Many Thanks To My Women Friends


Author: Çiğdem Mater; Translation: Senem Kaptan; Editing: Feride Eralp

Last month I turned 30. I think it is one of the most fabulous ages a woman can be. I will be waiting for my 40s and 50s with the same excitement with which I had been waiting for my 30s, aging discreetly while always reminding my older friends around me that they are “old”.

The 30s have much meaning. As you grow up, so do your responsibilities towards life, the future, yourself and the people around you. Of course, you also become more mature. You start viewing life from a different perspective. You become more self-confident, living life the way you want to rather than thinking about what others will say about you. Your standpoint becomes more stable. At least, this was what my encounter with my 30th year meant to me.

I, however, think that the most fabulous point in welcoming this age is having women friends who started making their presence felt a couple of years before 30. The constant feeling of ‘competition/comparison’ beginning in the mid-10s and continuing until the mid-20s, which seems ludicrous now, just vanishes. When you wake up one morning, you understand that women friends are not ‘foes’, but your closest companions. At least it happened like this for me and this article is, actually, about these women in my 30s.

My childhood, early adolescence, and to be honest, my college years passed with my male friends. I thought, now in a manner which I cannot understand, that women could not be “good friends” despite the fact that my mother, the most fabulous example in my life, had great women friends. Now I remember with a smile that I used to envy her from time to time, thinking whether I would have such women friends with whom I could share and carry the load of life together. Although I had to wait till I became 30 to understand this, it did indeed happen and I see that my concerns and envy were in vain.

Friendship, struggle, sharing…

In retrospect, I feel that I have been less successful regarding my women friends from college. The women that were present in my life back then, both because of my own, personal mistakes and because of problems about location, did not come along into my present day as populous as they were then. I was studying in Eskişehir, a small city, and was getting to know a world quite foreign to me. We had also become politicized, had started to think more about the problems of the country, and our lightheartedness in high school had left its place to thoughts about the country. During those times, slightly also because of the men, actually, I had come think that these issues concerning the whole country were too serious to be solved with women and that it was easier to get along with men. What a mistake!

After having arrived in Istanbul from that small and beautiful Anatolian city, my women friends simultaneously decreased and increased. Life enabled me to come across more fabulous women every day. Some of them were actually my mother’s friends. I welcomed them as my own and tried to learn, talk, share, and take whatever I could from them and I highly enjoyed their presence. I have had numerous friends who told me how precious the experiences of the elder women were and how significant friendships with women are in the process of struggling and sharing.

Women after losses…

In my early 20s, I started to think and concern myself more about being a woman and womanhood and got into reading everything I could find. I met Emma Goldman, for instance. She became a part of my list of friends and told me that a revolution in which I could not dance could never be my revolution, with that voice of hers, coming from the past century. I met Isabel Allende. Her voice coming from the lands of Latin America, which has a story very similar to ours, told me about new women and their difficult and wearisome lives full of struggle. I met Simone de Beauvoir who was saying that one becomes and not is born a woman. I met Sevgi Sosyal and learned what had happened in the Yıldırım Bölge Women’s Jailhouse after March 12 from her serene voice and pen.

At the same time, I met very strong women looking for their lost relatives in Istanbul, in the Galatasaray Square. I met Hanım Tosun, for instance, that dignified woman who always keeps her head held high while searching for her husband who had been taken away in front of her eyes; a woman I am proud to say I know, proud to say is my friend. I met Emine Ocak, the woman with the deep eyes and a deep pain who came across the dead body of her son while searching for him and who pursued this case. I met women who, despite police violence, continued to come to Galatasaray to support them, these tens of women who went after their lost relatives. Some of these women, like Dstella and Rosa, had come from the Plaza del Mayo of Argentina. For the last twenty years, they had been after their grandchildren, who had been taken from their murdered sons and daughters. I have learned a lot from them; the tons of heaviness that descends on one upon losing someone, to struggle, to keep your head high, to know who is guilty, and to pursue this…

It is possible to start a new life

I learned that it is possible to start a new life from Mecbure in Kars. She enthralled me with her smile which illuminated me every time I saw it and her ability to construct a new life. I learned ways to construct a new language from the tens of women in Hakkari, Van, and Diyarbakır. During the same period, I met Rana, the first Cypriot I have known closely. She was the one who told me that Cyprus is a reality outside the politics pages of the newspapers while at the same time reminding me that a friend whom one trusts so much does not have to live in the same city and that she can be quite close despite being far away.

Then I found Aslı on the roads of Anatolia. Our paths crossed, as a lucky coincidence, during a period in which I thought about how much one needs conscientious men and women. She was someone I had always been looking for, someone with whom I could protest in the streets against the closing of Lambda in the morning, cry together in a cinema in the afternoon, discuss a very serious problem related to women’s issues, and go shopping for new shoes.
The country was experiencing hard times as usual, war was going on in the South East, and the journalists kept going back and forth over ‘there’. I came across Zeynep during such a journey. She was a charming woman who showed me with an amalgamation of incredible naïveté and smartness that, actually, every issue could also be seen from a different perspective.

Then one day they killed Hrant. We all had the same reaction: we did not have time to mourn because of our anger; we did not know what to do. We were all together in protesting on the streets, we were all together both in our anger and our tears. We saw that we were more crowded than we had thought, unfortunately, through the death of Hrant. We grew and became closer. Hrant was murdered and four days later in January 23, 2007, we met that strong woman. We met Rakel Dink, that unbelievable woman, who said “My brothers and sisters, let us question the darkness which creates a murderer from a baby.” after her lover, her “çutak” was taken away from her hands, her bosom. I am sure that this was a shocking as well as empowering encounter not only for me, but also for the majority of the peoples of this land.

The real gratitude is for my mother…

Hrant’s death brought to me new women friends. Friends with whom we become angry and happy at the same things, give similar reactions to events, laugh, cry, and fight… Natali, Özlem, Zeynep, Karolin, and others…

I have reached my 30th age with my friends, old and new. It is good to know that they are near me and good to feel our power in being together. It also makes me feel powerful to know of the existence of my women friends with whom I do not meet very frequently, it makes me feel good, makes me feel lucky.

This is a short summary of my 30 years. It is also a showing of my gratitude for my women friends. A little gratitude for creating the feeling of pleasure in women’s solidarity, sharing, and in knowing our power…

My primary gratitude and thanks, however, is for my mother for secretly and covertly communicating to me the importance of women’s friendship through her own life; telling me that the issue of womanhood should be and deserves to be discussed and reflected on; but first and foremost for being a great mother and a great friend…

And maybe a note: A note for everyone to remember their women friends and relatives, to see how precious they are for themselves, and to consider the fact that the obstacles on the long road in front of us cannot be surmounted without the women around us…

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