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Even dur­ing the times when those in pow­er impose the most severe fascis­tic ori­en­ta­tion, there exists a unique oppo­si­tion force of which it does not man­age to destroy the legit­i­ma­cy or to lock up inside the home: the fem­i­nist movement.

One of the great hand­i­caps of the oppo­si­tion in Turkey is the fact that its feel­ing of legit­i­ma­cy and valid­i­ty has dete­ri­o­rat­ed. Decon­struct­ing the feel­ing of legit­i­ma­cy has been the fun­da­men­tal method of oppres­sion for the AKP, one that has not changed since the begin­ning of its admin­is­tra­tion, includ­ing dur­ing the peri­od when it was allied with the Gülen Brotherhood.

Jus­tice, police forces and essen­tial­ly those who cre­ate pub­lic opin­ion have been sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly used to this end, and this is ongoing.

This method has been applied with such suc­cess that, for­get the true demo­c­ra­t­ic oppo­si­tion, even those who have left the AKP have begun in no time to note expres­sions of guilt in the own reflec­tion in the mirror.

But even in those peri­ods when those in pow­er have champed at the bit and imposed the most severe aspects of fas­cism, there exist­ed a unique oppo­si­tion force in which it does not man­age to dent the feel­ing of legit­i­ma­cy and to lock inside the home: the fem­i­nist movement.

Women are not only sub­ject­ed to the assaults of AKP’s pow­er, they are under intense attack from men in gen­er­al and are bat­tling for their lives.

Drop the sta­tis­tics: those who are mas­sa­cred, wound­ed, phys­i­cal­ly and psy­cho­log­i­cal­ly attacked, raped, exploit­ed, are not num­bers, each one is a human life.

Polit­i­cal pow­er, the great­est cham­pi­on of men and all the insti­tu­tions under its con­trol attempt, through their polit­i­cal prac­tices as well as their words, to legit­imize the anti-women bias and to crim­i­nal­ize fem­i­nists. Both in the street and in police sta­tions, they exert intense pres­sure on women.

On March 8 2020 in Istan­bul, “the vio­lence cor­ri­dor that leads to custody”.
In France, the way led to the steps in a subway…

In the media ser­vic­ing pow­er, mol­lahs use reli­gion in order to have the younger gen­er­a­tions adopt hos­til­i­ty toward women.

Dis­crim­i­na­to­ry com­ments are slipped in snide­ly in schools, in school pro­grams, at the mosque in the preachings.

In court­rooms, mur­der­ers of women obtain reduced sen­tences for a “good atti­tude”. Legal con­quests tend­ing toward equal­i­ty between women and men are left in the clos­et, on paper, and even, there are attempts at eras­ing them by scratch­ing them out.

Men who mur­der women know they could wear a total armor of impuni­ty if the resis­tance and strug­gle of the wom­en’s move­ment did not exist.

Wom­en’s asso­ci­a­tions and insti­tu­tions are besieged, attempts are made to “con­quer” them from inside and from outside.

Actions and ini­tia­tives tak­en on March 8 give rise to innu­mer­able heavy attacks.

Yet, despite all this attacks and attempts at sub­jec­tion, the wom­en’s move­ment in Turkey con­tin­ues to be the prin­ci­pal oppo­si­tion and the biggest bar­ri­er to the hege­mo­ny of polit­i­cal pow­er.

If the AKP had man­aged to repress wom­en’s oppo­si­tion expressed by fem­i­nists, it would be fac­ing a rose gar­den with no thorns. No, women are not “flow­ers” for those in pow­er, they are thorns.

Cer­tain ele­ments pro­vide fun­da­men­tal breath­ing space for any oppo­si­tion move­ment and are also indis­pens­able for the fem­i­nists: valid­i­ty and a sense of legit­i­ma­cy. They know that end­ing their resis­tance or even a rec­on­cil­i­a­tion would be the end of it all.

Those who put a pad­lock on their tongue because of inten­sive oppres­sion, who hope to weath­er the storm with­out pay­ing the price through a timid oppo­si­tion and who, alleg­ing con­flicts can always be pushed over to the next day, those keep­ing a safe dis­tance from an alliance would do well to look at the fem­i­nists, at the wom­en’s movement.

The wom­en’s move­ment that makes no eth­nic or reli­gious dis­crim­i­na­tion, does not trans­form polit­i­cal dif­fer­ences into obsta­cles to a com­mon strug­gle, does not use the word “but” in their mutu­al sup­port, nev­er balks at any price to be paid, that strug­gles and seeks jus­tice with extra­or­di­nary resis­tance for each and every woman mas­sa­cred with­out feel­ing the need to set their togeth­er­ness under a com­mon flag, a sin­gle Par­ty or behind a sin­gle leader, thus show­ing the gen­er­al oppo­si­tion not only what must be done, but how to do it.

More­over, this oppo­si­tion does not only estab­lish links in the street, only on social media, only in meet­ing halls, but it weaves them into each aspect of dai­ly life.

The price to pay for the absence of an oppo­si­tion that would not expect a par­don, that would not seek a con­sen­sus, who would not trans­fer expec­ta­tions to “singing tomor­rows” but would demand the present with­out fear of hold­ing the gaze of the most severe pow­er, that price is before us in an obvi­ous way.

The wom­en’s move­men­t’s aware­ness of the fact it is strug­gling for life itself keeps it strong in its con­vic­tion, stronger and taller still in fac­ing oppres­sion. Con­se­quent­ly, this expe­ri­ence speaks vol­umes for any opposition.

The fem­i­nists will explain it much bet­ter, cer­tain­ly, but seen from the out­side, one can also state that one of resources of this strength is the aware­ness of the fact that this fight “for oth­ers” is also a fight “for one’s self”. On can note that this is one of the most impor­tant ele­ments lack­ing in oppo­nents oth­er than the feminists.

So, oppo­si­tion in Turkey, although it stands apart from the author­i­ties in pow­er remains qui­et at each wave of oppres­sion, and des­per­ate­ly attempts to show its inno­cence rather than its valid­i­ty, has many things to learn from the wom­en’s move­ment, both its his­tor­i­cal expe­ri­ences and its cur­rent ones.

İrf­an Aktan

Illus­tra­tion: This pho­togra­phie was pub­lished by the media in the ser­vice of pow­er in Turkey with the cap­tion “This is what our police offi­cers have to deal with. God help them.”


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, gazete.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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