Worldwide, we see the number of femicides continuing to rise in recent years. The targeted attacks against women in their various forms continue to increase and especially women who refuse to remain silent, raise their voices, organise and resist. Women who fight for their rights and freedom become direct targets of the attacks.
Women like Hevrin Khalaf, Zehra Berkel, Hebun Xelil and Dayika Emine are being targeted for assassination by the Turkish state and its allies because their struggles are advancing the women’s revolution in North and East Syria, which is a thorn in the side of the fascist policies of the Turkish state, which are based on a racist and patriarchal mentality.
From Europe, the Kurdish women’s movement TJK-E now launched the campaign “100 reasons to prosecute Erdogan”. We interviewed Yvonne Heine from the Kurdish Women’s Office for Peace, CENÎ e.V., which actively supports the campaign.
Can you briefly introduce the campaign “100 reasons to prosecute Erdogan”? What is the aim of this campaign and who do you want to reach with it?
The campaign was launched on 25.11.2020, the International Day of Struggle against Violence against Women. TJK-E chose this date to show all women that we can stand up against violence and that we will never accept it. 100 murdered women, 100 reasons for 100,000 signatures to prosecute Erdogan, the killer of women! The campaign shows in an exemplary and very concrete way, based on the life stories of 100 women who were selected together with activists on the ground, that the policies of Erdogan and the AKP/MHP coalition are policies that murder women. We have researched and documented the background to the murders of the women. We have also compiled background information on the developments of the AKP’s women’s policy from the time it took office until today. This information can be found on the campaign’s homepage at www.100-reasons.org.
During our research we noticed how little and how superficially the murders of activists, politicians and women in general are reported. These murders are always presented as a marginal note or side effect. Almost never is the life of the murdered women reported, their goals, their decisions, their activities. Although research on the background of the murders of women has revealed that in the vast majority of cases they happen when a woman develops her own will and wants to free herself from her oppressed role—be it at home or in public life—the circumstances of the murder are not presented. As if it were normal for women to be murdered. As if women had no right at all to their own, self-determined lives. We were struck by how much women’s lives are still perceived as less important today. In bringing the women’s stories together, we also realised how systematic this violence is and how many women have actually been murdered. And yet the murders are presented in the media as individual acts, as single cases. But if we look at the whole, we can see the systematic nature of the murders, the patterns behind them. I must say that it hurt and angered us immensely to see these 100 stories of murdered women in their concentrated form. It is so much that at some point a human heart can no longer grasp it. That alone actually shows the inhumanity of today’s system and the need for us to overcome this system as quickly as possible. Because we don’t want one more murder, we don’t want one less!
An important goal of the campaign is therefore to make these murders and the femicidal politics visible, to expose and scandalise them. Because it is really a scandal that the EU is now pandering again to an Erdogan who is responsible for so many murders of women. It is a scandal that the USA is conducting so-called peace negotiations with the Taliban without saying a word about the crimes committed against Afghan women! It is a scandal that negotiations are being held in Geneva with jihadists, among others, on the reorganisation of Syria, while women, who despite all the horrors they have experienced have never given up and instead have developed AND implemented ideas for peaceful, diverse and dignified social coexistence, are excluded from them!
The campaign has been running for about 2 months now. Moreover, due to the Corona pandemic, it is a very difficult and new time for all of us. Can you give us a short summary?
We have noticed that the campaign has hit the spirit of the times. All the women we come into contact with while collecting signatures, whether by phone, email or on the street, show great interest and want to participate in the campaign with great enthusiasm. Of course, it is also difficult to get into conversation under Corona conditions, to build up contacts and to be present in public life. We have also considered whether or not we can carry out the campaign at all under these circumstances. But we said quite clearly that Corona must not be a reason to scale back or even give up our struggle. Because while many civil society institutions and initiatives stop their so important work or reduce it to a minimum, the wars and preparations for war and the systematic violence against women continue. Moreover, they are even increasing. For this very reason, it is important to always maintain contact with each other, to network, to organise and not to leave any woman alone. Because contrary to the propaganda of the states, the mutual support and togetherness is what gives us support, lets us breathe and keeps us alive!
In the short time that our campaign has been running, several more women have already been brutally murdered and abused, and assassinated. Only a few days after the start of the campaign we had to learn that in Elîh a young Kurdish woman was systematically raped by at least 27 men, including police officers and officers, over a period of months! At the end of December, we received the news of the murder of the activist Karima Baloch, who was fighting unstoppably for an independent Balochistan. On 16 January, we learned that Alvard Tovmasyan, an Armenian woman who was abducted in October 2020, was found dead with her hands and feet cut off. A few days ago, on 22 January 2021, the co-chair of the Til Sheir Municipality Civil Council, Sada al-Harmoush, and her deputy Hind al-Khedr, who was also in charge of the Economy Committee, were abducted and beheaded by IS gangs in the Heseke region. Moreover, women are killed every day all over the world. Femicide does not stop and we must respond to every murder by strengthening our organising and struggle!
Why is it important to participate in the campaign from all four parts of Kurdistan?
The campaign offers women from all four parts of Kurdistan and the diaspora the opportunity to make their voices—together with the voices of women worldwide—a great force and thus reach both the general public and the international institutions. Unfortunately, the patriarchal and colonial world order works in such a way that women, who are most affected by the belligerent, exploitative and femicidal policies of Western nation states, are the least heard. With this campaign, we want to create an opportunity to bring to the fore those women who are otherwise far too little seen, heard and considered. We want to make connections between struggles against the femicidal system that are being waged everywhere. In order for the campaign to be successful and to show that it has the support of women in all parts of Kurdistan, it is of course important that as many women as possible from all parts of Kurdistan participate. For example, the women and the Kongra Star Women’s Movement in Rojava / North and East Syria are also taking part in the campaign, collecting signatures and supporting the dissemination of the campaign in Arabic via social media, among other things. Seeing how our comrades-in-arms in Kurdistan collect signatures, courageously take to the streets and fight for their right to life while they are at war gives us even more motivation and strength and makes us constantly question whether we could not achieve much more here under the conditions in Europe.
One of the goals of the campaign is to fight for the international recognition of femicide as a criminal offence under international criminal law. Worldwide, the fight against femicide is a current topic and the reality of women and movements in different parts of the world. How do you assess the implementation and connection of the campaign with other women’s movements and struggles worldwide? What potential do you see in the campaign?
The campaign was geared towards international struggles from the beginning, because it was clear that the issue of femicide concerns us all. Especially in Latin America, the campaign has been received with great interest and enthusiasm. As you surely know, starting from the NiUnaMenos movement in Argentina, there has been a very successful process of organising women to defend themselves against murders of women for years. They have been very inspiring and really supportive in our preparations for the campaign. Together we have developed some great ideas, one of which I would like to tell you about: we would like to hold a self-organised tribunal against femicide worldwide. We want to denounce the perpetrators who usually get away with it, make their crimes public and charge them! We will demand justice with united strength and great publicity and fight for it by organising ourselves even better! It is clear to us that the UN and other international bodies created by the colonial powers themselves will not do anything about the worldwide femicide until we put so much pressure on them that they can no longer do otherwise. For this, we must succeed in mobilising and strengthening democratic societies. No human being should remain silent in the face of the inconceivable crimes that happen every day! Everyone should be aware that femicidal politics is corroding the entire society and ultimately depriving it of its existence. The sooner we realise this and act accordingly, the sooner we can stop the murders of women and build a free, vibrant society! We have also heard great interest from other women’s movements. Some have been inspired by our campaign and now want to start a similar campaign for their region! We think that this is really the best way to fight against femicide: to start campaigns of this kind everywhere, to network them, to unite in exposing femicide and the system behind it, and to exchange ideas about the alternatives of a free and dignified life!
What message do you want to send to the world?
We would like to emphasise once again how important we feel it is to stand together and fight together as women. We want to say to all the women of the world: organise yourselves, don’t allow yourselves to become even one less! Organise campaigns of this kind all over the world and then let’s bring them together! Every single woman has the right to live freely, self-determined and with dignity!