September 29, 2013
By Gülseren Tekin, Diyarbakır Women’s Assembly, Summary of the Statement
(Read by İlksen Bostancı)

The coldness of war has been inside of us, hurting and smelling of blood. Over the centuries, societies have been fighting each other over land, power, and wealth. In these times of war and always, women are the ones who give birth, give life, but it is women who are killed and raped.

Is the violence of war in our genes? And the violence against women and children, the massacre, why?

No matter how much research is conducted on the issue of war, violence, and the ways in which these things especially affect women and children, we are unable to prevent it. Over time, I think we have even lost our sensitivity to these problems.

I think this because, every day, we hear or read about violence against women in the news, and we quickly pass over this information in search of other news. In fact, we are used to the kind of news reporting violence against women. We are used to news like the story that I read today, about a girl from Yemen who died because of internal bleeding after having sexual intercourse with her 40-year old husband.

Despite the many laws that are written to prevent these sorts of atrocities, girls are dying from these acts. Even more women and girls are still breathing, though, suffering through lives that do not belong to them and are ruled by those who abuse them.

When I think of the women I try to help in places like Bingöl, Mardin, and Siirt, many memories and stories of violence against women come to mind. One in particular, of a young woman, age 16, a victim with no security or recourse – raped by eight adults and still no one is convicted of the crime. What does the judge say in defense of this horrendous ignorance of the violence? What decision has been made to bring justice to this abused girl? He gives a statement that the files are confidential, classified; the investigation continues.

Everyone knows who the girl is – her name, her address. But the identities and whereabouts of the perpetrators remain classified, even her lawyer is denied access to reaching the criminals for questioning. How can the lawyer possibly pursue justice in the name of the client? How is this young girl to explain the situation in which she finds herself, over and over again, in front of her people?

There are other cases of abuse and violence against women in which religious justification condones the crime. For example, in Sakarya, where a defense lawyer cited the Prophet Muhammad and his marriages to mitigate a case of sexual abuse: “Muhammad had marriages like these,” he said, “we’re living in a Muslim country.”

Another example I offer from my work involved a woman and her child. For years this 30-year old woman sustained beatings at the hands of her husband, keeping her mouth shut for fear of even worse treatment or reprisal. She tries to continue on with her life, with raising her children. Then the school counselor reports that her daughter has become introverted, that her behavior has changed. The counselor shares with the mother that her daughter confided that the girl’s father molested her. The mother, horrified, unable to defend herself against the violence, cannot remain silent in the face of her daughter’s abuse.

The husband, threatened with exposure for his insidious behavior gathers the family together, accuses his wife of attempting to escape with a lover, and demands his wife’s death in an honor killing. The family believes the pack of lies he spreads about his wife, even when the truth was unequivocally revealed – that this man had molested his daughter – the family does not want to believe it. The verdict is given – the woman must be killed and quickly.

If we want to end this madness, society must question itself. In order to prevent this violence, women should be raised with an understanding of sexual identity and sexuality. Conservative sexual taboos need to be discarded.

Our continued discrimination against our girl children, the superiority we give to our boys, this must end. We must see each child as a human being, as an individual, we must stop differentiating between the sexes.

What I have said here is not news to anyone. We are all aware of these issues, but we can’t seem to put solutions into practice. If we don’t continue to question the causes and incidents of violence against women we do not have a bright future to look toward to, together.

If we keep our silence today, tomorrow it will already be too late.