Advocating from behind bars since 2016, Figen Yüksekdağ, the former leader of Turkey’s pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), called for a unified women’s front to battle systemic oppression in the country. “A new life can be built, led by women. It is time for a woman’s will that oversteps its limits and knows no barriers in unification,” she stated in an interview on Tuesday with Mezopotamya Agency.
In observance of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, Yüksekdağ highlighted the resilience of women, particularly those in prisons, who face severe human rights abuses. “Women transform every place they are in into a field of resistance and struggle, starting with prisons,” she added, emphasising the importance of ongoing resistance against oppression.
Acknowledging the advancements of women’s movements, Yüksekdağ said, “Despite not being able to follow closely the agendas and developments of women’s movements due to conditions, we know very well that women never give up and do not step back.”
Yüksekdağ criticised the Turkish government’s approach to women’s rights, stating, “The male-dominated system, by its nature and character, realises its dominance through attacks on women’s rights.” She also condemned the policies of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP): “The AKP government has followed a path of dissolving the presence of women, even aiming for direct elimination.”
She pointed out broader systemic issues, saying, “The withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention, the lack of effective state protection against violence towards women, indicates a deeply dark mindset.”
Highlighting the impact of the Kurdish women’s movement in North and East Syria, Yüksekdağ remarked, “The ‘Jin, Jiyan, Azadî’ [Woman, Life, Freedom] outcry of Kurdish women has become a call that spreads throughout the region.” She also mentioned the regional impact following Jîna Masha Amini’s killing in Iran: “The women’s uprising starting with Jîna Emînî’s murder in Iran and Rojhilat has escalated into a social revolutionary movement.”
On the targeting of women in conflicts, she urged for a strong response: “25 November should be a response against the most political form of violence, the occupant, genocidal wars,” advocating for international solidarity against sex-based violence in conflict zones.
Concluding, Yüksekdağ stressed the need for unified, collective action: “In the face of such a complex male alliance and masculine fascist siege, acting otherwise will drop women’s guard and even leave them defenceless in many situations. Thus, there is a need for a broad women’s alliance. The fragmented nature of women’s movements, especially on crucial agendas like violence against women, limits our collective impact.”