Kurdish women's struggle for existence: Organization is changing

  • women
  • 11:24 27 February 2024
  • |

AMED - Pointing out that Kurdish women are struggling hard to exist, Zekiye Ayata Alökmen, one of the founders of the Patriotic Women's Association, said: "The organization is changing. The women's struggle cannot be stopped from now on."

International Women's Day, declared in New York, USA, in memory of the 120 women who protested on March 8, 1857 for gender inequality and better working conditions and lost their lives as a result, gained meaning as it reached the local dynamics. Even though women were burned to death in the factory where they were locked, March 8 turned into a tradition of struggle rather than a mourning. At this stage, it has turned into platforms where the search for a new life against the masculine system of exploitation is deepened, objections are raised and radical struggle is implemented.
Kurdish women left their mark on the 21st century, when women's resistance against the rising fascism in the world increased, with the slogan "Jin, Jîyan, Azadî", are undoubtedly the most important dynamic of this struggle. Women, who developed the struggle step by step in the 90s, which were the most conflicting periods of the 100-year policy of denial and destruction, resisted and existed all over the world. Women gave new impetus to both the Kurdish freedom struggle and the women's struggle. They reflected their colours in the political arena with the organization that developed in politics as well as the women's freedom struggle. 
Women, who were organized with a unique structure in the political field and who were struggling in many different institutions, founded the Patriotic Women's Association (YKD) in 1991 with their struggle experience. YKD, which is based in Istanbul and has a branch in Amed, is the first women's association. The association, which was opened on January 12, was sealed by a police raid 5 months after the opening. However, the closure of the association did not prevent the women from working and they continued to meet at a house every week. Despite the pressures of the period, the legacy of struggle against the mentality that confined women to homes and all kinds of violence was shared in the following years by the Free Women's Association, Dicle Women's Cultural Centre, National Democratic Women's Association (UDKD), Kurdish Women's Solidarity, Women's Issues Research Foundation (K.Ka.DaV). , ARJIN, JIYAN Women's Culture House, Democratic Free Women's Movement (DOKH), Free Woman Congress (Kongreya Jinên Azad-KJA), Free Woman Movement (Tevgera Jinên Azad-TJA) and Rosa Women's Association took over.
We talked to 72-year-old Zekiye Ayata Alökmen, one of the founders of the Patriotic Women's Association, about the struggle of Kurdish women on the occasion of March 8.
Alökmen, who stayed with her 4 children after her husband's arrest and started to take part in the struggle during this period, said that she took care of her children during the day and attended meetings in the evenings. Regarding the testimony of the period, Alökmen stated the following: “We rented a two-storey building for the association. We used the ground floor as a sewing workshop. Thus, we were meeting the economic needs of the association. We were seeing how oppressed Kurdish women were and witnessing the brutality that took place in prison on September 12. A need for an association arose to raise awareness of women. Men were torturing women a lot and we set out saying 'it can't be like this'. An association proposal came from Istanbul. After Istanbul, we opened the Amed branch of the association. That period was very hot, there were Nisêbîn and Cizîr events. We brought out the mothers who could not leave the house, we talked about the struggle and March 8. We were holding women's meetings and trainings once a week. We would gather at homes and explain the purpose of the association. We were supporting women who were subjected to violence and had no financial situation. There was a lot of oppression and violence in 91-92, counter-guerrillas were killing people in the streets. It was the only association of Kurdish women. In our flat opposite there was the Turkish Mothers Association. They were giving cocktails, we were giving seminars. Our teacher friends were teaching children. We were trying to reach all Kurdish women. After talking to women in a neighbourhood, we were meeting in a suitable house. At that time, we were only 20 women coming together. We were saying, 'You can come to the association whenever you need.' In addition to the meetings, we were also distributing magazines and newspapers. Since they did not know Turkish, we were taking women to the hospital and supporting all their needs. We were also reaching out to women in prison."
Reminding that the association, which was opened on January 12, 1991, was closed on June 7, but its activities were not interrupted, Alökmen said: “Our association was closed, we started to be even more active. We were going to homes and condolences and taking care of women's needs for doctors and lawyers. We were there wherever there was activity. We took organization as a basis. We chose this path to raise awareness of women and prevent them from being oppressed. In the following periods, our work grew even more. Women's commissions and women's branches were formed in the parties. As the struggle developed, awareness also increased. Mothers did not stop anymore, they were in protests and hunger strikes every day. We were going on hunger strikes to support those in prison. Mass protests came out of there.”
Stating that the first March 8 celebrations were held in closed areas and with a small number of women, Alökmen said: “We were holding halls and reading Kurdish poems. We had unions, we were celebrating with an organized structure. Then it spilled into the squares. At first, the meaning of March 8 was unknown, but our friends read poems and explained its meaning. During People’s Equality Party (HEP) period, our deputies came and we celebrated in front of Dilan Cinema. We bought copper plates and gave them as gifts to mothers. The police attacked us with batons, but we still celebrated. For us, March 8 and Newroz are serhildan (rebellion)."
Emphasizing that the Kurdish women's struggle has come to this day with a price, Alökmen said: “We were not so conscious when we opened the association, our awareness has increased gradually. When women want something, they can never stop you. This is how the slogan 'Jin, Jîyan, Azadî' grew. I had 4 children, I was starving, I couldn't even cook. But if I didn't believe it, it wouldn't have progressed this far. When a woman organized, she went and organized her neighbour. It moved forward step by step like a network. Women later joined the army and we grew up. An organization that becomes an army cannot be prevented anymore. I didn't expect it to get this big, it feels like a dream. We went through a lot of torture to win a woman. It wasn't easy. There were those who excluded us, there were those who closed their doors. Now thousands of women are on the streets. It's not a small thing. Once that belief enters a woman's heart, she knows no fear. We used to be 2-3 people, now we fill the squares. We were subjected to so much gas and truncheons, but they never digested us. The Kurdish woman raised her head, an organized structure emerged, not like before. It's exciting that it's growing so much."
Stating that PKK Leader Abdullah Ocalan had an important role in the growth of the Kurdish women's struggle, Alökmen said: “He is the one who brought us to light. We can't give up his fight now. Would any other person have lived in the dungeon under those conditions for that long? He lives his life with his consciousness and mind. People gave their children, daughters, homes and shelter. This struggle is a very big struggle. This gives courage. Isolation must be abolished. We want a solution, we want a permanent peace."
Calling for organization against oppression, violence, massacres and labour exploitation against women, Alökmen said: “Women are women, whether Kurdish, Turkish or any other race. There is a segment of women who are oppressed. The best thing is struggle and organization. The struggle paved the way for women. Organization is changing. Organized and unorganized women are very different. We need organization as much as food. If there is organization, there will be no such massacres of women. A woman who knows herself will not be under the influence of drugs. Organized women are separate. The women's struggle cannot be stopped from now on. If a woman sets her mind to struggle, no one can stop her. Women are in the struggle in Syria, Iraq, Iran and everywhere. The heat of the struggle hits everywhere. But on the other hand, they are murdered for no reason. They are being slaughtered in the middle of the streets, in hospitals, on the streets. Massacres of women are not something that can be forgiven. My call to women; Let them join the struggle to prevent massacres. Nothing happens without a struggle." 
Alökmen, who has attended every March 8 since the first day they were organized, continued: “I went every year. I couldn't go during the corona period. When we first celebrated March 8, we were 3-4 people and people were laughing at us. It seemed meaningless to them. Some were closing their doors and saying, ‘they are crazy, what is March 8?’ We were too few to count by hand, we filled the halls for the second year and now we are filling the squares. We celebrate with walks, panels and more events. Now thousands of women come wearing their local clothes. It is one of our happiest days.”
Alökmen added that she will finally take her place at the 8 March Square this year.
TOMORROW: Women found their identity in Northern and Eastern Syria
MA / Eylem Akdağ