Turkish TV has a way of talking about the closure of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) as if it already happened. It hasn’t yet, but it is very likely that it will in the not so distant future. As critics have said, this is a spit in the face to the six million people in Turkey who voted for the HDP, and it is against every democratic standard to ban a party without very, very good grounds. But since it is International Women’s Day tomorrow, I want to add the feminine perspective: a closure of the HDP is the silencing of the most important women’s voice in Turkey.
Effectively, the state has been working on the closure of the HDP since it started appointing “trustees” to HDP municipalities in the Southeast of Turkey (the North of Kurdistan) and throwing the mayors in jail. Officially, all towns and cities have only one mayor, but in HDP governed municipalities, the mayorship was a co-position, always shared between a woman and a man. This is often disregarded in (international) reporting about the “trustees” because it complicates the story. However, the system of co-leadership is essential to the Kurdish movement, since it advocates radical equality between men and women, and between other groups in society. What not many people realise is that this is exactly one of the core reasons why the state started appointing “trustees” and why it wants to ban the HDP once and for all.
The co-leader system is one of the manifestations of the ideology of the HDP and the wider Kurdish movement, which is anti-patriarchal. Power structures have to be broken down. The centrist state, or actually the state in general, has to be rendered obsolete by radical decentralisation and by giving local communities the tools to govern their own locality and determine their own fate. This is how the Kurdish movement wants to implement the internationally recognised “right to self-determination”.
In this ideology, you could say that the state is a man. The characteristics of the nation state are considered to be patriarchal: there is one land for one nation, with one flag, one language, one religion. This is Turkey to the core. Such a system doesn’t give any space to people or communities who don’t fit the official identity. In this case: not to languages other than Turkish, not to ethnicities other than Turkish, not to flags other than the red crescent and star, and not to religions other than (the state’s version of) Sunni Islam.
One leader rules it all. In the initial years of the Republic, this was Atatürk. He showed the nation the way, no side paths allowed. Now, it is Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who didn’t – I firmly believe – fundamentally change Turkey’s core structure but only strengthened it, for example by rendering parliament ineffective and introducing a presidential system. More centralisation, instead of less.
The whole globe
This is contrary to what the Kurdish movement is about. It is acknowledging that Turkey is a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, multi-linguistic and multi-religious country, and wants a system that fully respects that diversity. In my view, this is the model of the future, not just for Turkey and Kurdistan but for the wider region and for – forgive me for my love of zooming out – the whole globe. After all, diversity is what mankind is all about and nation-states are outdated entities built on an obsolete ideology. While the Turkish state is only holding on more firmly to this obsolete concept and regressing back to the late 19th, early 20th century, the Kurdish movement catapulted itself right into the 21st century by changing its paradigm in the 1990s and letting go of its wish for an independent Kurdish nation-state.
The system the Kurdish movement stands for is considered feminine. It doesn’t want one leader but wants to give real power to communities. The communities are not led by one leader, but by a council with a co-leadership, which can lead only for a limited period of time. New leaders are educated continuously, new people are appointed to positions all the time, and there is a wide network of councils that balance each other’s power so one person cannot become too strong, and nobody can misuse their position. These feminine values and this insistence on equality is reflected in the co-leadership system.
The state is a man. The Kurdish movement, and the HDP as a part of it, is a woman. This woman is undermining patriarchal power. That’s why the state wants to root her out. But women are bearers of life. They can’t be rooted out, as life itself will always flourish again. The HDP is the political manifestation of it now, but shutting it down doesn’t kill it. The female spark will flare up into flames again, always. And eventually, inevitably, it will burn the patriarchy down.
Fréderike Geerdink is an independent journalist. Follow her on Twitter or subscribe to her weekly newsletter Expert Kurdistan.