With this year’s international campaign against gender-based violence due to start on 25 November, the female leadership of Turkey’s pro-Kurdish party has added a sharply critical gender perspective to the ongoing debate on the country’s electoral system.
Peoples’ Equality and Democracy Party (HEDEP) Co-Chair Tülay Hatimoğulları termed the 50+1 presidential majority a “male+male system”, symbolising the alliance between President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of the ruling Justice and Development Party and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli.
President Erdoğan famously claimed that gender equality is ‘against nature’, while Bahçeli vigourously supported his ally’s controversial withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention in 2021. Turkey’s decision to withdraw from the human rights treaty opposing violence against women has since ignited annual protests, particularly on and around the 25 November.
During a speech to her party’s parliamentary group, Hatimoğulları addressed the political leaders: “Hey Erdoğans, those of you who fancy yourselves at the centre of politics atop Mount Qaf, and those who believe gender equality is against nature: we will fight tirelessly against your outdated mindsets. Gender equality isn’t against nature; it’s contrary to your dark mentalities! We will collectively fight against that darkness!”
She continued, comparing the women’s resistance in Turkey to movements worldwide: “Like the women resisting male-state violence at home, in the streets, squares, factories, farms, workplaces and prisons. Like Jîna Mahsa Amînî, who universalised the motto of ‘Jin, Jiyan, Azadî’ (‘Women, Life, Freedom’), like Deniz Poyraz, and women from Palestine to Rojava, Afghanistan to America, France to Argentina, Chile to Iran, who refuse to bow to male dominance, who shout their rebellions, who are stubborn and non-submissive. Salutations to all our sisters we have lost in the struggle. We remember our comrades with respect and will never let their flags fall.”
Hatimoğulları also drew parallels between the struggles of women in conflict zones, specifically in Kurdish populated regions and under Israeli rule in Palestine, emphasising their vital role in peace advocacy.
Concluding her address, Hatimoğulları stressed the critical importance of women’s involvement in local governance, especially given the challenges Kurdish majority regions face under the recent and undemocratic appointment of government trustees.
Following her speech, Serap Güvenç from the Van Star Association and Narin Yalçın of the Peace Mothers echoed the call for resistance against gender-based violence and the ongoing struggle for women’s rights.
In a related interview with JinNews, HEDEP Women’s Assembly Spokeswoman Halide Türkoğlu highlighted the continuous fight against gender-based violence and oppressive government policies. She emphasised the multi-faceted resistance, stating, “The government attacks on multiple fronts, but we resist in many ways too.” Türkoğlu stressed the importance of organising against patriarchal policies, affirming, “We women are present in every field, and we seek to establish our policies as women in all areas.”
Meanwhile, Perihan Koca, another female HEDEP MP, addressed the recent debates over the conduct of MHP’s Deputy Speaker of Parliament Celal Adan. Koca condemned his demeaning language towards fellow MPs and refusal to apologise.
“Today, the parliament is led by Celal Adan, who degrades the will of the people, insults and swears at our deputies. His presidency over the parliament without any sanction or apology is a disgrace. As we enter the week of 25 November, dedicated to combating violence against women, it is an affront and utterly unacceptable to me, as a female MP, that this person is leading the parliament,” Koca expressed.