A num­ber of jour­nal­ists are in jail in Turkey. There­fore, that is where sev­er­al of them work. It is also where they meet those fight­ing for anoth­er future in Turkey, and who are jailed for that reason.

Zehra Doğan is in Diyarbakır prison again since June. Not so long ago she wrote some­thing like the fol­low­ing : « I’m sure­ly in jail because I’m a jour­nal­ist and that this is where things are happening. »

Dur­ing her 141 day long enforced stay in Mardin prison await­ing tri­al, she had already thumbed her nose at her guards by join­ing a col­lec­tive resis­tance move­ment that pro­duced two edi­tions of Özgür Gün­dem, the banned and shut down news­pa­per, titled for the occa­sion “Özgür Gün­dem Jail”. Kedis­tan has sworn to pro­vide a trans­la­tion of it and to pub­lish it here in fac­sim­i­le, while the exhi­bi­tion of her artis­tic works cir­cu­lates. You can also catch a glimpse of it in the book “Les yeux grands ouverts” (Eyes Wide Open).

But let’s get back to journalism…

Zehra, incor­ri­gi­ble and stub­born, con­tin­ues doc­u­ment­ing the lives of activist women sur­round­ing her behind the cold prison walls. Since Turk­ish injus­tice does not accuse her of being a jour­nal­ist, but of doing pro­pa­gan­da for “ter­ror­ism”, she car­ries on with her work. Hav­ing received an award for her report on Yazi­di women, she knows what she’s talk­ing about.

Here she explores the top­ic fur­ther with a jail­cell com­pan­ion, the Kur­dish poet Sara Aktaş, author of two books and a mem­ber of the Con­gress of Free Women. A strong arti­cle of resis­tance, that places women at the forefront.

We can only wish that a num­ber of our male and female col­leagues will think about this way of being, of doing, of exist­ing… And will join the sol­i­dar­i­ty cam­paign to get Zehra Doğan out of there, along with all the oth­er hostages…

You know the address…

Zehra: August 3rd was the fourth anniver­sary of the mas­sacre against Yazi­di women and their peo­ple. The TJA (Tevgera Jinên Azad, Move­ment of Free Women) began a cam­paign on this occa­sion. How do you envi­sion the mas­sacre com­mit­ted against Yazi­di women and these sav­age practices ?

Sara: ISIS, the sav­age, bar­barous ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tion, attacked Shen­gal on August 3rd 2014, in full view of the entire world. While Yazi­di lands were occu­pied, Yazi­di women were thrown out on the street, raped, made pris­on­er and sold on slave mar­kets. From my per­spec­tive at such his­tor­i­cal moments, events encom­pass much wider issues, beyond the sur­face of things, open­ing out on truths that go well beyond their own real­i­ty. In moments when such things are lived through, in par­al­lel to their imme­di­ate con­se­quences, they open a new page in his­to­ry. I’m con­vinced that a con­crete real­i­ty became vis­i­ble through the vio­lence and the sav­agery expe­ri­enced by the Yazi­di peo­ple and women in Shen­gal. I think that what was expe­ri­enced opened the door for Yazi­di women to a cul­ture, a resis­tance that goes beyond their own existence.

On the oth­er hand, this was not the first time women were con­front­ed by this vio­lence demon­strat­ed by ISIS. We only know too well, alas, through the con­se­quences of all bloody con­flicts, that vio­lence against women is an engrained war strat­e­gy. This strat­e­gy is applied through thou­sands of vio­lent meth­ods, by exhibit­ing women with their organs cut off, by assaults on their phys­i­cal integri­ty, by aggres­sions, rapes, tor­tures, immo­la­tions, enslave­ment, through sale on slave mar­kets. What was attempt­ed in Êzidx­an also belonged to this type of moral abuse, a shame on human­i­ty. Caus­ing suf­fer­ing and force­ful removal aren’t enough to obtain com­plete sub­mis­sion. In order to trans­form sub­mis­sion into a method of polit­i­cal con­trol, they want­ed to mark mem­o­ries in a durable way. In oth­er words, they not only want­ed sub­mis­sion, they also want­ed to break the notion of iden­ti­ty and per­son­hood. This is a typ­i­cal demon­stra­tion in all tyran­nies. Their aim is to raise sav­agery to a supe­ri­or lev­el, to remind those con­sid­ered as « ene­mies » of the ter­ri­ble fate await­ing them if they do not submit.

Of course, as events in Shen­gal did not stay with­in the bor­ders of Shen­gal, the tyran­ny inflict­ed on Yazi­di women was not lim­it­ed to them only. Con­se­quent­ly, from the very begin­ning, Kur­dish women’s iden­ti­fi­ca­tion with this made sense. If today the Move­ment of Free Women has rein­forced its resis­tance with this cam­paign, it is in order to car­ry on in this direc­tion. Because every cor­ner of the earth where women are mas­sa­cred must be a bat­tle space for women. So I nat­u­ral­ly think that the top­ic must be brought to the con­science of all those who con­sid­er them­selves lib­er­tar­i­ans, democ­rats, rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies, social­ists and mem­bers of women’s organizations.

Zehra: How do you see the present evo­lu­tion of this strug­gle begun with Yazi­di women ?

Sara: I would like to empha­size that the legit­i­mate and dig­ni­fied strug­gle human beings have led through­out his­to­ry against slav­ery, racism, geno­cides, meets up with with what we observe in the posi­tion tak­en by Yazi­di and Kur­dish women in Shen­gal, with the same legit­i­ma­cy and dig­ni­ty. For women, the demand for jus­tice, the notion of free­dom and the dream of a bet­ter world are essen­tials. For Yazi­di women in Shen­gal, this awak­en­ing and this painful call to free­dom trans­formed into a strong will to fight.

The dig­ni­ty and the strength of the strug­gle, the legit­i­mate defense of the women who built the YPJ in Shen­gal and Êzidx­an and who are still resist­ing there, are also linked to jus­tice and rights. This is how « com­bat » inte­grates the mean­ing of « legit­i­mate defense ». It is a means and an oblig­a­tion. They are defend­ing their most fun­da­men­tal right, the right to life and to dig­ni­ty. At the same time, they are demand­ing jus­tice. We see that they orga­nize the resis­tance against obscure and sav­age gangs that have con­fis­cat­ed their bod­ies, their free­dom, their lands, and demand back what belongs to them. In this way, women learn to take their own des­tiny in hand. Over there, con­di­tions linked to wom­an­hood, to want­i­ng to remain human are pro­tect­ed, cre­at­ed, re-invent­ed. This legit­i­mate strug­gle is the cry of resis­tance and vic­to­ry of Yazi­di women against those who want to enslave and anni­hi­late them.

Zehra: In your opin­ion, why did the attacks on Shen­gal most­ly sin­gle out women ?

Sara: There are sev­er­al fun­da­men­tal rea­sons. Fore­most among them, the objec­tivi­sa­tion and enslave­ment of women being a strat­e­gy of patri­ar­chal dom­i­na­tion in the Mid­dle East as every­where else in the word, this is almost unavoid­able. More­over, as in the attack in Shen­gal, reli­gious prin­ci­ples don’t sim­ply remain ele­ments of faith, but they affect all women and inter­fere pro­found­ly with their lives. The sav­age gangs of ISIS did not escape the appli­ca­tion of these rules… Third­ly, pri­or to these attacks, Yazi­di women were not orga­nized, con­se­quent­ly, they had no forces with which to defend them­selves. They were dom­i­nat­ed by a state of uncon­scious­ness that made them vul­ner­a­ble to being killed or used as objects. Con­se­quent­ly, the ori­en­ta­tion and the speed of imple­men­ta­tion of the self-defense are as impor­tant as the force and the vio­lence of the con­cert­ed attack to which they were subjected.

Zehra: How would you eval­u­ate the effect of Shen­gal on women’s strug­gles ? What were the mes­sages sent out to women across the world ?

Sara: First of all, if we con­sid­er that his­tor­i­cal advances are writ­ten out by their actors, the resis­tance car­ried out by the women in Shen­gal becomes a con­quest and a lega­cy for all women’s resis­tance movements.

The strength of the resis­tance front orga­nized by the Kur­dish women over there means that women step out of their sin­gu­lar posi­tion as prey and vic­tim. Women lib­er­ate them­selves in all areas at once, decide their own fate and future, and become builders, fore­run­ners in the rev­o­lu­tion­ary process. From this point of view, as polit­i­cal sub­jects with their notions and strate­gies for lib­er­a­tion, they pro­vide keys for the free­dom not only of Kur­dish and Yazi­di women, but for women all over the world. That is not all, they have also brought hope to women every­where, by demon­strat­ing that resis­tance is pos­si­ble, even against the most sav­age of forces.

More­over the dif­fer­ences between the rea­sons why women fight and those that moti­vate men have been demon­strat­ed yet again.

Indeed, war for women not being guid­ed by notions of hatred and vengeance, does not pro­duce sav­agery. Ethics and a moral con­science based on self-defense are at the fore­front. We observe that women on the war front do not become mon­sters, do not tram­ple on human val­ues, keep them­selves apart from prac­tices of ‘that type’. This resis­tance, led by an avant-garde of women, ris­es up against the bar­barous gangs like an irre­sistible objection.

Zehra: After many long years in jail already, you are again attacked for your activ­i­ties for women’s free­dom. What com­mon ele­ments and links do you see between women’s strug­gles inside and out­side prison ?

Sara: In his Anthro­polo­gie de la douleur (Anthro­pol­o­gy of Suf­fer­ing) David le Bre­ton writes, “The free­dom to cause suf­fer­ing is the dark side of all forms of pow­er ». Yes indeed, the strength of States, of author­i­ties are mea­sured, alas, for women also, by the sum of suf­fer­ing inflict­ed on them. For those in pow­er, pris­ons are also instru­ments and spaces of tor­ment, of anni­hi­la­tion of dig­ni­ty and will, in oth­er words of tam­ing and enslave­ment. It is clear that the fron­tier between the exte­ri­or and the inte­ri­or is now extreme­ly thin. The out­side has been trans­formed into an even big­ger prison. Those who can­not be tamed, enslaved, are put inside, in small­er pris­ons where the tech­niques for pun­ish­ment are more intense. Con­se­quent­ly, for a woman in search of free­dom, who refus­es to pledge alle­giance to patri­ar­chal dom­i­na­tion, the one who does not sub­mit in prison also becomes the pri­ma­ry target.

Indeed, in recent times, we are hear­ing more and more about the attacks against resis­tant women in the pris­ons of Tar­sus, Van and Elazığ. These attacks do not only involve phys­i­cal vio­lence. They are told « Sub­mit ». They are told : « Renounce your exis­tence, your will, enslave your­self, sub­mit. » Shows of force, typ­i­cal of pow­er on the out­side, con­tin­ue inside. But the fact is that per­se­cu­tion can nev­er win against legit­i­mate and dig­ni­fied resis­tance. Be it out­side or inside, no mat­ter what the con­di­tions may be, we will extend, enlarge the lega­cy of resis­tance we have built out of our own lives, our blood, our beliefs and our will. Women, on any soil where per­se­cu­tion dwells, will tear down the walls of fear and ren­der emp­ty all those waves of attacks tar­get­ing their existence.

To con­clude, I take this oppor­tu­ni­ty to call on all women’s orga­ni­za­tions, on the orga­ni­za­tions of civ­il soci­ety, and on each human being endowed with a con­science and dig­ni­ty, to raise a voice against the tor­tures, oppres­sions, and vio­la­tions of rights com­mit­ted in all pris­ons, notably in those of Tar­sus, Van and Elazığ.

READ ALSO: "Kurdish Liberation • Movement of Free Women"

Français: “Zehra Doğan • Reportage depuis sa prison, avec Sarah Aktaş”
Kur­dî: “Du gir­tiyên jin • “Zehrayê pirsî, Sarayê ‘têkoşî­na jinê vegot’”
Türkçe: “Zehra Doğan • Ceza­evin­de Sara Aktaş ile röportaj”

Eng­lish trans­la­tion by Renée Lucie Bourges

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Zehra Doğan
Auteure, mem­bre d’hon­neur de Kedistan
Jour­nal­iste, artiste. Jour­nal­ist, artist. Gazete­ci, sanatçı.