must do in order to make a resolution possible. The Constitutional Negotiation Commission declared that it put an end to its work on the 26th of December 2013. No steps have been taken to release those who are imprisoned as part of the KCK court case, or to shed light on the Roboski massacre. All requests made for the release of the Members of Parliament from the BDP citing precedents were denied. These MPs were only released after individually applying to the Constituonal Court. Neither the democratization package, nor the work conducted in terms of negotiating for a new constitution includes any real steps towards resolution. Furthermore, the regulations that have been announced are far from bringing equality, freedom and democracy to women, LGBTI individuals, members of different religious, ethnic and political groups, and to anyone who wants the resolution process to progress and peace to come to encompass the entire society.
The AKP government has increasingly continued to implement its policies that futher deepen already existing inequalities between men and women throughout the process of resolution as well. Its political approach involves attempting to build a hierarchy amongst women based on binaries such as married and single, those who have children and those who do not, those who wear the hijab and those who do not, legitimate and illegitimate, etc. Through its policies that consider women invisible and non-existent in any area other than the family, AKP has continued this invasion by the state into women’s bodies and their labour. Along with the language and politics of war, male violence against women has also continued its growth. The budget for 2014 was approved on the 20th of December 2013. The highest portion in the budget has been set aside once again for security expenses. While there are only 120 women’s shelters in Turkey, and no women’s shelters in 8 provinces whose populations exceed 100 thousand according to the Ministry of Family and Social Policy, this issue has not been taken into consideration when making budgetary regulations. Unemployment and being dispossessed from social rights continue to be overwhelming issues facing all women.
The changing agenda in Turkey constantly poses a threat to the continuation of the peace process in Turkey. The Middle East policies of the government have done anything but strengthen peace in the area, and the resolution process in Turkey. Instead, through relations the government has formed with certain groups that it has been supporting, it has served to further spark the civil war in Syria. The crisis in government that was unleashed on the 17th of December 2013 has set Turkey on a course where its future is even more unpredictable. The government has become increasingly oppressive, and this has made it impossible for there to be any transparency in the workings of those in power in Turkey, or any fair investigation into the corruption scandals that broke out. Rising government pressure in the country has also eliminated the possibility of establishing a state that is truly governed by the rule of law. In this situation, it seems ever more difficult for the peace process to acquire a legal framework.
As has been mentioned numerous times above, WFPI believes that the conditions for making the process fair, just and sustainable include forming a legal framework, and including women in the process in an equal manner, as parties, observers and negotiators. Furthermore, WFPI’s research, observations and meetings demonstrate that the peace process can only progress if a constitution with equal participation is created, the truths of war are uncovered, and security sector reforms that are human-based rather than state-based are implemented.
A decision must be made to ensure gender equality in the constitution and in all documents that shall emerge throughout the process. All effects the war has had on women, whether directly or indirectly, must be exposed. The perpetrators of violations of human rights during the war must be put on trial. And finally, a new security perspective must be institutionalized. This form of security must enable women to take full advantage of their right to life and to travel freely as well as to establish their social, political and economic freedom. All of these are also part of the UN Resolution No.1325.
The only way peace will become lasting and sustainable is if all oppressed and excluded portions of society are included in this process of re organizing the social contract. Thus, WFPI emphasizes the need for a supra-party body where women from all backgrounds come together to work for peace. WFPI also insists that this body must produce a national plan for resolution. Through its own work, the Women for Peace Initiative has been able to demonstrate time and time again that in organizations where women come together and share their own truths freely, they can indeed find common ground and work towards a resolution, while simultaneously voicing their very realistic and concrete demands.
The Women for Peace Initiative shall continue to work in order to transform the process of resolution into a peace that will ensure the equal participation of women in social life.
25 January 2014
Women for Peace Initiative
The Women’s Initiative for Peace (based in Turkey) is calling on everyone to take a stand against Turkey´s proposal of creating a buffer zone in Syria.
Kobanê, one of the three autonomous Kurdish enclaves in Northern Syria, on the border with Turkey, is once again under attack by the IS. The Islamic State (IS – formerly known as ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) has besieged Kobanê on three separate fronts and is at the moment shelling the city relentlessly. Continue Reading »
A small fieldwork team has recently returned from a short trip to Rojava, North East Syria where they met with refugee population of Kurdish Iraqi Ezidis and representatives of the self-administered areas to gain an insight into their situation.
Media reports of violence, rape and kidnap against civilian populations fleeing from Iraq into Syria prompted Roj Women, a London-based rights and services organisation, to raise the voice of women in the crisis and investigate the potential to help them. Travelling to West Kurdistan, Rojava North East Syria from Iraq’s autonomous South Kurdistan the team identified the recently established Newroz Camp, near Derik in the Al Cizre canton, as a suitable location for their initial enquiries.
The first part of the research intended to identify the perceived needs of the displaced Ezidi people living in the camp using a rapid assessment humanitarian survey tool (Humanitarian Emergency Settings Perceived Needs Scale, HESPER); the second part involved listening to members of local women’s associations and hearing about the initiatives for women’s safety and protection that have been established in the self-administered areas since the revolution began in Syria.
Harrowing personal stories were heard including a family who found a baby on their escape from violence, another who lost their maternal grandmother due to being unable to physically carry her, stories of massacre, ambush, thirst and fear and of families separated from each other with no knowledge of what has happened to their loved ones or their homes and neighbours. These stories have been reported elsewhere in the media but not so often has the news of resilience and hope been reported.
A striking aspect of the story is the response of the refugees to the questions about how they are being treated and respected by the local populations in Rojava. The overwhelming response was positive. Not only did the Ezidi people feel that the People’s Protection Units had saved their lives in Sinjar by opening a safe passage to escape from violence but now they felt a bond of trust with the local hosts for the care they are receiving as refugees. They are now completely dependent on others and have, in most cases, lost everything, yet despite this, most said they were feeling safe at Newroz Camp under the protection of the Asayis, YPG and YPJ.
A further striking aspect is the positive news about the self-administered area’s commitment to gender equality and the rapid strides they have taken towards improving the emergency and long-term services for women. Since the revolution people in Rojava have been establishing their own ways of administering including by February 2014 establishing a Women’s Commission with a minister with a specific remit to address gender equality. Women’s unions and committees established over three years are constantly working and meeting to address different services for women including safe houses, domestic violence care and intervention, family mediation, medical and psycho-social services, counselling, education, economic, political and social rights and self-help strategies. Visit the Facebook pages of the Women’s Commission at f: destya-jin and domestic violence foundation Sara f: sara againstviolence.
The associations are however not only working in a situation of war and economic hardship but also of political challenges. The self-administered areas are not officially recognised internationally and relations with immediate neighbours in political opposition include tactics of embargo and isolation.
The research team have listened to women in Rojava and witnessed their dedication and creativity in these challenging circumstances. Join us to support them. This research calls for humanitarian and campaigning organisations with an interest in refugee care and gender equality to reach out to the women’s associations in Rojava and to support them in their efforts to provide emergency and long-term services. Roj Women is supporting a fund-raising and communication campaign to bring support to these grass roots organisations directly.The report aims to assist local organisations and international organisations by providing an insight into the local context.
The findings have been reported and published in detail by Roj Women and are available to download at:
If you would like to discuss the findings and ways to support the work being done in Rojava to support refugees and gender equality please contact: Ayse Tekagac or Yasemin Andan at email@example.com. A donations website to support the campaign will also be announced within the next few days.
Research conducted on behalf of:
Dilar Dirik is an activist of the Kurdish Women’s Movement and a PhD candidate in the Sociology Department of the University of Cambridge. Her lecture at the 4th New World Summit is entitled “Stateless Democracy: How the Kurdish Women Movement Liberated Democracy from the State”.
Source: Huffington Post, by Houzan Mahmoud
The role of women in war, peace and revolution has long been portrayed in manifold, often contradictory ways. Images of women as victims, pacifist peace makers, protestors, and home makers have dominated literature. Opposed to these images we find that the male figure is represented as a fighter, the ones who take part in war and defend the motherland against the enemy. The homeland is thus a female body a passive and defenceless geography which requires brave men to defend and protect her. It could be argued that history is written by men; therefore they narrate it in a manner that suits the usual gender stereotypes.
The Middle East, North Africa and their female populations in particular have been represented, portrayed and stereotyped in different ways, at different times and in different contexts. Take a look at the media coverage of the recent uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa region. News of the sexual harassment of women in the “Arab uprising”, brutal attacks, imprisonments and virginity tests of female protestors dominated the screens. Yet women played a significant role in these events. For them, the uprising was part of a long history of resistance to suppression and a lack of freedom in their countries. The fact is that women were fighting and have proved their existence despite the counter revolutionary and anti-women treatment that they were receiving.
Today this portrayal is reversed. We now see photos, video footage, reports, documentaries and writing about the Kurdish female freedom fighters in Kurdistan. Kobanê a predominantly Kurdish city in Rojava (Syrian Kurdistan) on the Syrian-Turkish border is dominating our thoughts, our understanding and perception of the role of women in society and revolution.
If women are suppressed, and hanged in public or stoned to death in places like Iran and Saudi Arabia, then Kurdish female fighters are up in arms against such a fate at the hands of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). They are not only taking part in a fierce fight against ISIS, they have taken a leading role in this fight against Islamists as military commanders of both women and men.
Through the interviews, statements and the role played by these women, they are showing extraordinary courage, consciousness and a rejection of traditional gender roles and relations. They refuse to be assigned with a particular gender role i.e. to be care givers, or logistics providers to male fighters, or only take part in protests and later go home to their families and kids. In fact, at the same time as fighting ISIS they are fighting for gender equality.
To those who wish to see women return to their stereotypical roles as peace brokers and peace makers, I would ask exactly who are they supposed to be making peace with? With ISIS, who are one of the most brutal terrorist organisations on the face of the planet; who have as their main mission to drag society back into the dark ages; who force female children and women into Jihad Alnikah, who rape and sell them in slave markets under their own control?
I believe this new model of women occupying the highest positions in politics and as freedom fighters on the front line against ISIS poses important challenges to feminist peace theorising. We need to examine the political context, and the outcome of conflicts on women and their futures. In the case of Kurdish women, taking up arms and fighting on the front line is perhaps their best option. To refuse to become slaves, to be raped, killed or ruled by Islamic Sharia Law under ISIS is only viable through armed resistance. We still do not know about the fate of hundreds of Yezidi women who were captured by ISIS when they invaded Shengal in Iraqi Kurdistan.
This new figure, the female freedom fighter in the heart of a revolutionary culture, provides hope. Most of the time we hear them repeat that they don’t want to remain in traditional family relations or just bring up kids; they want to live freely, and to be independent. These statements are extremely important in terms of rejecting marriage as a form of domesticating women and relegating them to second class citizens in traditional societies. They are well aware that these ambitions cannot be obtained if they are still under threat from ISIS. Therefore, they armed themselves and occupied important positions in politics and social life. They have won the trust, admiration and respect of people not only in Kurdistan but worldwide. The fact is they are up in arms against the most reactionary, misogynist and sexist mind-set of the Islamic terror group ISIS.
The reality is that their struggle is a universal one; they are fighting ISIS on behalf of all of us.