A reflec­tion, begun and worth pur­su­ing in depth. One that exam­ines the strug­gle of women against the Turk­ish state in terms of a strug­gle against pow­er, vio­lence and war.

Raised to the lev­el of State pow­er, the “eth­nic civ­il war » of which the author speaks is noth­ing oth­er than the armed exten­sion of manda­to­ry Tur­kic­i­ty. And when this Tur­kic­i­ty is imposed by vio­lence and by war, with the tor­tur­ers offered State impuni­ty for their meth­ods, where is the sur­prise if vio­lence is legit­imized in the social sphere, adding an extra lay­er to endem­ic patri­ar­chal violence…

Türkçe (Gazete Duvar) | Français | English

A gender-based civil war

We are lucky. If the provo­ca­tions aimed at light­ing the torch of an eth­nic civ­il war are absorbed by « demo­c­ra­t­ic black holes » and thus inval­i­dat­ed, we are lucky.

Appar­ent­ly, the polar­ized par­ties fear civ­il war more than they are afraid of each oth­er. Let’s hope that fear remains as a guardrail. For, should the fears the par­ties have built up over one anoth­er stop over­rid­ing the fear of civ­il war, then dan­gers of bel­li­cism, of social con­flicts and of civ­il war will become unavoidable.

But the fact of not “mov­ing on” to an eth­nic civ­il war does not mean anoth­er kind of civ­il war isn’t going on. In Turkey, over­shad­owed by the war against the Kur­dish move­ment, there is anoth­er war. In this one, there are not two pro­tag­o­nists. It is a uni­lat­er­al war of occu­pa­tion, dec­i­ma­tion and mas­sacre. Its authors are mem­bers of a crim­i­nal net­work who wear the masks of hus­bands, lovers, broth­ers, mem­bers of the patriarchy.

We can name what we are wit­ness­ing “a gen­der dec­i­ma­tion”, fur­ther, we can even call it a gen­er­al­ized gen­der-based civ­il war. Because the ter­ri­ble gen­er­al­ized aggres­sion to which women are sub­ject­ed in all aspects of life no longer fits under the term of “vio­lence aimed at women”.

No mat­ter who they may be, of a sec­u­lar tra­di­tion or of a con­ser­v­a­tive one, poor or rich, edu­cat­ed or not, work­ers or unem­ployed, rur­al or city-dwelling, all women per­ceived as weak are under heavy attack by men. Around them, there are also chil­dren, and ani­mals, against whom men can claim the upper hand, and even against plants and objects.

The State is man’s bad weather friend

Vio­lence, tor­ture, or a judi­cia­ry sys­tem tilt­ed against the vic­tim don’t only cause vic­tims, they also poi­son the soci­ety wit­ness­ing the exac­tions. In a soci­ety where “eth­nic polar­iza­tion” is dom­i­nant, even if fears keep all-out war from erupt­ing, this does not stop the alter­ation in a soci­ety where aggres­sive­ness of anoth­er type finds expres­sion in the desire to pun­ish, to crush, to destroy.

Most of the time, small pow­er­hold­ers take their cue from the high­er author­i­ty. Man can feed his knowl­edge of oppres­sion at the source of the State’s prac­tices, in mat­ters of oppres­sion not lim­it­ed by legit­i­mate mech­a­nisms of legit­i­ma­cy, or hav­ing shed those mecan­isms. Con­se­quent­ly, male aggres­sive­ness is linked to polit­i­cal pow­er. It is polit­i­cal, both direct­ly and indirectly.

When a State does not pro­duce mech­a­nisms to lim­it and rein in the most pow­er­ful, includ­ing itself, or when it liq­ui­dates those mech­a­nisms, it trans­forms itself into a machine of lim­it­less and unfet­tered vio­lence, open­ing the way to the same kind of lim­it­less and unfet­tered vio­lence in the pow­er realms of the small­er ones of its type. This is how wars based on “the law of the strongest” begin.

In “civ­i­lized” admin­is­tra­tions, aggres­sive­ness is lim­it­ed and sub­ject to a cer­tain “Law”. But if, for exam­ple, a State’s armed forces, with no fear of judg­ment and under no judi­cia­ry con­straint, prac­tice tor­ture and pub­lish the pho­tos on social net­works in all impuni­ty, this may reflect on soci­ety in terms of col­lec­tive aggres­sive­ness against women, and even war.

Accord­ing to the the­o­ry, soci­ety gives the State “monop­oly over legit­i­mate vio­lence”. How­ev­er, if the State starts using this monop­oly in an ille­git­i­mate way, it will meet either col­lec­tive oppo­si­tion of the soci­ety or approval and accep­tance in parts of it, and pro­gres­sive par­tic­i­pa­tion in the vio­lence will ren­der it long-lasting.

When stat­ing that the AKP, in order to main­tain its pow­er, makes aliances with var­i­ous broth­er­hoods and sources of pow­er, we often lose sight of those it choos­es as its main ally : men.

turc turquie femmes

Assas­si­na­tions of women are polit­i­cal.
“love” kills 3 women every day.

Man does to woman what the State does to its opponent

Erdoğan, who orga­nized a meet­ing with the Pre­fects on Octo­ber 12, had an easy time of it with his dec­la­ra­tion about Hakan D. who attacked a woman – veiled – he had met on his way : “Must I take note of a slack­en­ing in the secu­ri­ty forces, or a breach­ing of the lim­its, the increase in faith­less killers is unbear­able. This one shoul­ders women in the streets, then it moves on to kick­ing and punch­ing. I can­not stom­ach this kind of immoral and con­temptible per­son being part of soci­ety.” (Arti­cle in Turkish)

Yet, if tor­ture is prac­tice by the armed forces, con­sid­ered legit­i­mate and goes unpun­ished, and if there exists no strong social oppo­si­tion to it, the sources of pow­er in the soci­ety (man, hus­band, lover, broth­er, father, teacher, boss, chief, etc) har­mo­nize with this approach.

Why then shouldn’t tor­ture – which is not con­sid­ered a crime for the State – not also be prac­ticed by the hus­band against his wife, by humans against ani­mals, by the boss against his work­ers, par­ents against their chil­dren, the teacher against his pupil, the com­man­der against his sub­or­di­nate ? In these times when the tor­tur­er cel­e­brates his work with vic­to­ri­ous cries, where what the Law says is not applied, why should a woman’s assas­sin deprive him­self of the plea­sure of smil­ing pos­es before the cam­era? The fact that the major­i­ty of women’s assas­sins or attack­ers do not show the slight­est expres­sion of fear or remorse stems from their con­vic­tion they are legit­imized in their acts and the knowl­edge they are not with­out allies. In the end, man crush­es woman the same way the pow­er­ful crush an oppo­nent. To reach this con­clu­sion, one need only look at the vio­lent meth­ods used by men.

Of course women face intense mas­cu­line vio­lence every­where, includ­ing in “demo­c­ra­t­ic” coun­tries where tor­ture is an iso­lat­ed phe­nom­e­non. The his­to­ry of patri­archy is also the his­to­ry of mas­cu­line aggres­sive­ness. But the nature and scope of anti-woman vio­lence in Turkey goes beyond “ordi­nary” aggres­sive­ness. What would the sit­u­a­tion be with­out the cur­rent polit­i­cal climate?

What pur­pose does it serve, not giv­ing the name of war to this vio­lence against women? If not to triv­i­al­ize a grave assault, and to close our eyes on the Power’s ten­den­cies, thus absolv­ing it.

İrf­an Aktan

• How the Toxic Patriarchy of War Plays out on Kurdish Women’s Bodies
An analysis following the publication of photos 
showing female combatants killed and exhibited naked.
Mamie Eyan's Column on March the 8th
Reflections on the situation by an 82 year old Istanbul resident.

A few cases among others, ordinary or emblematic… 
• I beat her as usual, but this time she died (in French)
• Je l’ai battu comme d’habitude, cette fois elle est morte
• Aysun Altay, has gone silent as a woman (in French) 
• Aysun Altay, en tant que femme s’est tue  
• Özgecan Aslan, 20 years old, victim of patriarchy (in French)
• Özgecan Aslan, 20 ans, victime du patriarcat
İrfan Aktan began in journalism in 2000 on Bianet. He has worked as a journalist, a correspondent or an editor for l’Express, BirGün, Nokta, Yeni Aktüel, Newsweek Türkiye, Birikim, Radikal, birdirbir.org, zete.com. He was the Ankara representative for IMC-TV. He is the author of two books: “Nazê/Bir Göçüş Öyküsü” (Nazê/A tale of exodus ), “Zehir ve Panzehir: Kürt Sorunu” (Poison and antidote: The Kurdish Question). He presently writes for l’Express, Al Monitor, and Duvar.

Translation by Renée Lucie Bourges
*A word to English-speaking readers: in all instances where the original text is in Turkish or Kurdish, the English version is derived from French translations. Inevitably, some shift in meaning occurs with each translation. Hopefully, the intent of the original is preserved in all cases. While an ideal situation would call for a direct translation from the original, access to information remains our main objective in this exercise and, we hope, makes more sense than would a translation provided by AI…
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