You, the ones, who walked through Amargi, the ones who touched Amargi in one way or the other; the ones who acted together with Amargi; the ones who know Amargi; the ones who followed Amargi from far away or closely, this letter is from us to all of you.
We are ending the journey of Amargi and we feel the responsibility of sharing the reasons for this ending with you. We know that this sharing will serve as a mirror for the feminist movement.
Amargi, as many of you witnessed, in spite of many activities conducted, became self-contained and began to have trouble in renewing itself, in taking immediate action, in opening new ways, in recent years. On one hand, the number of new friends coming to Amargi with hope increased, but on the other hand, we could not prevent our friends leaving one after the other. First of all, we would like you to know that our decision of closing down is not a result of the recent ruptures, just the opposite, the ruptures are only one of the results of the recent state of Amargi. Nobody can be exempt from this responsibility by criticizing from above as an outsider. We accept this responsibility or not, we have brought Amargi to the point of closing down altogether. By not putting enough effort, by lack of understanding, by individualism, by lack of initiative, by small calculations, by big words…
However, the naked truth that stands in front of us is that: the experience of Amargi contributed to all of us so much; to the ones who left early, to the ones who brought it till today, as well as to the groups and individuals making the feminist movement and the opposition movement of Turkey.
What united us in Amargi was the criticism we had towards the feminist movement, the need to open a new channel, and we did open that. We started off by saying that patriarchy surrounded women with different mechanisms depending on her place in the social hierarchy; also by questioning, talking about and showing the hierarchies our social identities created. We went on by saying that feminist struggle included the struggles against war, nationalism, militarism, heterosexism, capitalism and human-centrism and by acting accordingly.
Amargi created new energy at the time the feminist movement was going through inertia and lack of communication. We tried to bring dynamism and depth to the movement by means of contributing to the breaking of the monolithic discourse, constructing the theory and action together and by diffusion to diverse spaces of struggle.
Amargi was a workshop of searching. We have struggled in this workshop together, against diverse oppressions and the problem of hegemony between the oppressed – that is, with each other and within ourselves – for facing with ourselves by means of conflicting without violence, for transforming each other and ourselves, in order to reach out for freedom. During the history of twelve years, there were periods when our capacity of activism and discourse went up or down. Nevertheless, some of us from the start, some of us later on lived these periods like a school. We learned that we were able to achieve big jobs with horizontal relations and that the non-violence did not mean passivity. In Amargi spaces, everyone entering and putting herself to the jobs as much as she can, we had beautiful intersections, encounters, lasting friendships. We felt that we became subjects by enacting on our request of freedom and could express ourselves.
Amargi symbolizes a radical line in the history of feminist struggle. It took part in a not trenchant but radical and anti-systemic struggle. At the point we arrived we cannot lead this struggle with its vividness of the past.
To draw a line targeting all the power relations and engaging in a struggle accordingly requires effort, responsibility and participation. We, in the last years, joined the activities, sometimes forgetting about what we were struggling against and our claim. This form of participation corresponded not to tear down the codes of organisation of life but instead realizing ourselves by making some changes in it.
This political constriction damaged our critical and activist position inside the movement. We had been saying since the beginning, that from mainstream feminist movement to radical feminists, feminist politics evolved to a point inside the system. However, at this point Amargi has become part of the line which takes the hegemonic system as a respondent, part of the reactionary discourse, for example defining abortion as a right, and reducing freedom to gaining “liberty”.
An organization is not fixed. Each person who joins, each connection adds a new thing to it. Even, the political positions or idealisms, and the potential of contribution of those people don’t stay the same.
If an organization can not feed itself in the direction of its political aims all the time, it will either shrink or moves in the direction of other aims. The aims of each of us, which may coincide or conflict, may not always be anti-systemic.
The point that we reached shows the situation explained above. When we distanced ourselves from the political claim, the conflict ended. The fact that we could not operate the nonviolent method of conflicting, the mechanism of criticism/self-criticism, led the way to developing hidden violent methods instead of putting effort to each other, to forming groups, to labeling, to targeting, to gossiping. We stopped putting the hierarchies among us, different ways of oppressions, political tensions in our country into our agenda, into Amargi’s agenda. We stopped feeling responsibility for these. This situation caused hollowness in the discourse we created. Therefore, conflicts about political standpoints became personal problems and we started to situate each other as opponents and to join different relationships for solving the problems instead of in the meetings and we created groupings. As a result, the core values we had: openness, solidarity, empathy and feeling of trust faded, whereas the distinguishing feature of Amargi was its making itself belong to everyone, open to everyone. People who wanted to realize themselves, wanted to say or do something could exist in Amargi, provided that they conformed to our principles of departure. Amargi belonged to everyone, and it was also “the outside” at the same time. With time, being a member of Amargi became an “all-embracing” identity, but this time not representing anybody anymore.
The organization, that we could not renew, stopped to function and became the problem itself. Because we could not renew it, the activities that we shared became ordinary, narrow, far from its political aim and being a common activism ground. Then, jobs, funding projects, administrative problems became important. Instead of creating richness via transformed values through the labor produced in Amargi, the aim turned into keeping the institution standing.
But, we learned in Amargi that it was not possible to create freedom in a determined sphere which is in order; instead, that was related to showing initiative for the creation of the unexpected. In other words, the organization was not the aim but a tool for the politics of freedom. Now, we would like to act according to that.
As we all know, freedom is a concept without limits. It requires an endless search, continuous politics. Where there is inertia, it is inevitable to be integrated in the system. It is up to the people to keep the fire burning.
We, people who were united at Amargi at present of the twelve years of history, could not blow enough to keep the fire burning.
Closing down Amargi is our self criticism.
To tell the truth, another important self criticism would be to provide fire to Amargi again, and to be reborn with it.
Yet, we are not sure that we can do this together at this time. That’s why, we, at least, content ourselves with naming the situation. The size of our sail cannot carry us to where we want to be. In order not to turn upside down, we lower our sail.
We put the full stop in order not to draw on our capital, i.e., not to consume more the beauties we created together, to leave a meaningful trace from Amargi to the future. Knowing to end something when necessary can also be a feminist and anti-militarist act. We believe that we do that now, in order to regain force to start again; in other words, in order to take in some breath.
We don’t have the organizational energy for the political aim with a claim mentioned in the starting manifest; however our search for freedom goes on. And our need of making new starts.
We are leaving a greater part of Amargi’s archive to the Women’s Library and Information Center. You will see us in the social struggles for freedoms. Besides, we are carrying on with the various activities and initiatives we started at Amargi, we will continue with those. It is great that feminist movement now has several mechanisms. We will work, discuss, act, construct together again. And we will open new ways, maybe we already are.
We believe that the experience of Amargi holds an important place in the history of feminist politics, and this experience will continue to make the searchers of freedom stronger in every way.
With feminist solidarity!
Women from Amargi Istanbul