1. Middle East Women’s Conference
Between 31 May and 2 June, the first Middle East Women’s Conference took place in Amed (Diyarbakir). This event, organized by the Free Democratic Women Movement was titled ‘Jin – Jiyan – Azadi’ (women – life – freedom) and was dedicated to the three Kurdish women political activists who were murdered in Paris on 9 January, Sakine Cansız, Fidan Doğan and Leyla Şaylemez. For three days, 250 women from 26 Middle Eastern and North African countries discussed their experiences in the fight for liberation patriarchal power systems and shared their perspectives on the current political developments in the region.
On the second day, a statement was published in the name of the participants denouncing the police violence in Istanbul. It read; ‘Taksim Square belongs to everyone. The attacks are directed against the democratic rights of the population, like the right to protest. We support all people who fight for the natural environment and the right to breathe.’
At the end of the three-day conference, vice-chair of the BDP Gültan Kışanak delivered a speech on behalf of all the delegates. She emphasized the aims of the conference to strengthen international solidarity and the joint struggle ‘’independently of the Western orientalist view’’. She declared, ‘’We thank the Free Democratic Women Movement for bringing us together and we salute the High Council of the Kurdish Women Movement KJB, who initiated the revolutionary fight for the liberation of Kurdish women.’’
On the issue of regional developments, Gültan Kışanak stated: ‘For us women this crucial phase holds not only new possibilities but also risks. We are bearing the historical responsibility to take decisive and well planned action in these changing dynamics.’
The final resolution reads:
‘Together we will build a network of communication between all participants in this conference. In order to strengthen our collaboration, a rotating coordination group will guarantee the communication until the second conference takes place. We will put together a group of observers who will be working in the refugee camps where women from Syria are based.
‘Women are very much affected by the changes taking place in the Middle East and North Africa. They are actively participating in the ongoing struggle. But with every change of government, the rights of women are further dismantled. In collaboration with the patriarchal power system, violence, attacks and rape are used as weapons to force women out of political and public space and out of decision-making bodies. Our understanding of history and our personal experiences have proven that radical religion and dogmas of monolithic nation-states – based on ‘’laicism’’ – are the main dangers for women’s freedom. One of the most important actions is therefore to intensify the struggle against those two models and to transform the current process of change into a women’s revolution.
‘No ideology, religion or belief system shall be used to pressure women. The choices women make with regards to their way of live or their way of dressing shall not be allowed to lead to any form of discrimination or restrict their social and political rights or their rights to an education and work.
‘We declare that we will fights against rape, stoning sentences, genital mutilation, the killing of women, state or patriarchal violence against women, as well as against the neoliberal politics, which are designed to force women into poor working conditions. We also announce that we will initiate joint activities to gain support from the international community for women who are facing the death sentence. Together we will fight against torture and ill treatment in custody.
‘We are opposing any form of discrimination based on ethnicity, ideology, religious convictions, sexual identity and orientation. Also the rights of those without religious beliefs need to be protected. All peoples have the right to use and defend their native language. The right to education and usage of your mother tongue are integral parts of our demands.
‘We are against all forms of occupation and foreign intervention. We believe that national and social forces cannot be separated from the fight for women’s rights and that these two struggles need to be aligned.
‘We denounce the mono-nationalist model and support a democratic-pluralistic state model. We fight against imperialistic politics and for the friendship of nations. The fight against fascism and any form of dictatorship is one of our basic principles.
‘We declare that we will continue our fight until all women who are imprisoned for political reasons will be released. These women are championing our rights, freedom and democracy on a political, legal and democratic level. We call on the governments to free these prisoners immediately.
‘In remembrance of all women who have lost their lives while fighting for freedom, we hereby declare that 9 January – the day when Sakine Cansız, Fidan Doğan and Leyla Şaylemez were murdered – to be a day of action against political killings.
‘As women we believe that peace negotiations cannot lead to true peace building measures unless gender equality is guaranteed. This is why we invite all women to increase their struggle for more female representation in the peace negotiations. We support the peace talks that are taking place between Abdullah Öcalan – representative of the Kurdish people – and the Turkish state. We declare that we will campaign for these negotiations to have positive results, which will benefit the Kurdish population. We demand freedom for Abdullah Öcalan. We support the struggle for rights and freedom for Kurdistan, which has been colonised by four states at the beginning of the 20th century.
‘We view the question of liberation of the Kurdish and Palestinian people and refugees as the main issues in the Middle East. Without freeing these two peoples there can be no peace in the region. We support the fight for freedom of the Palestinian and Kurdish people and all other peoples. We refer to the right of self-determination of people.
‘We support the fight of the Palestinian people, the right of return and the liberation of the Palestinian territory.
‘We demand the release of the political prisoner Zeynep Celaliyan; the Tunisian activist Amina, who was arrested because she said, ‘my body belongs to me’; the Palestinian activist Ahmat Saadat and Marwan Barguti, as well as the Bahraini human rights activist Abdulhadi Al Khawaja.
‘We denounce political, ideological and ethnically motivated discrimination and the restrictions on women’s freedom. We declare that we will fight together against the problems we face as women, no matter our political leanings and ideological convictions.
‘This is why we will start a campaign against state and patriarchal violence, to draw attention to the violence women face in both the public and private sphere. We nominate the 25 November as a ‘day of activism’ to oppose violence against women.
‘We will also campaign against the destruction of nature, our cultural history and the occupation through war.
‘This conference offers us women a platform to coordinate our joint international struggle against those in power, the dictators and the patriarchal power system. It depends on us to strengthen these foundations. We have faith in ourselves and are convinced that it will be women who will bring peace to the Middle East.’