Women develop self-defense

In feminist self-defense seminars, women develop their self-defense against both men and the regime.

Turkey's withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention for the Protection of Women against Violence shows again the need for self-organization of women's self-defense in Northern Kurdistan and Turkey. The women's movement represents the forefront of resistance against the AKP/MHP regime and consistently leads the protest.

The Women's Defense Network took the initiative to organize Feminist Self-Defense Seminars (FÖS). These seminars deal with self-defense against men as well as against the regime. The participants of these seminars take to the streets to shout out their own experiences and what they have learned.

ANF spoke with some of these women both about the abolition of the Istanbul Convention and about what the self-defense seminars have changed in them. The women describe the importance of the seminars for the development of women's consciousness, especially in their own lives. The majority of the participants have already experienced violence in their own lives, in their youth or at work.

After leaving the Istanbul Convention: "Never before had I felt so hopeless"

Nevin is 35 and a mother of three. She has been divorced from her husband for six years. She tries to make a living economically on her own and works in the canteen of a company. Nevin reports that mainly men work in the company and that she is subjected to a lot of oppression by these men, albeit unknowingly. Even though she knew about the campaign against the Istanbul Convention, she said she was very afraid when she learned about Turkey's withdrawal. She says, "I am 35 years old and I have never felt so desperate and helpless. When I read this news, I felt like the world was collapsing. I felt like I was in a huge hole. I mean, I was scared because the convention was a great hope for us women. Women are already at risk in all areas anyway, this approach is an open invitation to femicide. You are putting women on the line and conveying that you can kill them and rape them any way you want. Of course, there is another side. We go to protests as women. I even get messages from women who are conservatives on social media telling me to let them know when I'm going to the protest again. Whether they know much about feminism or not, women are raising their voices, and that's turning that fear into hope. I think women will make the government take a step back.”

"The Istanbul Convention is ours, we will take it back"

Nevin continues, “The Feminist Self-Defense Seminars I have attended have given me a lot. I cook in a place with a lot of men. The way the people I work with see women is what we can call the average in Turkey. After I participated in the seminars, I built an invisible wall around myself. I learned a lot about invasion of privacy at the seminar. When you are a liberated woman, their attitude towards you changes. To them, you are then a bad woman who breaks the rules of society. They call me elder sister, but they give the word a different meaning. For example, I look at men’s constant insistence on a relationship quite differently before the FÖS. It didn't even occur to me to consider a violation of privacy as a violation of rights. I thought, well, he's just in love and that's why he's insisting. But after attending the FÖS, I realized that the man then does not recognize my will.

"We women must protect each other"

Women must protect each other, there is no other way. All women must learn to use anything near them as a weapon. We have nothing but self-defense and each other. When a woman goes to the police station to file a complaint, even the policemen look at her with hatred and speak in a demeaning tone, asking what kind of woman she is to report her husband. Therefore, self-defense is our right. I cannot go to the same city where my divorced husband lives because I am in danger of my life there. I have been living far away from my hometown for six years, both because of my family and my ex-husband. This is a great injustice, a violation of rights. I have gone through this, and there are women who have gone through much worse. I took care of all three of my daughters for six years, so the Istanbul Convention is ours, and I say we will get it back."

"Women are silenced"

Esen is 32 years old. For her, participating in the FÖS meant a leap in consciousness. She believes that a social state should not abolish women's rights, but expand them. Esen says, "They completely abolished women's rights instead of expanding them as they should have. Like many women, I didn't know our rights, so I participated in a FÖS. In fact, we are not even aware of the many rights violations against us. So I realized that many things are indirectly enforced on us by society and the family, silencing us. This is mainly always about contradictory messages that are used to keep us women in powerlessness. We women have been taught from an early age that we should stop going into crowds or lonely places because it's dangerous. So what should I do, not go into crowds or not go to lonely places? We were told not to talk too much, but if we have a problem, we should say it. Between these two alternatives, the woman decides to keep silent over time. And then someone comes up to you and says, 'Why did you wait two years to say that?' Nothing has ever been easy for us. Of course, it's not right that the defense is left only to us, we are citizens here and we have no choice but to defend ourselves."

"Women's struggle is legitimate"

Another woman from the seminar, who does not want to give her name for security reasons, says: "I am glad that I participated in the FÖS, because at least I learned how men violate my rights and what I can do about it; how I can draw my own boundaries. I realized that if a man keeps pushing even though I said 'no', that he is not respecting my will. I used to think the man did it because he loved me, but now I look at it differently. Learning these things, I think women's struggle is totally legitimate. Especially in light of the fact that the government has sided with the men who do violence to us, who make our lives hell, and the state even protects them and awards them with impunity. That's why we will never give up the Istanbul Convention and our rights."