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At the Human Rights Fair in Jönköping, Operation 1325 held a seminar on the situation in Turkey and current challenges for the feminist movement.

At the Human Rights Fair in Jönköping, Operation 1325 held a seminar on the situation in Turkey and current challenges for the feminist movement.

Since the Turkish government declared a state of emergency, as a result of last year’s failed coup attempt, more than 50 000 people have been imprisoned, amongst them are journalists, teachers and university professors.  Civil society organizations are closed down and Reporters Without Borders places Turkey as number 151 of 180 in their World Press Freedom Index. Turkey has also declared it does not abide to the European Convention on Human Rights any more.

Nevertheless, people continue to fight for democracy.  Some of them participated at Operation 1325’s seminar.

Gülseren Onanç has been a board member of the political party CHP since 2010. She is one of the founders of the organization for Turkish Women’s Entrepreneurial Association KAGİDER.  Nuray Özbay is the board member and the representative of Turkey to European Women’s Lobby. Nuray is following women issues from an EU perspective. And Zeynep Alemdar, a researcher at Okan University in Istanbul. Turkey. Her current research focuses on security and feminist foreign policy. She has founded the Women in Foreign Policy organization that spread information in Turkish civil society about UN Security Council Resolution 1325.

Together with Charlotte Lind from Operation 1325 they discussed the situation in Turkey today and the current challenges of the feminist movement.

Gülseren Onanç spoke about the current situation for Turkey being dark days right now, but she is optimistic the situation will improve and the future will be brighter for women’s rights and democracy in Turkey. Onanç drew attention to the oppression brought down on the opposition, journalists, and human rights activist in Turkey after the failed coup in July 2016. Currently, 148 journalists and 13 members of parliament remain in jail, including leaders from the Kurdish party. In addition, women’s organizations and networks have been shut down. In 2019 there will be municipal, general and presidential elections in Turkey. The results will influence the direction of civic life in Turkey for years to come.

Nuray Özbay highlighted the importance of security for civic activism. In order to question, first you must feel secure. She said that given the situation in Turkey this notion of security is lost. Now more than ever she said international solidarity is important for civil society to continue in Turkey. The few remaining civil society organizations, that have not been shut down, are operating under harsh circumstances and limited resources. Özbay also gave a historical overview of the feminist movement in Turkey, stating that while it is currently under threat, the feminist movement is strong and dynamic and the strength comes from this diversity that gives it the power to continue.

As an academic in Turkey, Zeynep Alemdar said that when thinking of the feminist perspective in International Relations, the domestic and the international are not separate but very much influencing each other. In Turkey, the feminist movement has made advances in recent decades, thanks in part to the pressure from the European Union, but also from domestic activism. Unfortunately, many of these advances in human rights and women’s rights are now being clawed back and people are losing many rights they have fought hard to achieve. Alemdar also spoke about the increase of domestic violence and low rate of women’s participation in the labour market in Turkey, which is the lowest among its group in the OECD countries. Unfortunately, 73% of women who go to the police to report abuse and 20% of women who go to shelters are assassinated by their abusers.

Alemdar also spoke about the challenges for academics and intellectuals in Turkey. She reflected on how the daily lives of academics are affected in this suppressive environment. She reflected on the words of 17th century realist scholar Thomas Hobbes, saying this is an ideology for which she could not previously buy into; however, now, under the current circumstances, there is some truth to it.