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Middle Eastern Studies,Vol. 42, No. 5, 777 – 802, September 2006 The Encounter of Kurdish Womenwith Nationalism in Turkey Starting with the late eighteenth century military reforms, continuing with theTanzimat Decree of 1839, the Second Mes¸rutiyet in 1908 and the KemalistRevolution in 1923, modernization in Turkey has always been a ‘project’ to beadopted and implemented from above, unlike in the West where it was experiencedas a ‘process’ which was the outcome of social, political and economic developmentsspecific to the western context.1 It seems possible to argue that this distinction haskey significance for an accurate understanding of the social and political history of Downloaded By: [University of Chicago] At: 23:39 1 October 2007 Republican Turkey in general and women’s history in Turkey in particular. Theimportance of the fact that modernization and/or westernization has been a ‘project’rather than a ‘process’ becomes perhaps most visible when one looks at the changesbrought about by the Kemalist Revolution in 1923.2 The Kemalist Revolution endedthe ongoing duality characterizing modernization attempts in the form of the side-by-side existence of the traditional/Islamic and modern/western, in favour of thewholesale acceptance of the latter at the expense of the former. The most importantcharacteristic of the Kemalist modernization project, in this context, is the fact that itaimed to create an ethnically, linguistically and culturally homogeneous nation andnation-state out of the remnants of the Ottoman Empire, which was a multi-ethnic,multi-linguistic and multi-cultural entity.3 With this social, political and historical background, this article emerged out of three sources of dissatisfaction. The first is the marginalization and estrangementof Kurdish women4 by the Kemalist modernization project. This estrangementand marginalization was the result of a combination of two dimensions ofKemalist policies: the dismantling of Kurdish ethnic identity concomitant withthe ‘emancipation’ of ‘Turkish’ women. As a result of this process, Kurdishwomen became doubly marginalized primarily because on the one hand their ethnicidentity was severely crushed and on the other hand they became relativelydisadvantaged and underprivileged compared to their Turkish counterparts whowere potentially able to benefit from the secularizing and modernizing Republicanreforms.
The second source of dissatisfaction has to do with the dominant mode of approach to Kurdish women within the Kurdish nationalist movement from thelate 1970s through the 1980s and 1990s. As I will try to demonstrate, there have beeninegalitarian, sexist and male-chauvinist approaches to Kurdish women withinKurdish nationalist circles. Thirdly, Kurdish women have received proper attentionfrom neither feminist scholarship nor the feminist movement in Turkey. In some of ISSN 0026-3206 Print/1743-7881 Online/06/050777-26 ª 2006 Taylor & FrancisDOI: 10.1080/00263200600828022 the very few studies dealing with Kurdish women, however, there are certain politicaland ideological biases.
This article is composed of three parts. In the first part, I will examine Kemalist elimination, repression and suppression of Kurdish identity in the first decades of theRepublic. Also I will shed light upon its policies towards women. Moreover, I willanalyze the development of Kurdish nationalism and feminism in Turkey specificallyin their relationship with the Kemalist modernization project. I will argue that boththe Kurdish nationalist movement and the feminist movement, despite seeminglytouching on Kurdish women, have not been able to succeed in fully recognizingKurdish women as such. In this sense, they have not been able to go beyond thefailure of the Kemalist modernization project; on the contrary, they repeated themistake of not seeing the existence of Kurdish women.
The second part of this article is devoted to a review of the scholarship on Kurdish women in Turkey. In addition to demonstrating the prevailing invisibility of Kurdishwomen in the recent scholarship on ‘women in Turkey’, it will expose the shortcomingsof the very few studies dealing with Kurdish women. The third part of the piece isdedicated to the voices of nine Kurdish women who have been politically active inTurkey in the 1980s and 1990s. Presenting a politically and ideologically diversepicture, the experiences of these Kurdish women are taken to be the most important Downloaded By: [University of Chicago] At: 23:39 1 October 2007 basis for the arguments and observations made throughout this paper.
The Kemalist modernization project reveals very strikingly that Kurdish womenwere doubly marginalized. On the one hand, their ethnic identity was dismantled; onthe other, their Turkish counterparts became potential beneficiaries of the Kemalistreforms oriented to the improvement of the civil and political status of women inTurkey.5 In this sense, there emerged a wide gap between these two groups of womenin Turkey. The roots of the oppression and subordination of Kurdish women inTurkey can best be grasped at this dual juncture: the interwoven dismantling ofKurdish ethnic identity with the ‘emancipation’ of ‘Turkish’ women.
As was noted earlier, the Kemalist Revolution aimed to construct the Turkish nation within the borders of the newly established nation-state of the TurkishRepublic. Although the passage from the millet system to the nation was a radicalone in form, it was in essence the continuation of the millet system. In this sense,Baskın Oran notes that one reason behind the fact that the ‘Protection of Minorities’section of the Lausanne Treaty is limited to ‘non-Muslim minorities’ has to do withthe legacy of the millet system, according to which every religion was considered adifferent ‘millet’. Oran states that: Accordingly, all Muslims, regardless of their other (ethnic etc.) differences, be-longed to the one and same ‘Muslim Nation’ (umma). Therefore, Kurds (or, anyother Muslim ethnic group) were never considered to have a separate identity. Whenthe Republic was founded in 1923, this legacy of the Millet system fitted very wellinto the nationalist policy of the State that hated to allow for multiple identities.6 One can therefore see the ‘strategic’ use of the legacy of the millet system to facilitatethe construction of a homogeneous Turkish nation, which, in turn, required the elimination and assimilation of different groups to the dominant Turkish nationalidentity. Undoubtedly, this article does not suggest that it was only the Kurds whoseidentity and language were repressed. However, it goes without saying that theKurds are the largest linguistic minority in Turkey.7 Thus, the Kurdish movementwas considered to be the greatest danger for the new Republican regime.8 As is wellknown, there were a number of Kurdish revolts in the first decades of the TurkishRepublic, such as the Sheikh Said Revolt in 1925, in 1930 the Dersim Revolt andthe Mount Ararat Revolt between 1936 and 1938.9 To give an example of theseriousness of these Kurdish revolts, one should note that 35 per cent of the annualbudget of the state in 1925–26 was used in the repression of the Sheikh SaidRebellion.10 Ahmet _Ic¸duygu and his colleagues point to the assimilationist policies of the new regime towards the Kurds, as in the following: ‘Since its founding in 1923, theTurkish Republic has pursued aggressive assimilationist policies towards its Kurdishminority. The new republic was based solely on Turkish culture and identity, andhence did not permit the expression of Kurdish identity and language within itsborders’.11 Moreover, the basic argument of their significant study based on the datafrom the 1993 Turkish Demographic and Health Survey (TDHS) is put forward as inthe following: ‘Our key claim is that the Kurdish population in Turkey is relatively Downloaded By: [University of Chicago] At: 23:39 1 October 2007 much worse off than the Turkish population in the country’.12 According to theauthors, the material and non-material insecurity of the Kurdish population is a keyvariable, which prepares the ground for an ethnic nationalist mobilization. Whilematerial needs are seen as access to ‘land, income, education, health, possessions,state resources and even life’,13 the non-material ones are ‘language, culture andbelonging’.14 In a similar vein, Ays¸e Gu¨ndu¨z Hos¸go¨r and Jeroen Smits’ essay based on data from the 1993 and 1998 TDHS demonstrates the striking difference between Turksand Kurds in addition to the difference between Kurdish men and women. In thecontext of education, they observe that: With regard to education level, there are large differences between Turks andKurds. About one quarter of the Kurdish males and more than 70 per cent ofthe Kurdish females have not completed primary education. For the Turks thesepercentages are 7 and 22 per cent, respectively. Only 2.8 per cent of the Kurdishmales and 0.5 per cent of the Kurdish females have more than secondaryeducation, against more than 10 per cent of the Turkish males and almost 5 percent of the Turkish females.15 These are quite important observations. First of all, the authors show that a distinctionbetween Kurds and Turks is not groundless. On the contrary, it is a valid one. Secondly,there is the big gap between Kurdish men and women. Although Kurdish men andwomen are of the same ethnic origin, they differ in their access to education to asignificant extent. In other words, this difference shows that the experience of being aKurd is not the same for Kurdish men and women. Thirdly, these observationsdemonstrate that being a woman is a considerably different experience depending onone’s ethnicity. In this context, Kurdish women are much more disadvantagedcompared to their Turkish counterparts regarding educational level.
Haldun Gu¨lalp also points to the denial of the existence of the Kurds by the Turkish state. He notes that: ‘In a policy set in the early years of the republic, theTurkish state officially denied the existence of a distinct Kurdish ethnicity’.16 Itseems therefore that the nationalist policies of the Kemalist Revolution havecontributed to the development of Kurdish nationalism to a significant extent.
Referring to Oran, Kemal Kiris¸ci and Gareth M. Winrow indicate that: ‘Thedevelopment of Kurdish nationalism was largely a reaction to the rise of a Turkishnationalism with its emphasis on Turkish ethnicity and language’.17 Based on theseobservations, then, it should be clear by now that the distinction between Turks andKurds put forward in this article should not be seen as an overemphasis onethnicity.18 It is significant to note that the Kemalist nationalist project has had long-lasting effects on the social and political life in Turkey up to the present. The mostimportant one, in terms of its ‘price’, has been the crystallization and development ofthe Kurdish ‘question’. In other words, it seems convincing to argue that the Kurdish‘issue’ has been politicized and become a ‘problem’ and/or ‘question’ in Turkeyprimarily due to the Kemalist nationalist policies denying the existence of theKurds.19 The last and most crucial embodiment of the Kurdish question was thearmed insurgence of the PKK, the Kurdish acronym for the Kurdistan Workers’ Downloaded By: [University of Chicago] At: 23:39 1 October 2007 Party. The PKK began its armed insurgence in 1984. Until the arrest of its leaderAbdullah O¨calan in 1999, 30,000 people lost their lives during the fight between theTurkish armed forces and the PKK. The PKK militarized and popularized Kurdishnationalism to a significant degree.20 This article puts the stress on the precedingsocial, political and historical context that led to the re-emergence of Kurdishnationalism in Turkey from the late 1970s on.21 What does the increasing militarization and popularization of Kurdish nationalism in the 1980s and 1990s suggest in regard to Kurdish women? Kurdishwomen were first politicized under the umbrella of Kurdish nationalism.22 Theywere firstly politically mobilized through their ethnic identity. Yet during thisprocess they were subordinated to men and they were not seen as women, ratherthey were viewed through sexist lenses. In addition, they were subjected to theirmale friends’ male-chauvinistic attitudes.23 Therefore, on the one hand, Kurdishnationalism politicized and mobilized Kurdish women.24 On the other hand,unintentionally, it led Kurdish women to develop a womanhood and/or feministconsciousness by their questioning the prevalent sexism of Kurdish nationalistmen. This process of questioning eventually gave way to an organized politicalactivism of Kurdish women on their own behalf starting with the mid-1990s. Theiractivism was centred on journals and associations.25 The journals that appeared inthe second half of the 1990s were Roza, Jujıˆn, Jin uˆ Jiyan and Yas¸amda O¨zgu¨rKadın. As Necla Ac¸ık points out, while Roza and Jujıˆn tend to be more feminist, amore nationalist overtone comes to the fore in Jin uˆ Jiyan; in Yas¸amda O¨zgu¨rKadın, on the other hand, one can see an overtly nationalist discourse on Kurdishwomen.26 Moreover, Ac¸ık states that independent and feminist Kurdish women’sgroups came into existence as a reaction to the instrumental use of women in theKurdish nationalist parties and organizations that are male dominated.27 Takingthis observation together with the experiences of the participants in this study, itseems possible to claim that the emergence of politically independent Kurdish women can be called the unintended consequence of Kurdish nationalism.
Although very important, Kurdish nationalism was not the sole factor behindKurdish women’s coming to the political arena as Kurdish women. The othercrucial factor has to do with the failure of the feminist movement in Turkey, towhich I turn in the next section.
Peyami Safa states that the two constant principles of Atatu¨rk’s revolution arenationalism and civilization.28 If the development of Kurdish nationalism wasclosely related to the former, the ‘emancipation’ of women occupied a significantposition in the latter.29 Therefore, Kemalist modernizing elites introduced quitesignificant reforms aiming to improve women’s civil and political status.30 In 1926,the Swiss Civil Code was accepted. Accordingly, the following changes wereintroduced: Civil law abolished polygamy, prevented child marriages by imposing minimumages for marriage and recognized women as legal equals of men in certain areas(e.g., as witnesses in courts; in inheriting and maintaining property). It alsogranted women the right to choose their spouses, initiate divorce and maintain Downloaded By: [University of Chicago] At: 23:39 1 October 2007 their maternal rights, even after divorce.31 Moreover, in 1930 and 1934 women were granted the right to vote in municipal andnational elections respectively.32 Despite these radical changes, however, Kemalistsdid not allow an independent women’s movement to flourish. They closed down theTurkish Women’s Union in 1935.33 In this sense, Kemalist state elites attempted tomonopolize the woman question and women’s emancipation, appropriating themfrom the women.
It appears that the seemingly ‘paradoxical’ approach of Kemalist elites to the ‘woman question’ becomes clear if one listens to the critique raised by some feministscholars in Turkey. The most striking aspect of their critique is the fact that althoughthe Kemalist modernization of women was a radical break with the Ottoman past, itpresents continuity with it on the basis of patriarchy. The only change is in the formof patriarchy. For instance Ays¸e Durakbas¸a argues that: ‘Kemalism, although aprogressive ideology that fostered women’s participation in education andprofessions, did not alter patriarchal norms of morality, and in fact maintainedthe basic cultural conservatism about male/female relations, despite its radicalism inopening a space for women in the public domain’.34 In a similar vein, Fatmagu¨lBerktay argues that, on the one hand, there is a very significant point of rupturebetween Ottoman and Republican periods in terms of the position of women. On theother hand, she argues, there is continuity on the basis of patriarchy. Put bluntly, thenation-state patriarchy took the place of Islamic patriarchy. While the invisibility ofwomen in the public realm was the norm in the former, their visibility became thenew norm in the latter, both of which were fed by the same framework, that is,patriarchy.35 Ays¸e Saktanber also attempts an analysis of the Kemalist women’s rights discourse and concludes that it is a modernist, progressive discourse that givespriority to the achievement of equality of men and women at the legal level and with this aim it attributes importance to working with the state in harmony. Moreimportantly, she points out that: Kemalist women’s rights discourse puts the national identity above any othersort of identity and especially it excludes women’s movements that are shapedaround ethnic or religious identity demands. Also it views the achievementswithin the frame of women’s rights as the means of Kemalist indoctrinationand in this context; it attributes the mission of political socialization toeducation.36 As all the above-mentioned critical points demonstrate, in the early decades of theRepublic, the autonomous voice of women’s organizations and activities wererepressed. As S¸irin Tekeli argues: ‘It should not be considered as an exaggeration tosee this second phase of the history of feminism, as a period during which feminismwas taken out of the hands of women and was used and was further converted to ananti-feminist state feminism and in the end, was made to be forgotten’.37 Although these criticisms are quite important, still one cannot deny the fact that these are not after all the critiques of a straightforwardly misogynistic and/or male-chauvinist regime. In other words, it does not seem tenable to claim that any Turkish Downloaded By: [University of Chicago] At: 23:39 1 October 2007 feminist woman would deny the contribution of the Kemalist modernization projectto the enhancement of the status of Turkish women. This is very important to bear inmind primarily because this is the point where ‘Turkish’ feminism and ‘Turkish’feminists’ relationship with Kemalism come to the fore and gain significance.
However critical they might be of the Kemalist modernization project, it can beargued that Turkish feminist women are indebted to the Kemalist modernization ofwomen. In this sense, there is a crucial relationship between Kemalism and feminismin Turkey. Therefore, as Berktay points out, Turkish women internalized theKemalist ideology to the extent that they had difficulty in developing an independentconsciousness: The Republican regime was opening a space for the feminism supported by thestate, yet at the same time it [the Republican regime] defined it and kept it withincertain/determinate borders. Moreover, the women themselves had internalizedthe Kemalist-nationalist ideology and this was making it difficult for them todevelop an independent consciousness.38 In other words, historically speaking, there has been an undeniably close relationshipbetween Kemalism and ‘Turkish’ women’s ‘emancipation’. The former over-shadowed and influenced the latter to the extent that its imprints and/or tracescan be seen even in the relatively radical feminist movement in Turkey in the 1980sand 1990s. This will be made clear below, where I will focus on the voices of Kurdishwomen.
The point to be noted here is that Turkish feminist women converged with Kemalist nationalism on the basis of their national identity. Thus, they have beenpotentially open to benefit from Kemalist reforms. Undoubtedly, as NerminAbadan-Unat points out: ‘It is true that Ataturk and his supporters based theirsystem of women’s reforms on the twin pillars of law and education, thus serving a predominantly urban female elite’.39 Yet in addition to class and urban/ruralposition of women, there is also another important factor that determines whether awoman could benefit from these laws:40 whether she was Turkish or not. One simplebut very crucial example is the language. Although I will focus below on Kurdishwomen’s experiences, I would like to quote from one of them, namely Semra,41 sinceit is very much related to the point at hand: I started school when I was five and I started without knowing one single wordof Turkish. Therefore, I started very much behind the point where a Turkishchild starts. Now, I had to learn and get education in a language that doesnot belong to me . . . Of course these are the things that restrict our freedom ofexpression and the right to expression. Apart from this, there are some resultsof belonging to a nation, which lacks power, which is a minority and whichcannot benefit from resources of power. You experience these, too. When allthese come together, there emerge other demands of yours. When you expressthese demands of yours, they do not overlap with those of women of the othernation. Thus, these demands of yours do not find acceptance or they mightremain as secondary. However, these are the things that determine your dailylife.
Downloaded By: [University of Chicago] At: 23:39 1 October 2007 Semra’s experience seems to correspond to what Gu¨ndu¨z-Hos¸go¨r and Smits observe.
With reference to the fact that free and compulsory primary education is in Turkishand that schooling in Kurdish is not allowed, the authors point out that: ‘From theKurdish point of view, these measures meant that their mother-tongue was notofficially recognized. Speaking Kurdish at home but training in Turkish at schoolmight hamper the Kurdish children’s cognitive development and decrease theirchances of moving into the higher ranks of society’.42 Here one might argue that it is not accurate to claim that Kurdish women did not benefit from Kemalist reforms as these were not solely limited to Turkish women. Onthe contrary, legal reforms are general and abstract rather than particular andconcrete. Therefore, these reforms, one might go on, were equally valid for allwomen living in Turkey regardless of their ethnic identities. Moreover, one can claimthat it is not accurate to view the Kemalist modernization project as the immediatesource of the oppression and subordination of Kurdish women. In this sense, onealso has to take into account the prevailing traditional, religious and tribal featuresof Kurdish culture and society. In other words, a sole focus on the Kemalistnationalist project cannot lead one to fully understand Kurdish women’s oppressionand subordination in Turkey.
I would like to respond to these two points starting with the second one. It is true that Kurdish culture and society are predominantly traditional, religious andtribal.43 Perhaps Kurdish women have been suffering from patriarchal Kurdishsocial and cultural beliefs and practices as much as they have suffered from the directand/or indirect consequences of the Kemalist modernization project. Certainly, it isnot easy to clearly delineate where the oppression from either of them begins andends. Indeed, this uneasiness is what makes an analysis of the experiences of Kurdishwomen a difficult task. However, it is important to note that Kemalist nationalistpolicies have been the constituent and prevalent ideology in Turkey since the foundation of the Republic. In addition, as noted above, due to the ‘fear’ ofseparation, the Kemalist state elites have been especially pitiless towards the Kurds.
Thus, it seems that Kemalist nationalist policies had priority and immediacy in theoppression and subordination of Kurdish women in Turkey. Needless to say, in an‘insecure’ environment where Kurdish identity is not recognized, Kurdish women’sexistence and their oppression and subordination would also remain ‘irrelevant’.
Moreover, the denial of Kurdish identity seems to have closed the channels for aneffective challenge of the male-dominated Kurdish social and cultural characteristics.
It seems possible to add that it might have contributed to the perpetuation of thesecharacteristics. Yet, in the meantime, Kurdish women have faced, for example,honour-killing. Therefore, Kurdish women’s oppression and subordination is to alarge extent interwoven with their being both Kurds and women. They undergo thesecomplicated experiences simultaneously rather than at differing ‘moments’, whichmakes analysis a challenge.
The second critical point made above argues that the Kemalist modernization of women was open to all women living in Turkey since they live under the same legalframework. At this point, one should recall the example of language and one shouldbear in mind that due to their linguistic difference, Kurdish women have alreadybeen estranged from legal and official mechanisms through which they can seek Downloaded By: [University of Chicago] At: 23:39 1 October 2007 their rights. In other words, it is possible for women in Turkey to benefit fromthe modernization of the status of women only if and when they are able to speakTurkish, which turns out to be a very crucial barrier. Indeed this argument can wellbe substantiated by Jeroen Smits and Ays¸e Gu¨ndu¨z-Hos¸go¨r’s recent piece, whichpresents startling findings on this issue.44 The authors base their arguments on datafrom the 1998 TDHS. A striking result of their analysis is the fact that ‘about 4.1 percent of the women aged 15–49 who live in Turkey is not able to speak Turkish. Thelarge majority of these non-Turkish speaking women has Kurdish as their mother-tongue. A little more than 10 per cent has Arabic as their mother tongue and about 1per cent another language’.45 Thus, a considerable number of women in Turkeycannot speak Turkish and a considerable number of these women are Kurdish. Theauthors interpret these findings in light of Bourdieu’s theory about linguistic capital,according to which: ‘the ability to speak a country’s dominant language is a resourcethat may be helpful in gaining access to the country’s desirable rewards andpositions’.46 They reach the following conclusion regarding socio-economicconsequences of the lack of linguistic capital: ‘We found the non-Turkish speakingwomen to be less employed in the formal economy, to have husbands with lowereducational levels and occupations and to have lower family incomes’.47 Turning to our discussion of the relationship of the ‘Turkish’ feminist movement with Kemalism, then, it can be argued that Turkish feminist women, despite theircritique of Kemalism as patriarchal, are in the last instance indebted to the KemalistRevolution for what it did for them. Moreover, they have implicitly and/orexplicitly, intentionally and/or unintentionally followed Kemalist nationalist lines.
This can be seen in the relatively radical and autonomous feminist movement whichemerged in Turkey in the 1980s and flourished in the 1990s as Kurdish women’svoices will show below. In this sense, Turkish feminist women mostly failed to see theKurdishness of Kurdish women. They put the stress on Kurdish women’s femaleidentity instead. In addition to the failure of Kurdish nationalists in recognizing Kurdish women as equals with men, it seems that this is the second reason behindKurdish women’s independent political organization from both Kurdish men andTurkish women in the second half of the 1990s. At this point, it should be notedthat it does not seem possible to agree with Yes¸im Arat, who tends to imply thatKurdish women’s separate organization is a particularistic phenomenon. Accordingto Arat: There were discussions and some initiatives about defining Turkish feminism,but women’s activism was primarily issue-oriented and universalist in itsdiscourse.
While Turkish women in Turkey might have ignored their national identities in their activism, Kurdish women began organizing separately.
Similar to other minority groups, dominated by the feminism of the majority,Kurdish feminists felt that their particular predicament could not be recog-nized within Turkish women’s groups. They organized around the journalRosa [sic], which began publication in March 1996, and then the journal Jijun[sic], which began publication in December 1996, in order to make themselvesindependent from the Kurdish nationalist movement, from men and fromTurkish women. In an interview with the feminist journal Pazartesi, the editor Downloaded By: [University of Chicago] At: 23:39 1 October 2007 of Rosa argued that within the Kurdish nationalist movement, women had tobecome like men to be taken seriously, which as feminists, was not what theywanted.48 The argument does not seem to suggest the full picture. First of all, how far is itpossible to argue that someone, even if a feminist, could ever ignore his/her nationalidentity? Especially if there is already a prevailing consciousness that some feminismis the ‘feminism of the majority’, whereas some feminism is the ‘feminism of otherminority groups’,49 including the Kurds, then there should be some sort of nationalidentity of Turkish women, which they have not been able to ignore. Similarly, itseems important to ask the following question: how far is it tenable to attribute thequestion of ethnic/national belonging to the women of ‘other minority groups’ butnot to the Turkish women? The problem is that if Turkish women have been thefeminists of the majority then perhaps it is the Turkish women that shouldproblematize their relationship with their national identity more than the women of‘other minority groups’, including the Kurds, primarily because they are nationallyin a dominant position. However, the implicit assumption in the argument above isthat the issue of national belonging is relevant only for the Kurdish women but notfor the Turkish women, and thus there is the attribution of the ‘universalistic’position to Turkish women but the ‘particularistic’ one to Kurdish women.
Another very crucial observation here is as follows: if one looks at Kurdish women’s journals, one can see that Kurdish women are critical of Turkish feministwomen almost as much as they are critical of Kurdish men. In this sense, one shouldrefer to the following pieces from the Kurdish women’s journal Roza: ‘Bir 8 MartDaha Gec¸ti’,50 ‘Ku¨rt Kadınlarına Batırılan Dikenler’,51 ‘Tu¨rk Feminist HareketinC¸ıkmazı’52 and ‘Mu¨cadelede Ku¨rt Kadını’.53 To conclude this section, then, one has to note that there has been an undeniable relationship between Kemalist nationalism and feminism in Turkey. Taken as a whole, the Kemalist modernization project has advantaged and ‘emancipated’Turkish women but not Kurdish women. It is also necessary to state that Kemalistnationalist ideas seem to have penetrated into the views and analysis of Turkishfeminist women to an important extent. Thus, it seems that feminism in Turkey hasfailed to completely sever its links to Kemalism when encountering Kurdishwomen.54 On the contrary, it implicitly and/or explicitly perpetuated Kemalistnationalist biases. Due to the different positioning of Kurdish and Turkish womenvis-a`-vis Kemalism in Turkey, it seems possible to claim that Kurdish women have,to borrow Sondra Farganis’ concept, ‘epistemic advantage’ compared to theirTurkish counterparts.55 A brief look at the recent literature regarding ‘women in Turkey’ shows that Kurdishwomen and their different experiences are invisible. For example, neither in Womenin Turkish Society56 nor in 75 Yılda Kadınlar ve Erkekler57 is there a piece on Kurdishwomen, although these two books include such a broad title as ‘women in Turkey’.
Another book is titled 1980’ler Tu¨rkiye’sinde Kadın Bakıs¸ Ac¸ısından Kadınlar.58 Thisbook includes a piece by Yakın Ertu¨rk that ‘touches’ on Kurdish women, when itfocuses on the problems women in the ‘eastern region’ of Turkey face. She makes a Downloaded By: [University of Chicago] At: 23:39 1 October 2007 very important observation when she points out that the development/moderniza-tion project of the state has had a paradoxical impact on the lives of women in the‘eastern region’ of Turkey. She notes that most of the women over the age of 30 donot speak Turkish, and have religious rather than official marriages.59 As such, theycan stake a claim for their rights over neither their children nor their share ofinheritance before the modern/secular laws. Moreover, since they are not registeredin the central population system, they are already officially ‘non-existent’.
Consequently, they have been marginalized by the process of national integrationor modernization.60 Ertu¨rk’s point is noteworthy since it shows that the development and/or modernizing attempts of the state do not necessarily lead to the enhancement ofthe life conditions of women. In particular, her observation that the developmentprojects have inherently had gendered characteristics which can be expected to havenegative consequences in regard to both women and agricultural modernization infuture is important.61 Yet there are two significant and interrelated points to be made about the above argument. The first one has to do with the fact that it does not take into account avery significant aspect of the problem at hand: the broader context of the Kurdish‘question’.62 In other words, a perspective restricted to the projects of ‘development’and failing to consider the ethnic aspect would not allow one to grasp the completepicture of Kurdish women’s oppression and subordination. In this sense, instead ofsolely problematizing their not knowing Turkish, which deprives them of certainlegal rights, it can be reformulated thus: why do non-Turkish-speaking Kurdishwomen not have access to benefit from these rights from within their own language?It is also important to note that in the piece under consideration Kurdish women arenot called ‘Kurdish women’ but rather ‘eastern’ and/or ‘rural’ women. Thus, despitethe fact that it pinpoints the marginalization of Kurdish women in an importantmanner, overall this approach seems to reflect and/or reproduce the Turkish state discourse on the Kurdish question. Mesut Ye gen, in his analysis of the Turkish state discourse, reveals how the Turkish state avoided recognizing the Kurdishness of theKurdish question. He argues that: Any examination of the discourse of the Turkish state reveals that the Turkishstate has consistently avoided recognizing the Kurdishness of the Kurdishquestion.
. . . Whenever the Kurdish question was mentioned in Turkish state discourse, it was in terms of reactionary politics, tribal resistance or regional back-wardness, but never as an ethno-political question.63 Jenny B. White’s recent article also accurately demonstrates that women in thepredominantly Kurdish regions have been more disadvantaged than women in therest of the country. However, it also leads one to similar questions raised above. Inthe article, White states that: The strength of these traditional forces [aghas or large landowners, religioussheikhs and tribal leaders] and concomitant weakness of the state increased asone moved from the major urban centres of Istanbul, Izmir, and Ankara in Downloaded By: [University of Chicago] At: 23:39 1 October 2007 the west toward the isolated, mountainous and poorer areas of the east, atTurkey’s borders with Iran, Iraq and Syria. It is these areas that remain thepoorest and least developed even today and in which women have lowerstatus and less access to their rights under Republican laws than elsewhere inTurkey.64 Again, one can see that the ethno-feminist65 aspect of the oppression and subor-dination of Kurdish women is occluded under the question of regional backwardness.
The first comprehensive book on Kurdish women was published recently: Women of a Non-state Nation: The Kurds.66 This edited volume brings together anumber of very interesting and significant scholarly studies about Kurdish women.
These studies are informed by quite diverse perspectives of scholars coming fromdifferent disciplinary backgrounds. Therefore, the importance of this bookbasically emanates from the fact that, as a pioneer, it sheds light upon genderand women’s issues in Kurdish society, culture, history and politics from variousperspectives. In what follows, I would like to focus on some of the essays in thevolume.
Martin van Bruinessen’s piece examines the best documented cases of Kurdish women who played major political roles in Kurdish history.67 In this context, hethrows light upon Adela Khanum of Halabja,68 Kara Fatima Khanum69 and LeylaZana.70 Van Bruinessen’s most striking point is that, contrary to Kurdish nationalistdiscourse, according to which Kurdish women enjoy equality with Kurdish men,‘Kurdish society is highly male-dominated and it has been for all of its knownhistory’.71 Moreover, he concludes that: It is true that some women have achieved extraordinary influence in Kurdishsociety, but the vast majority of them have not. It is also true that in some partsof Kurdistan women have a certain freedom of movement, perhaps more than in many other parts of the Middle East. This is certainly not characteristic,however, of all Kurdistan, and the nature and degree of this freedom moreoverdepend much on their families’ social status.72 Amir Hassanpour demonstrates in his study the patriarchal reproduction of power relations in the Kurdish language through a range of linguistic evidence.73 Janet Kleinattempts a discourse analysis of Kurdish intellectuals’ dealing with the ‘womanquestion’ through a meticulous archival research of the Ottoman-Kurdish pressaround the turn of the century.74 Perhaps the most significant point to note aboutRohat Alakom’s contribution is the fact that he unveils the existence of a Kurdishwomen’s society in _Istanbul in 1919. It was called the Society for the Advancement ofKurdish Women (Ku¨rd Kadınları Teali Cemiyeti).75 Despite the importance ofhis exploration, one can raise the following question: based on the little historicalevidence he unearths in this study, is it really possible and/or accurate to speak of a‘Kurdish women’s movement’? In other words, it seems that one needs more evidenceto be able to call it a ‘Kurdish women’s movement’, a phrase Alakom uses severaltimes.76 Or else he should make explicit what he means by the concept of ‘movement’.
Shahrzad Mojab, the editor of the book, contributes two chapters. I would like to examine particularly the one which is also the introduction. In this piece, Mojab points Downloaded By: [University of Chicago] At: 23:39 1 October 2007 to the fact that starting with the post-First World War period, Kurdish lives in generaland Kurdish women’s lives in particular have been shaped by the repressive nation-state policies of Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria, among which the Kurds have beendivided. In this context, she raises significant criticisms particularly against Turkishfeminism77 and Kurdish nationalism.78 Indeed, Mojab not only criticizes Kurdishnationalism, but also emphasizes that nationalism and feminism are two conflictingpositions.79 It seems that Mojab touches upon quite crucial issues. Yet one needs toraise some questions particularly on the basis of what she notes in the following: Until the 1990s, there was deadly silence, in feminist writing, about Kurdishwomen (see Alakom, this volume, for examples of the Turkification of thehistory of women’s movement of the late Ottoman period). Even when Kurdsappear in such writing, Kemalist politics determines the range of debate, and itsterms, concepts and problematizations. For one thing, feminists generally donot deviate from the state’s politics of denial of the ethnic and national diversityof Turkey. Even if the existence of the Kurds is not denied, they are not treated asa nation with legitimate rights to self-rule.80 One should again stress that her critique of nationalism in general, and that ofKurdish nationalism and Turkish feminism in particular, is tenable to a significantdegree. There is one point, however, that leads to a problematic position. Despite hercritique of nationalism, the way Mojab deals with the Kurdish issue and Kurdishwomen seems to lend itself to an apparently nationalist theoretical frame ofreference. As is well known, the search for congruence between the political andnational units and/or the right to the state is the leading political principle ofnationalism.81 Taken together with the titles of both the book and the piece inaddition to the approach to the Kurds ‘as a nation with legitimate rights to self-rule’seems to be a reading through a nationalist framework. This observation is important as it shows that despite her critique of nationalism Mojab seems to be, atbest, self-contradictory; if not simply reproducing the Kurdish nationalist discourseand thus remaining within the boundaries of the paradigm which she is criticizing,that is, nationalism.
Looking at the very few studies examined so far, then, one can conclude that there appear to be two problems. While one bears the traces of the Turkish state discourseon Kurds, the other one seems to be under the influence of Kurdish nationalistdiscourse. However, both are the seemingly ‘different’ manifestations of the sameideological position, namely, nationalism. It is necessary, thus, to study Kurdishwomen in a way that will allow one to get as close as possible to their true picture.82 I will now focus on the voices of the politically active Kurdish women in theirrelationship with the feminist movement and Kurdish nationalism in Turkey. Theirexperiences mostly demonstrate that the feminist movement in Turkey hasdisregarded and/or sidelined the experiences of Kurdish women.83 Secondly, theywill show the sexist and male-chauvinistic attitudes in Kurdish nationalist circles.
One point to be made here is that although this study is solely based on the experiences of Kurdish women, it does not mean that it did not include the views of Downloaded By: [University of Chicago] At: 23:39 1 October 2007 Turkish feminist women. Although not as systematically as those of Kurdish women,the views of three Turkish feminist women have been important for the arguments ofthis article, alongside the experiences of Kurdish women. These Turkish feministwomen are Aksu Bora, Nazik Is¸ık and Nu¨khet Sirman. One important observationthat Is¸ık makes is that feminism in Turkey did not clash with the state.84 Moreover,both Is¸ık and Bora point to the heated debates in several feminist meetings in 2003.
These debates were about the citation of the national anthem. On the basis of thesedebates, Bora observes that the Kurdish question will be a serious point of divergencefor both Kurdish and Turkish women.85 Professor Sirman, on the other hand, refers toa symposium that was held in Germany in the late 1980s. It was about women inTurkey. She notes that a woman in that symposium came up with the argument that, asKurdish women, they had been oppressed and subordinated differently from theirTurkish counterparts. Sirman reports that they, as Turkish women, all vehementlyopposed that woman on the grounds that they all, as women, had been undergoing thecommon experience of oppression and subordination.86 These three observations byTurkish feminist women are important on two points. Firstly, the arguments andobservations made on the basis of Kurdish women’s experiences are not entirely one-sided. Secondly, one should bear in mind that the ‘Turkish feminist women’ do notpresent, just like their Kurdish counterparts, a monolithic picture. Thus, one should becautious not to overgeneralize about Turkish feminist women.
I would like to continue by focusing on the experiences of the nine Kurdish women with whom I carried out in-depth interviews. I got in contact with these women bymeans of a snowball technique. These women are by no means representative of allKurdish women in Turkey. Yet I believe that their experiences can be well used togain insights for an understanding of the oppression and subordination of Kurdishwomen in Turkey. It should also be noted that calling these women as ‘Kurdishwomen’ is my label. Their self-identifications vary but the two common dimen-sions of their self-identifications are related to ‘Kurdishness’ and ‘womanhood’.
For instance, alongside self-identifications such as feminist, Kurdish, Kurdishfeminist, Kurdish woman, one can also see others like Alevi, socialist and environ-mentalist. Thus, although ‘Kurdish woman’ is my label, it is not my preferentialcategory; rather, it is based on a common ground on which all of them seem to stand.
These women have been politically active in the 1990s in Turkey. Whether thisactivism was realized in the ‘public’ or ‘private’ spheres, the most importantmotivation around which their activism revolves are gender and ethnic concerns.
As to the background of the respondents, it should be noted that the nine Kurdish women whom I interviewed are in their thirties and forties. Only one is a primaryschool graduate, two of them are high school graduates and the rest are universitygraduates. One of them has a Master’s degree. All of them have rural backgrounds;however, they have been living in the urban areas of Turkey, particularly in _Istanbul,for a period of time ranging from one and a half to almost four decades. Seven ofthem live in _Istanbul and one of them lives in Turkey – she did not specify a city. Theother one participated in the interview via email from Britain, where she has beenliving for nearly three years. The political activism of some started in the 1970s and1980s, yet, with no exception, all of them have been politically active in the 1990s inTurkey. I will firstly focus on their approach to the feminist movement in Turkey andthen their approach to nationalism in general and Kurdish nationalism in particular.
Downloaded By: [University of Chicago] At: 23:39 1 October 2007 The respondents in this study fall along a continuum with regard to their political ideological stance. Two of them are very reluctant to define themselves as feminists.
Here are Zeynep’s words: Women in Turkey understand feminism in a very different way. I mean theyperceive feminism as being against men, as being the enemy of men, as gettingorganized against men. I do not take feminism as such. I think that it is alsosomewhat necessary to raise men’s consciousness. There should not be aconcern of women to prove that ‘we are superior over you’, while men say, ‘weare superior’.
A very similar argument is made by Ays¸e: I am looking somewhat differently at the phenomenon of feminism that is on theagenda today. I mean I do not agree with being a crude feminist, with the idea ofa crude rejection of men. Rather, my idea, the idea that I adopt is a woman’sideology that even transcends feminism. Because if a life is to be conceived of, itshould be conceived of as a shared life. I agree more with being able to walktogether with men as comrades (yoldas¸) and to live together in those happy dayswaiting to be created than with adopting a crude rejection of men.
Zeynep and Ays¸e are the least positive towards feminism in Turkey among therespondents. As one moves from this side of the continuum towards the other, thecritique of the feminist movement lessens somewhat. Zehra, who is in betweenthe two extremes of the scale, says Turkish feminists behaved like ‘big sisters’:87 They made me feel even more oppressed. I think that this was something likebehaving like a big sister (ablalık yapmak) to us. In the same vein, they started to do more things than us about our own problems, about the problems that welive. They started to form opinions or to talk on our behalf. Moreover, theybecame like the spokesperson of Kurdish women. This is what I mean when Isay to be like a big sister to us.
Moreover, Zehra points out that the feminist movement is not critical ofKemalism:88 In my opinion, the Turkish women’s movement takes its nutrition fromKemalism. I mean I do not think that it has something that is completelydistinct from Kemalism or that is constructed upon its rejection or that criticizesit. There are things from Kemalism [in it]; there is a racist approach in theTurkish women’s movement as well.
Similarly, Hatice recounts her experiences in the feminist meetings as follows: In the beginning, they did not pay attention to us very much. They really didnot. I mean in those several meetings of ours, for example it was a generalmeeting; there were all women’s groups. They did not really give us the chance Downloaded By: [University of Chicago] At: 23:39 1 October 2007 to talk. I mean they behaved as if we did not exist. I mean it was like theirplace, it was as if they constituted the basis and we were just watching likeguests.
Melike, in parallel to Nazik Is¸ık, whose ideas I referred to above, indicates that thefeminist movement in Turkey has been on the side of the state rather than that of theKurds:89 I think that the women’s movement in Turkey did not take any risk in thedemands, actions and organizations related to Kurds. This is very important. Itdoes not still take a risk. It still does not take much risk . . .
There was the state against Kurds. If you are on the side of Kurds, the state will stand against you. You may prefer this. Yet they did not. I think that thefeminist movement in Turkey in that sense was not on the side of Kurdishwomen or Kurds.
Elif states that all Turkish feminist women did not have the same attitude towardsKurds: In 1993, a group of feminist women in _Istanbul published a notice that opposedwhat was going on in Kurdistan because of the force of the state and they madea press statement. Also some women in this group became members of DEP,90symbolically. In addition, it is possible to say that the attitude of the Pazartesiand of some of the women working there was positive. Apart from these ones, itis possible to say that Turkish feminists stood away. It is possible to say that byoverlooking, they had a chauvinist attitude. The ones other than radical andsocialist feminists demonstrated a racist attitude and they panicked by saying‘The homeland is going out of our hands’.
Further, Elif points to inadequacies of the feminist movement in Turkey as in thefollowing: [In the 1980s, the Turkish feminist movement] spoke of a political organizationand liberation that included all women. But this turned out not to be possible inpractice. First of all, Turkish feminists did not touch on the relationshipbetween sexism and racism on this soil where racism and all sorts ofdiscrimination are deep-rooted and where they have been started to be talkedabout anew, and where there are multi-lingual/cultural/ethnic identities. Theydid not see that there was experienced a difference between different ethnicidentities and between women of oppressing and oppressed nations. Theyassumed that the common denominator of being oppressed as women wasenough. Secondly, although the existence of classes was recognized, they wereforgotten and they supposed that they addressed all women. Yet it was limitedto educated, middle-class women.
Esma replies to the question if she was ever excluded by Turkish feminist women bysaying: Downloaded By: [University of Chicago] At: 23:39 1 October 2007 Not exclusion, but there are instances when I am not understood. For instance,our experiences in the context of the relationship with the state, the relations atthe workplace, the relationship between the wife and the husband, mother andchild relations are quite different. When I express these, filled with astonish-ment, Turkish feminist women ask: ‘Really? Are there things like that? Can itever be real?’ Semra emphasizes the difference of Kurdish women as in the following: When I enter Turkey’s women’s movement, I intersect with them at one point: Iintersect as a woman, with my identity of womanhood. Yet I have anotherintersecting point of mine: being Kurdish. Because I am not only a woman overthere. Naturally, I also experience something else that makes me who I am andthat transforms my thoughts. Now the friends here say: ‘All right, we are onlywomen, this is enough for us’. But this is not enough for us. What will we dowith the things that we live in terms of both being a woman and our ethnicidentity, that is, the things that we live as Kurdish women? I mean does this notconcern the others? There is only one woman, Filiz, at the other extreme of the continuum. She was themost positive towards the feminist movement in Turkey. For instance, to thequestion if Turkish feminist women were nationalists, she replies by saying: I think that there was nationalism. In my opinion, there was nationalism but itwas not nationalism as follows: it was not a nationalism that was at the level ofdenial; it was an objective nationalism. This country is a nationalist country.
Even if you are a feminist you take your share from it. What I mean is that therewas not a special blindness, a deliberate rejection. Moreover, as I said before, the battle of life already took those women’s energy. I mean they were engagedwith themselves and they were struggling for survival against others. They weretrying to say, ‘We are here’ and at that point to expect from the feministssomething that does not exist in this country seems to be a criticism at a levelthat they do not deserve. That is the point that I want to make. In this countrynobody does this. Kurds are killed, Kurds are dying, Kurds are assimilated. It isasked as: ‘Why did feminists not oppose’? But no one opposed it, how couldfeminists? But when we come to the ’90s, to me, very rapidly, feminists, since they are feminists, started to think of Kurdish women. And feminists did this. Leftistmen did not do this. I mean, as a feminist, as a Kurd, I was participating in themovement of the ’90s very actively and very consciously, and in that periodwhat I saw was extraordinary. I mean extraordinary in that sense: I hadrelations in a way with leftists, also I had relations in a way with Kurds, also Ihad relations in a way with men but I saw the sensitivity concerning the fact thatKurdish women had a different form of oppression and that they had a differentwomanhood condition nowhere else as much as Turkish feminists were con-cerned with it.
Downloaded By: [University of Chicago] At: 23:39 1 October 2007 As to their approach to nationalism, while some have a positive stance, some have a quite negative one. For instance, some of them differentiate between racism andnationalism. Hatice indicates that: ‘I mean a human being who loves his/her nationwithout arriving at racism is a nationalist. His/her nation, homeland, I mean I do notknow, his/her soil . . . When it becomes racism, nationalism goes to very dangerousdimensions’. Similarly, Zehra notes that: ‘Nationalism is, outside of racism, not tosee one’s own national identity as superior over others, nor is it to reject/deny it.
[Nationalism is] to be able to protect one’s cultural values or national identity’.
Melike states that: To me, nationalism is to be a member of an oppressed people and to fight forfreedom. I mean, including one’s own, to fight for the freedom of thatpeople . . . For me nationalism is legitimate because I am a member of anoppressed people, I am in no way free. I can neither use my language, nor can Ilive my traditions, nor can I live in my own country; right? Nor can I dream inmy language, nor can I imagine in my language. Until you are 5, or 6, while youdo not know one word of Turkish, all of a sudden you are told: ‘You will learnTurkish, you will forget [your own language]’. Now this is racism. This isracism. On the other hand, mine is to protect myself. If this is nationalism, Imean if to protect oneself is nationalism, yes, I am a nationalist. I am protectingmyself because I am denied to exist.
The positive overtone starts to shift slightly towards a negative one. Being anationalist is legitimated on the grounds that it is the imposition of the circumstances.
In this sense Zeynep notes: Perhaps it is not completely true to say that I am a Kurdish nationalist from mypolitical point of view but I care very much about the interests of the Kurdish nation and for this I fight. I mean I fight not only for Kurdish women but alsofor Kurdish people. As a Kurdish woman, I perceive as my duty the fightagainst the ones who deny its existence. Circumstances have forced people to bea little nationalist. It is necessary not to think too much in terms of nationality.
Perhaps this was true 20 years ago as well. I think that there was the necessity offighting for the peoples of the world, fighting for the oppressed peoples of theworld. I still think like that but as I say, as far as you are not accepted and youare rejected, it is unavoidable to slip towards that side. You feel obliged to fightfor your people. Thus, you approach a little nationalistically; you approachevents more in a nationalistic sense.
Filiz and Esma, however, reject nationalism in a straightforward manner. Filizindicates that: As a feminist, I see nationalism as something against women, something againstfeminism. I mean it is a concept and condition that feminism cannot accept.
Consequently, I am an anti-nationalist. It is something that threatens feminism,I see it as something that feminism should be careful about; I see it as an issuethat an eye should be kept on.
Downloaded By: [University of Chicago] At: 23:39 1 October 2007 Esma notes that nationalism is another version of racism: I [Interviewee]: In my opinion nationalism is to defend the superiority, yes, thesuperiority of a nation. Almost to the extent that it can be called racism.
R [Researcher]: Then nationalism and racism are . . .?I: They are close to each other, not the same.
R: Then what is racism?I: I think that racism is more about the skin of the body. I think that it has somebiological dimension. Nationalism is more about the national. If you are fromthe nation A, it is the most superior nation.
As to Kurdish nationalism, there are two opposing experiences. Here it is worthquoting from Ays¸e: When I initially became involved in politics, frankly speaking, I got involvedsolely from within a national consciousness. I mean, in the event, every one of uswas oppressed, but we were not aware of the fact that we were also oppressed asa sex. I mean not only me, but also many of my female friends, lived theseexperiences. I mean, although we were in a political organization we could notsay that we moved within the identity of woman.
But this changed later on. Her and her friends’ awakening to their difference frommen and their disadvantaged position vis-a`-vis men based on their gender identitywas realized through and within the boundaries of their political organizations.
Though the respondent says that she was not initially motivated by gender concernsduring her participation in politics, she notes a recent and significant change in the approach to women of her political organization.91 This was a point that wasconfirmed and emphasized by most of the other respondents as well. In other words,many of the other respondents pointed to the fact that this political organization hasbeen undergoing noteworthy transformations in terms of its approach to the womanissue. That is why it seems important to quote at length the conversation at thispoint: R: What was it that facilitated or pushed this transformation of both youand your male friends? I mean what influenced you regarding the womanissue? For example, as far as I understand you were different five or ten yearsago.
I: Yes yes, it passes from recognizing ourselves. I mean, in the past, we . . .
R: I mean is this only a result of an inner questioning? I mean self-questioning,or were you affected from outside? For instance let me say: ‘We were affected bythe feminist movement in Turkey’. For example can we say this?I: No, not from such an influence. I mean we seriously started to get toknow ourselves, to search ourselves. Because in the past, in fact, while inpolitics or in real life, when we looked in the mirror, we used to look atourselves with the eyes of the male. I mean this is not true only for the Kurdish Downloaded By: [University of Chicago] At: 23:39 1 October 2007 woman.
R: Then what happened which made you look at yourselves as women?I: I mean everyday there were discussions on this topic in the political struggle inwhich I was involved, and also some scientific research was there. Indeed itneeds to be expressed frankly. There are ideas and definitions about women,about which Abdullah O¨calan wrote, there are books Abdullah O¨calan wrote.
We, too, get and read them. In these books, especially the ideas about womenhave been very mind-broadening for us. I mean it developed in us somethingthat helped us understand ourselves. These books are an incredible friend in theanalysis indeed. I mean where did women lose, how is the situation of womentoday? . . . In these books, there are serious explanations concerning women. Imean I think that these explanations have been very useful in terms ofrecognizing ourselves and in terms of handling more consciously the problemsthat we live as women.
Zeynep, on the other hand, points out that men in the Kurdish nationalist organization in which she had been active behaved in a sexist manner: For example let us say that there will be constituted a divan [an electedcommittee presiding over the meetings in a political organization], in no waywould a woman be there. Definitely men would be the president and the vicepresidents of the divan. They would always behave as if there were only men inthe meetings. For example when an activity was carried out, they behaved as ifthere was no woman. I mean this was not about the fact that our number wassmall; rather it was the mentality that was brought about by the patriarchalideology. Perhaps some were not even aware of this but we were, and wethought that we should separate ourselves from them.
And she notes that this was the reason behind Kurdish women’s independentpolitical activism: They were keeping us out. They were seeing us as if we were men. They wereexpecting us to behave like men in every way. Their viewpoint is verydifferent . . . I mean the wrong approach of men, their looking completely withmale ideology. At the moment when we noticed this, we realized that we couldbe with them in the political sense, but in order to prove ourselves both to usand to them, to prove that we existed, we should get organized separately. Weare still with them in the political sense, but of course as women, there should bea separate organization of ours, and for that reason we thought that we shouldbe able to express ourselves in that way.
Esma, similarly, indicates that Kurdish nationalist men had a desexualized view ofwomen: Let me put it that way: it was necessary for me to be sexless or it was necessaryfor me not to express the problems that I lived as a woman. And whenever Iexpressed, like someone who talks unnecessarily, I was not to be seen, not to be Downloaded By: [University of Chicago] At: 23:39 1 October 2007 heard and not accorded any importance. When I talked about the subjects towhich they attributed importance, it was, however, taken to be important, or Iwas given importance when I did what they said.
Ernest Gellner notes that: ‘Nationalism is not based on common memory butcommon oblivion’.92 It seems that Kurdish women have been the victims of commonoblivion of nationalism in Turkey, no matter whether Turkish or Kurdish. They or apart of their identities have been made to be forgotten by the Kemalist nationalistproject, Kurdish nationalism and ‘Turkish’ feminism. Therefore, Kurdish womenhave been suffering from nationalist biases. Their specific set of experiences havebeen either missing from the agenda or they have been seen through nationalistlenses. Therefore, this study will best be appreciated if it can draw attention to thefact that it is time to acknowledge Kurdish women’s existence, listen to their ownvoices and understand them on their own terms without denying their identity orwithout subjecting them to any political and/or ideological prejudices.
A very large number of people in Turkey and North America have provided spiritual and intellectualassistance since the very beginning of the formulation of this study as a master’s thesis. It is not possible tocompile the entire list here. The author thanks the nine Kurdish women who participated in this research.
Without them sharing their invaluable experiences, this study would never come into existence. The authoris wholeheartedly grateful to his supervisor Professor A. Holly Shissler who led him to reinterpret theoriginal research. The author is also thankful to the following people: Handan C¸agˇlayan, Zelal Ayman,Melissa Bilal, Professor Yes¸im Arat, Professor Fatma M. Go¨c¸ek, Yigˇit Akın, Nazik Is¸ık, Aksu Bora,Mazhar Yu¨ksel, Professor Hakan O¨zo glu, Professor Amir Hassanpour, Professor Orit Bashkin, Megan glu and the participants of the Middle Eastern History and Theory Workshop at the This study is a revised version of the master’s thesis that the author wrote at Bilkent University in 2003 under the supervision of Professor Tahire Erman. An earlier version of this study was delivered at theannual meeting of the Middle East Studies Association in 2004 in San Francisco.
1. For further elaboration on the political implications of this distinction in Republican Turkey, see A.
glu, Cumhuriyet _Iradesi, Demokrasi Muhakemesi [Republican Will, Democratic Reasoning] 2. In this article, I use ‘Kemalism’ in the sense that Taha Parla defines. According to Parla, ‘Kemalism is a political ideology’ and it is the dominant-official (egemen-resmi) ideology in Turkey. T. Parla,Tu¨rkiye’de Siyasal Ku¨ltu¨ru¨n Resmi Kaynakları: Kemalist Tek-Parti _Ideolojisi ve CHP’nin Altı Ok’u[The Official Sources of the Political Culture in Turkey: Kemalist Single-Party Ideology and the SixArrows of the RPP] (_Istanbul: _Iletis¸im, 1992), pp.21 and 9.
3. Within the confines of this essay, I use the nation in the sense that Benedict Anderson defines. According to Anderson, the nation ‘is an imagined political community – and imagined as both inherently limitedand sovereign’. B. Anderson, Imagined Communities (London: Verso, 2003), p.6.
4. This study is of the persuasion that in Turkey there is a group of women who can be categorized as Kurdish women. This is by no means to imply that they present a monolithic and/or homogeneouspicture. Despite their heterogeneity in several respects, however, they can be categorized as suchprimarily because the oppression and subordination that they undergo originates, to a large extent,from their being both Kurds and women. Indeed that is why this piece restricts itself to ethnic andgender aspects of their experiences, which does not necessarily mean that these are the sole factorsbehind their oppression and subordination.
5. The Kemalist modernization of women, however, received much criticism from feminist scholars in Downloaded By: [University of Chicago] At: 23:39 1 October 2007 Turkey. I will focus on their critique below.
6. B. Oran, ‘Linguistic Minority Rights in Turkey, the Kurds and Globalization’, in F. Ibrahim and G. Gu¨rbey (eds.), The Kurdish Conflict in Turkey: Obstacles and Chances for Peace and Democracy(New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2000), pp.154–5.
7. H. Gu¨lalp, ‘Islamism and Kurdish Nationalism: Rival Adversaries of Kemalism in Turkey’, in T. Sonn (ed.), Islam and the Question of Minorities (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1996), p.94.
8. H. Bozarslan, ‘Les re´voltes Kurdes en Turquie Ke´maliste (quelques aspects)’, Guerres Mondiales et Conflits Contemporains, Vol.38, No.151 (1988), p.121.
10. Ibid., p.121.
11. A. _Ic¸duygu, D. Romano and _I. Sirkeci, ‘The Ethnic Question in an Environment of Insecurity: the Kurds in Turkey’, Ethnic and Racial Studies, Vol.22, No.6 (1999), p.993.
12. Ibid., p.991.
13. Ibid., p.996.
14. Ibid., p.997.
15. A. Gu¨ndu¨z-Hos¸go¨r and J. Smits, ‘Intermarriage between Turks and Kurds in Contemporary Turkey’, European Sociological Review, Vol.18, No.4 (2002), p.424.
16. Gu¨lalp, ‘Linguistic Minority Rights in Turkey, the Kurds and Globalization’, p.93.
17. K. Kiris¸ci and G.M. Winrow, The Kurdish Question and Turkey: An Example of a Trans-state Ethnic Conflict (London: Frank Cass, 1997), p.103.
18. Yet it should also be noted that this distinction should not lead to a view that the Turks and the Kurds are two polarized and socially, culturally and geographically isolated social groups. Forexample, there are numerous Kurds living in the western parts of Turkey and there are a lot ofintermarriages between Kurds and Turks. To give an example, not all the parents of respondents inthis study are Kurds. Two of them have a Turkish mother or father. Thus, while the above-mentioned distinction on the basis of ethnicity is valid, one should be aware of social intermixturesbetween Turks and Kurds. But still it should be noted that, strikingly enough, intermarriagesbetween Turks and Kurds are not to the advantage of Kurdish women. See Gu¨ndu¨z-Hos¸go¨r andSmits, ‘Intermarriage between Turks and Kurds in Contemporary Turkey’.
19. It should be noted that recently there have been noteworthy developments regarding the recognition of the Kurdish identity and language in the process of Turkey’s accession into the European Union.
Moreover, there have been discussions going on about ‘multi-cultural constitutional citizenship’ ratherthan ‘ethno-cultural citizenship’. See among others, F. Keyman, ‘C¸ok Ku¨ltu¨rlu¨ Anayasal Yurttas¸lık’ [Multi-cultural Constitutional Citizenship], Radikal _Iki, 21 Nov. 2004; M. Ye Ku¨rtler’ [The Republic and the Kurds], Radikal _Iki, 5 Dec. 2004. It is also important to note that theprocess of Turkey’s integration with the EU seems to have had a very positive impact on the Kurds ofTurkey. See Y. Odabas¸ı, ‘Ku¨rtler Ne _Ist(eyem)iyor?’ [What cannot/do the Kurds Want?], Radikal _Iki,19 Dec. 2004.
20. M.H. Yavuz, ‘Five Stages of the Construction of Kurdish Nationalism in Turkey’, Nationalism and Ethnic Politics, Vol.7, No.3 (2001), pp.1–24.
21. There might be other contributory dynamics to this process, though. Globalization could be one of these. For instance, Ergun O¨zbudun argues that: ‘Both challenges [the rise of political Islam andKurdish nationalism] – obviously the products of numerous factors – are related in some degree to thecultural effects of globalization, which include the growth of ultranationalist and religiousfundamentalist parties, increased demands for recognition of cultural and other differences, and therise of identity politics as a reaction to the culturally homogenizing effects of globalization’.
E. O¨zbudun, Contemporary Turkish Politics: Challenges to Democratic Consolidation (Boulder: LynneRienner Publishers, 2000), p.141. Yet since it is beyond the scope of this article to give consideration toall possible dynamics that might have impacts on the issue at hand, I have not included a debate onglobalization.
22. For a nuanced analysis of the changing position and representation of Kurdish women in the Kurdish nationalist discourse in the 1990s, see L. Yalc¸ın-Heckmann and P. van Gelder, ‘90’larda Tu¨rkiye’deSiyasal So¨ylemin Do¨nu¨s¸u¨mu¨ C¸erc¸evesinde Ku¨rt Kadınlarının _Imajı: Bazı Eles¸tirel De [The Image of Kurdish Women in the Framework of the Transformation of the Political Discourse inTurkey in the 1990s: Some Critical Evaluations], in A.G. Altınay (ed.), Vatan, Millet, Kadınlar[Homeland, Nation, Women] (_Istanbul: _Iletis¸im, 2000), pp.308–38. Another very interesting analysis Downloaded By: [University of Chicago] At: 23:39 1 October 2007 of the representation of women in the Kurdish nationalist discourse is provided by Necla Ac¸ık’sarticle, which is referred to below. It would also be very interesting, however, to examine therepresentation of women in the Kurdish nationalist imagination, with reference to the frameworkprovided by Partha Chatterjee’s monumental work. See P. Chatterjee, The Nation and Its Fragments:Colonial and Postcolonial Histories (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993), especially chapters 6and 7.
23. These points will best be demonstrated below with particular attention to Kurdish women’s 24. For some critical theoretical reflections on the relationship between gender and nationalist projects and processes, see the followings: N. Yuval-Davis, Gender and Nation (London: Sage, 1997);S. Ranchod-Nilsson and M.A. Te´treault, ‘Gender and Nationalism: Moving Beyond FragmentedConversations’, in S. Ranchod-Nilsson and M.A. Te´treault (eds.), Women, States and Nationalism: AtHome in the Nation? (London and New York: Routledge, 2000), pp.1–17; L. Racioppi andK. O’Sullivan See, ‘Engendering Nation and National Identity’, in Ranchod-Nilsson and Te´treault(eds.), Women, States and Nationalism, pp.18–34; J. Nagel, ‘Masculinity and Nationalism: Gender andSexuality in the Making of Nations’, Ethnic and Racial Studies, Vol.21, No.2 (1998), pp.242–69;A.G. Altınay, ‘Giris¸: Milliyetc¸ilik, Toplumsal Cinsiyet ve Feminizm’ [Introduction: Nationalism,Gender and Feminism], in Altınay (ed.), Vatan, Millet, Kadınlar, pp.11–28.
25. ‘Ku¨rt Kadınlarının Ayrı O¨rgu¨tlenme Tarihine _Ilis¸kin Notlar’ [Notes Concerning the History of Kurdish Women’s Separate Organization], Roza: Cinsiyetc¸ili Dergisi [Roza: A Bimonthly Kurdish Women’s Journal against Racism and Sexism], No.7 (1997),pp.3–4. At this point, one should also point to the praiseworthy activities of the women’sorganizations in the predominantly Kurdish regions. These organizations have been doing an amazingjob for the immediate improvement of the lives of the women in these regions. For one of theseorganizations, see N. Akkoc¸, ‘Diyarbakır Ka-Mer’in Kurulus¸ Hikaˆyesi ve Yu¨ru¨ttu¨gˇu¨ C¸alıs¸malar’ [TheStory of the Establishment of Diyarbakır Ka-Mer and the Works that It Carries Out], in A. Bora andA. Gu¨nal (eds.), 90’larda Tu¨rkiye’de Feminizm [Feminism in Turkey in the ’90s] (_Istanbul: _Iletis¸im,2002), pp.205–16.
26. N. Ac¸ık, ‘Ulusal Mu¨cadele, Kadın Mitosu ve Kadınların Harekete Gec¸irilmesi: Tu¨rkiye’deki C¸a Ku¨rt Kadın Dergilerinin Bir Analizi’ [National Struggle, the Myth of Woman and MobilizingWomen: An Analysis of the Contemporary Kurdish Women’s Journals in Turkey], in A. Bora andA. Gu¨nal (eds.), 90’larda Tu¨rkiye’de Feminizm [Feminism in Turkey in the ’90s] (_Istanbul: _Iletis¸im,2002), pp.280–2.
27. Ibid., pp.279–80.
28. Cited in N. Go¨le, The Forbidden Modern (Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 1996), p.59.
29. Such an assertion definitely does not imply that there is a strictly clear-cut differentiation between the two aspects of the Kemalist modernization project. Rather, they are the two complementary faces ofKemalism. For the sake of analytical purposes, such a differentiation and its interrelations with boththe Kurdish and woman questions seem useful.
One important and interrelated point is the tension brought about by the establishment of the Republic in Turkey in the context of the much sharper divide between the traditional/Islamic andthe modern/western. From the inception of the Republic, through the gradual rise of political Islam inthe 1980s and 1990s, the question of this divide and particularly its implications for the experiences ofKurdish women are beyond the scope of this article.
30. For an excellent critique of the Republican reforms concerning women, see M. Ye Fantasies: Towards a Feminist Reading of Orientalism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998),pp.131–6.
31. Z.F. Arat, ‘Turkish Women and the Republican Reconstruction of Tradition’, in F.M. Go¨c¸ek and S. Balaghi (eds.), Reconstructing Gender in the Middle East: Tradition, Identity and Power (New York:Columbia University Press, 1994), pp.62–3.
32. Although these were very radical changes, it can well be argued that the full picture could not be grasped without referring to women’s social and political activism from the late Ottoman Empirethrough the early decades of the Turkish Republic. For more on the women’s movement in thisperiod, see the following works, among others: A. Demirdirek, Osmanlı Kadınlarının Hayat HakkıArayıs¸ının Bir Hikayesi [A Story of Ottoman Women’s Search for the Right to Life] (Ankara: _Imge,1993); S. C¸akır, Osmanlı Kadın Hareketi [Ottoman Women’s Movement] (_Istanbul: Metis, 1996); Downloaded By: [University of Chicago] At: 23:39 1 October 2007 S¸. Tekeli, ‘Birinci ve _Ikinci Dalga Feminist Hareketlerin Kars¸ılas¸tırmalı _Incelemesi U¨zerine BirDeneme’ [An Essay on the Comparative Examination of the First and Second Waves of FeministMovements], in A.B. Hacımirzao glu (ed.), 75 Yılda Kadınlar ve Erkekler [Women and Men in 75 Years] (_Istanbul: Tarih Vakfı Yayınları, 1998), pp.337–46; A. Baykan and B. O¨tu¨s¸-Baskett, NeziheMuhittin ve Tu¨rk Kadını (1931): Tu¨rk Feminizminin Du¨s¸u¨nsel Ko¨kenleri ve Feminist TarihYazıcılı gından Bir O¨rnek [Nezihe Muhittin and Turkish Woman (1931): The Intellectual Origins of the Turkish Feminism and an Example from the Feminist Historiography] (_Istanbul: _Iletis¸im, 1999);R. Alakom, ‘Aras¸tırmalarda Fazla Adı Gec¸meyen Bir Kurulus¸: Ku¨rt Kadınları Teali Cemiyeti’ [ANot-often-mentioned Organization in Researches: Association for the Advancement of KurdishWomen], Tarih ve Toplum, Vol.29, No.171 (1998), pp.36–40.
33. For more on this conflict, see Y. Zihnio glu, Kadınsız _Inkılap : Nezihe Muhiddin, Kadınlar Halk Fırkası, gi [Revolution without Women: Nezihe Muhiddin, People’s Party of Women, Women’s 34. A. Durakbas¸a, ‘Kemalism as Identity Politics in Turkey’, in Z.F. Arat (ed.), Deconstructing Images of ‘The Turkish Woman’ (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1998), p.140. See also A. Durakbas¸a, HalideEdib: Tu¨rk Modernles¸mesi ve Feminizm [Halide Edib: Turkish Modernization and Feminism](_Istanbul: _Iletis¸im, 2002).
35. F. Berktay, ‘Osmanlı’dan Cumhuriyet’e Feminizm’ [Feminism from the Ottoman through the Republic], in M.O¨. Alkan (ed.), Modern Tu¨rkiye’de Siyasi Du¨s¸u¨nce: Tanzimat ve Mes¸rutiyet’in Birikimi[Political Thought in Modern Turkey: The Accumulation of the Tanzimat and Mes¸rutiyet] (_Istanbul: 36. A. Saktanber, ‘Kemalist Kadın Hakları So¨ylemi’ [Kemalist Women’s Rights Discourse], in A. _Insel (ed.), Modern Tu¨rkiye’de Siyasi Du¨s¸u¨nce: Kemalizm [Political Thought in Modern Turkey: Kemalism](_Istanbul: _Iletis¸im, 2001), p.332.
37. S¸. Tekeli, ‘80’lerde Tu¨rkiye’de Kadınların Kurtulus¸u Hareketinin Gelis¸mesi’ [The Development of Women’s Emancipation Movement in Turkey in the ’80s], Birikim, No.3 (1989), p.35.
38. F. Berktay, ‘Tu¨rkiye’de ‘‘Kadınlık Konumu’’’ [‘Status of Womanhood’ in Turkey], Yu¨zyıl Biterken Cunhuriyet Do¨nemi Tu¨rkiye Ansiklopedisi, Vol.13 (_Istanbul: _Iletis¸im, 1996), p.760.
39. N. Abadan-Unat, ‘The Impact of Legal and Educational Reforms on Turkish Women’, in N.R. Keddie and B. Baron (eds.), Women in Middle Eastern History: Shifting Boundaries in Sexand Gender (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1992), p.177.
40. Pınar _Ilkkaracan’s research demonstrates that despite the existence of the standardized modern civil law, traditional and religious laws are still very strong depending on the ‘region, economic conditions, denomination and ethnic identities’. P. _Ilkkaracan, ‘Dogˇu Anadolu’da Kadın ve Aile’ [Woman andFamily in the Eastern Anatolia], in A.B. Hacımirzaogˇlu (ed.), 75 Yılda Kadınlar ve Erkekler [Womenand Men in 75 Years] (_Istanbul: Tarik Vakfı Yayınları, 1998), pp.173–92.
41. When referring to Kurdish women who participated in this study, I use pseudonyms to keep their 42. Gu¨ndu¨z-Hos¸go¨r and Smits, ‘Intermarriage between Turks and Kurds in Contemporary Turkey’, 43. Starting with the 1960s, and continuing especially with the 1980s and 1990s, however, several concurrent developments led to the gradual disintegration of the traditional Kurdish social andcultural features. Among these developments one should mention the following: the impact of leftist-secularist Kurdish nationalism, migration to urban centres such as _Istanbul, increasing levels ofliteracy and education, the spread of the means of mass communication. Yet still it is not uncommonfor one to see that some deep-rooted ‘features’ like honour (namus), whose marker/symbol is thewoman and her chastity, and honour-killings prevail. This is by no means to imply that ‘honour-killing’ is specific to the Kurds.
44. J. Smits and A. Gu¨ndu¨z-Hos¸go¨r, ‘Linguistic Capital: Language as a Socio-economic Resource among Kurdish and Arabic Women in Turkey’, Ethnic and Racial Studies, Vol.26, No.5 (2003),pp.829–53.
45. Ibid., p.839.
46. Ibid., p.846. P. Bourdieu, Language and Symbolic Power (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1991).
47. Ibid., p.829.
48. Y. Arat, ‘From Emancipation to Liberation: The Changing Role of Women in Turkey’s Public Realm’, Journal of International Affairs, Vol.54, No.1 (2000), pp.120–1.
Downloaded By: [University of Chicago] At: 23:39 1 October 2007 49. This is a distinction that Arat does not seem to disapprove of.
50. ‘Bir 8 Mart Daha Gec¸ti’ [One More March 8 Passed], Roza, No.8 (1997), pp.9–11.
51. F. Kayhan, ‘Ku¨rt Kadınlarına Batırılan Dikenler’ [Thorns Stuck into Kurdish Women], Roza, No.13 52. F. Kayhan, ‘Tu¨rk Feminist Hareketin C¸ıkmazı’ [The Dilemma of the Turkish Feminist Movement], 53. Cevahir, ‘Mu¨cadelede Ku¨rt Kadını’ [The Kurdish Woman in the Struggle], Roza, No.5 (1996), pp.6–7.
54. Undoubtedly, cutting ties with Kemalism has not been questioned and/or problematized by Kemalist feminists. On the contrary, Kemalism is revered as it brought equality, liberation and emancipation toTurkish women. Among others, see A. C¸elikel, ‘Cumhuriyetimizin 75. Yılının Du¨s¸u¨ndu¨rdu¨kleri’[What the 75th Anniversary of Our Republic Makes One Think of], in N. Arat (ed.), AydınlanmanınKadınları [Women of the Enlightenment] (_Istanbul: Cumhuriyet Kitap Kulu¨bu¨, 1998), pp.41–9;E. Do gramacı, Women in Turkey and the New Millennium (Ankara: Atatu¨rk Research Centre, 2000).
55. Farganis uses this concept in the context of Black women. She argues that Black women have ‘epistemic advantage’ since ‘by virtue of their ‘‘marginality’’ they are able to see the world in a clearerway’. S. Farganis, Situating Feminism: From Thought to Action (London: Sage Publications, 1994),p.33.
56. N. Abadan-Unat (ed.), Women in Turkish Society (Leiden: Brill, 1981).
57. A.B. Mirzao glu (ed.), 75 Yılda Kadınlar ve Erkekler (_Istanbul: Tarih Vakfı Yayınları, 1998).
58. S¸. Tekeli (ed.), 1980’ler Tu¨rkiye’sinde Kadın Bakıs¸ Ac¸ısından Kadınlar [Women in Turkey in the 1980s from a Woman’s Perspective] (_Istanbul: _Iletis¸im, 1995).
59. Ays¸e Gu¨nes¸-Ayata also points out that religious marriages are mostly seen among Kurds. A. Gu¨nes¸- Ayata, ‘The Politics of Implementing Women’s Rights in Turkey’, in J.H. Bayes and N. Tohidi (eds.),Globalization, Gender and Religion: The Politics of Women’s Rights in Catholic and Muslim Contexts(New York: Palgrave, 2001), p.170.
gu Anadolu’da Modernles¸me ve Kırsal Kadın’ [Modernization in Eastern Anatolia and Rural Women], in Tekeli (ed.), 1980’ler Tu¨rkiye’sinde Kadın Bakıs¸ Ac¸ısından Kadınlar,pp.202–3.
61. Ibid., p.208. At this point, it should briefly be noted that such a gendered characteristic is not limited to development projects. On the contrary, it is embedded in some other aspects of the Turkish nation-state. One striking example is obligatory military service. While Kurdish men learn not only Turkishbut also some literacy, Kurdish women lack even this opportunity. The debates in the ‘ContemporaryFeminist Theories’ class of Professor Yıldız Ecevit at Middle East Technical University in 2002 drew my attention to this point. For Kurdish women, however, in the mid-1990s some centres have beenestablished in the Kurdish-populated regions. These are called C¸ATOM (C¸ok Amac¸lı ToplumMerkezleri – Multi-purpose Community Centres). The official declaration of the aim behind theestablishment of the C¸ATOMs is as follows: ‘Targeting young girls and women over age 14, theC¸ATOM aims at building awareness among women about their problems, creating opportunities forthe solution of these problems, ensuring their participation to the public sphere, promoting genderbalanced development by empowering women and developing replicable models relevant to localcontext. C¸ATOM programs and activities center around five basic areas including education andtraining, health, income generation, social support and cultural-social activities’. See All Kurdish women who participated in this study thinkthat the C¸ATOMs were oriented to the assimilation of Kurdish women, except one who said she wasnot knowledgeable about the C¸ATOMs. For a similar critique of the C¸ATOMs, see Bawer, ‘C¸atom’larNe _Istiyor?’ [What do the C¸ATOMs Want?], Roza, No.13 (1998), pp.38–9.
62. Shahrzad Mojab criticizes Ertu¨rk on the grounds that she does not note that ‘these ‘‘development projects’’ continue to be ingrained in policies of ethnic cleansing and forced assimilation’. S. Mojab,‘Introduction: The Solitude of the Stateless: Kurdish Women at the Margins of Feminist Knowledge’,in S. Mojab (ed.), Women of A Non-State Nation: The Kurds (California: Mazda Publishers, 2001), p.5.
gen, ‘The Turkish State Discourse and the Exclusion of Kurdish Identity’, in S. Kedourie (ed.), Turkey: Identity, Democracy, Politics (London: Frank Cass, 1996), p.216. See also M. Ye So¨yleminde Ku¨rt Sorunu [The Kurdish Question in the State Discourse] (_Istanbul: _Iletis¸im, 1999).
64. J.B. White, ‘State Feminism, Modernization, and the Turkish Republican Woman’, NWSA Journal, 65. I am indebted to Mazhar Yu¨ksel for the formulation of this concept.
Downloaded By: [University of Chicago] At: 23:39 1 October 2007 66. Mojab (ed.), Women of a Non-State Nation: The Kurds.
67. M. van Bruinessen, ‘From Adela Khanum to Leyla Zana: Women as Political Leaders in Kurdish History’, in Mojab (ed.), Women of a Non-State Nation: The Kurds, p.95.
68. Ibid., pp.96–8.
69. Ibid., p.99.
70. Ibid., pp.106–7.
71. Ibid., p.95.
72. Ibid., p.103.
73. A. Hassanpour, ‘The (Re)production of Patriarchy in the Kurdish Language’, in Mojab (ed.), Women of a Non-State Nation: The Kurds, pp.227–63.
74. J. Klein, ‘En-gendering Nationalism: The ‘‘Woman Question’’ in Kurdish Nationalist Discourse of the Late Ottoman Period’, in Mojab (ed.), Women of a Non-State Nation: The Kurds, pp.25–51.
75. R. Alakom, ‘Kurdish Women in Constantinople at the Beginning of the Twentieth Century’, in Mojab (ed.), Women of a Non-State Nation: The Kurds, p.60.
76. Ibid., pp.54, 60, 63.
77. S. Mojab, ‘Introduction: The Solitude of the Stateless: Kurdish Women at the Margins of Feminist Knowledge’, in Mojab (ed.), Women of a Non-State Nation: The Kurds, pp.5–6.
78. Ibid., pp.8–9.
79. Ibid., p.6. See also S. Mojab, ‘Women and Nationalism in the Kurdish Republic of 1946’, in Mojab (ed.), Women of a Non-State Nation: The Kurds, pp.71, 88.
80. Ibid., p.5 (italics added).
81. See E. Gellner, Nations and Nationalism (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1983), p.1; E.
Hobsbawm, ‘Ethnicity and Nationalism in Europe Today’, in G. Balakrishnan (ed.) Mapping theNation (London and New York: Verso, 1996), p.256.
82. For a study that is based on Kurdish women’s own voices and experiences, see H. C¸agˇlayan, Feminist Perspektiften Ku¨rt Kadın Kimligˇi U¨zerine Niteliksel Bir Aras¸tırma [A Qualitative Research aboutKurdish Woman Identity from a Feminist Perspective] (Unpublished PhD Dissertation, AnkaraU¨niversitesi, Sosyal Bilimler Enstitu¨su¨, Kamu Yo¨netimi ve Siyaset Bilimi, 2006; being prepared forpublication).
83. Certainly such a viewpoint does not rule out the fact that the feminist movement contributed to the strengthening and/or deepening of democratization in Turkey. For an emphasis on the feministmovement as deepening and strengthening democratization in Turkey see the following studies byYes¸im Arat: ‘Women’s Movement of the 1980s in Turkey: Radical Outcome of Liberal Kemalism’, in Go¨c¸ek and Balaghi (eds.), Reconstructing Gender in the Middle East, pp.100–12; ‘Rethinking thePolitical: A Feminist Journal in Turkey, Pazartesi’, Women’s Studies International Forum, Vol.27,No.3 (2004), pp.281–92; ‘Toward a Democratic Society: The Women’s Movement in Turkey in the1980s’, Women’s Studies International Forum, Vol.17, No.2–3 (1994), pp.241–8; ‘Democracy andWomen in Turkey: In Defense of Liberalism’, Social Politics: International Studies in Gender, Stateand Society, Vol.6, No.3 (1999), pp.370–87.
84. N. Is¸ık, Email to the author, 15 Aug. and 8 Sept. 2003.
85. A. Bora, Email to the author, 2 Sept. 2003.
86. N. Sirman, ‘Kadın’dan Toplumsal Cinsiyet’e’ [From Woman to Gender], A talk delivered at the 10th Anniversary of the Establishment of Research and Implementation Centre on the Problems of Womenat Ankara University, Ankara, 23 Jan. 2003.
87. For a parallel criticism of Turkish feminist women, see Canan, ‘Go¨zu¨m Aynı Go¨z, So¨zu¨m Aynı So¨z, Tenim Farklı!’ [My Eye is the Same Eye, My Word is the Same Word, My Skin is Different!], Jujıˆn: 2Aylık Ku¨rt Kadın Dergisi [Jujıˆn: A Bimonthly Kurdish Women’s Journal], No.7 (1998), pp.30–2.
88. For a similar critique, see S. Tanrıkulu, ‘Dilimi Bilsen Beni Anlayabilir misin?’ [Could You Understand Me If You Knew My Language?], Jujıˆn, No.3–4 (1997), p.27.
89. N. Is¸ık, Email to the author, 15 Aug. and 8 Sept. 2003.
90. ‘Democracy Party’, the pro-Kurdish party of the day. It was closed down by the Constitutional Court 91. For a striking critique of the Kurdish nationalist organizations from a Kurdish woman’s perspective, see Zelal, ‘Ku¨rt Erkeklerine veya Erkek Ku¨rtlere’ [To Kurdish Men or Manly Kurds], Roza, No.6(1997), pp.13–4.
glu, ‘Women’s Subordination in Turkey: Is Islam Really the Villain?’, The Middle Downloaded By: [University of Chicago] At: 23:39 1 October 2007 East Journal, Vol.48, No.4 (1994), p.659.


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