As Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan cracks down on opponents — including the left-wing, Kurdish-led Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), whose 59 MPs have all been issued with arrest warrants and whose leaders are in jail — HDP parliamentary group co-chair and Instanbul MP Filiz Kerestecioğlu declared that the HDP’s women MPs would join the International Women’s Strike on March 8.
Connecting the struggle for democracy and social justice in Turkey with women’s fight for liberation globally, Kerestecioğlu released the statement below. It is abridged from HDP.org.tr.
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International Women's Day on March 8 is approaching. This year, there is a much greater movement around the world.
Turkey has always been a land of struggle for us, the women. We have always struggled to survive, to get education, to exist in the streets that men can freely wander and to get rid of the politicians who capitalise on our bodies for their own political purposes. We never had the luxury of leaving the streets empty.
Women are preparing to fill the streets on March 8 all over the world. A great number of women have come together to announce a general strike on March 8 with the strength they obtained from the millions spilling into the streets after the election of Donald Trump.
The election of Trump as United States president is only a symptom of bigger problems. Workers’ rights and women’s rights were slowly being undermined, and racism, xenophobia, nationalism and militarism were becoming widespread in the US. Women in the US this time cried “Enough!” and joined those who organised powerful strikes in Latin America, Poland and Italy.
The demonstration against male violence in Latin America, the right to abortion in Poland, the demonstrations for reproductive rights in South Korea and Ireland, and the spectacular march in Italy on November 26 have already ignited the fuse.
Polish women walked out in 60 cities in October against the law banning abortion (even in life-threatening conditions). Students boycotted the schools, housewives refused to do housework, some restaurants and workplaces shut down in support.
The draft law was finally dropped in the wake of these women’s struggles.
After many women in Argentina were tortured and murdered, women went out to the streets under the banner “Ni Una Menos”(“Not One Less”) — by which they meant, “we will not lose one more woman”. Women in Italy joined them, saying “Non Una Di Meno”.
On March 8, so far, women in more than 50 countries have taken a first step to organise an international strike against men’s violence and defend their abortion rights. Women will go on strike for 24 hours simultaneously on International Women's Day.
On that day, women will not go to work, clean or go shopping. They will wear black and purple dresses to support the strike.
Today, women from all over the world are coming together against police violence, wars and misogynist politicians to defend their rights and freedoms. This time, women’s fury is really vast.
An anti-capitalist feminist uprising is emanating against the political, cultural and economic attacks on Muslims, immigrants, working or unemployed women, women from different ethnic identities, lesbians and transgendered identities.
Women of Turkey have also come together to call women out on March 8.
In Turkey, a vast number of women’s associations and shelters have been closed down recently by decrees after the proclamation of a State of Emergency in July last year. These institutions were playing vital roles in preventing violence against women, helping women defend their rights and empower themselves in the public realm.
Turkey’s institutions have swept the issue of violence against women under the carpet — for instance, by establishing Divorce Commissions or Family Counselling Centres instead of Women’s Centres. All kinds of harassment, rape and exploitation of migrant women are seen as “natural” in Turkey.
Getting a degree and having a profession is a struggle in itself for women of this country. A vast number of women were fired from their professions with the decree laws. Women academics and those in women’s studies have been fired from their positions.
Against the threat of a civil war in the face of rising violence and cross-border operations, women in Turkey have today come together to defend equality, justice, peace and a beautiful future.
We believe that women who have changed the course of history many times will again raise their voices and succeed in turning Turkey’s face in the direction of peace and justice once again.
In the meantime, we, as the female deputies of the HDP, have decided to raise our voices from the site of parliament. We will move this strike to the parliament and move our struggle to the streets.
On March 8, all female parliamentarians of our party will be with women in cities across Turkey and will stop our work in parliament.
We will struggle until all the world’s leaders give up their misogynist policies, until they offer free health care for all women including abortion, until they form an effective policy against women's sexual abuse, sexual violence and all forms of violence.
We quit parliamentary work on March 8. We know that the world is in a crisis, but we refuse to be the victims of this crisis.