Archive | Interviews with Amargi Activists RSS feed for this section


27 Feb

For more information about Amargi as well as feminist theory and activism in today’s Turkey, here you can read and listen to interviews with activists from Amargi.

Should the ‘headscarf debate’ be a debate?

6 Jan

Senem Donatan: “NO, and that’s very important. A bigger problem is the issue of virginity and honor killing, related, very big pressure about virginity, and that woman should not take pleasure in sex, not discuss it, or masturbate. The challenge is that there is no discussion of sex, women have to change their own way of thinking before society can change.”

Hilal Esmer: “The first issue of Amargi magazine was about the headscarf (…). We, as Amargi members, say we are against every kind of prohibition, including scarf prohibitions. There are lots of talks, but men are in the discussion not women. It’s so stupid when men are discussing for women.”

Hazal Halavut: “Nowadays again I’m changing my mind. Of course I think women should be allowed to wear whatever they want, but I think we also should take part in the questioning of religion too. Of course women should be free but this politically correct discourse sometimes closes some discussion. (…) For example religion is a main basis of patriarchy; how can I say that and on the other hand say women can wear what they want. We need to find a way to discuss both, and shouldn’t be afraid to deal with these issues.”

Yasemin Öz: “Wearing a headscarf accepts religion, which is patriarchal. I would never wear a headscarf. In the world I would prefer no woman wears headscarf to cover her body as a sexual object. But if they do so, we don’t have the right to ban them from education, and work. This is discriminatory practice.”

Challenges for Feminism in Turkey

6 Jan

Senem Donatan: “Many people think that honor killing are related to the uneducated people and culture of the south east of Turkey. But this is a lie (…).

Saying I’m a feminist is another pressure, because all people think you are men’s enemies (…). Family is holy and feminism points at relationships which disrupts this holiness.”

Yasemin Öz: “Another issues which is very important in the pressure of honor on women. Sex is very forbidden, to talk about, to discuss about. Women who live as singles or divorced are threatened by honor killings, not only from their family, but from their neighbors as well. If you live alone and invite men to your house people think you’re a prostitute (…).

Finance for feminist movement is extremely difficult, because there are just very few members, and lots of jobs to do. The feminist movement in Turkey makes miracles; if you look at the progress in twenty years you don’t believe this progress was made by just a few 1,000 women.”

Hazal Halavut: “Liberalism is a really important challenge, because Turkey is doing neo-liberal steps one by one and quickly. I think we should think more about other inequalities besides gender inequalities and how to include these in our politics.”

Definition of Feminism

6 Jan

Cansu Karamustafa: “Feminism is a struggle of freedom which is against all sexist and patriarchal ways of thinking. It stands on an important point for me because it questions the structure of society, and means a change for everybody in it.”

Senem Donatan: “Actually what I like about feminism is it changes; something which is not changing is against life, because life is always changing and so is the feminist ideology. And realizing the environment changes, it gives an answer to it. My feminism is like that. That’s why I think feminism is important in my life.”

Hilal Esmer: “A lot of women here give nice academic definitions; I see feminism as all parts of life, not just about women’s rights. I don’t want rights. I don’t accept equality. I reject the whole system from the bottom- up.”

Hazal Halavut: “First of all I experience feminism personally as it brought me freedom, because I realized I categorized myself. And all these categories and discourses about being women limited my life. Realizing these categories brought me the chance to remake myself and realize myself, personally. Feminism is a never ending process of thinking about one’s self, the world surrounding you, and seeing what’s around you, from a gendered perspective (…).

Feminism is the union of theory and practice; you can never separate them. The more you practice the more you understand theory, and vice versa (…).

Masculinity is everywhere around the world and we must always find new ways to see it and a strategy to handle it. (…) to criticize it you need to be creative, because struggles have all kinds of traditions. The Turkish left has established traditions, but always a masculine way of struggle. You have to switch the way you think and act (…). I don’t want to be on the street shouting like man and showing my masculinity in order to show how powerful I am.”

Esen Özdemir: “Feminism struggles against the systems. I describe feminism as an area imminent in all power relations. Feminism moves with other movements which are theoretical, and they put it into practice: anti-militarism, anti-war, the LGBTQ-movement.”

Yasemin Öz: “Feminism is an ideology for me; it covers all my political issues and questions even about economy and state structure. I found my answers from feminism, about all questions in life. It means I have all the rights as any person on earth, not being discriminated because I’m a women and a lesbian. All my life I have struggled against an attitude of inequality; ‘you are a woman and not allowed to do that’. Feminism gives me the power and the organization to struggle against the inequalities I face in social life.

Globally all structures are patriarchal, because people giving decisions about society are men. Well educated people are men. Academics and scientists are men (…). The reasons for war, capitalism, and states, are the patriarchal structure as the starting point of making a hierarchal structure. It was the first hierarchy; hierarchy of men over women was the first hierarchy. So if we can’t be free from hierarchy of men over women, we can’t be free at all.”

Meaning of Amargi

6 Jan

Aksu Bora: “Amargi is a place where I can engage in feminist politics.”

Cansu Karamustafa: “Amargi is an anti-hierarchical and flexible organization for the struggle of women’s freedom.  For me, it’s being an academy means a refreshing transformation of both ourselves and what can be done against patriarchal minds. So, this kind of organization means a struggle by touching different women and transforming together.”

Esen Özdemir: “Amargi organizes women who have never been part of organizations before (…). Amargi gives me the feeling if we are together we can change the world (…). Also in Amargi there is no clear definition of what feminism is.”

Hazal Halavut: “In Amargi there are many things unique, especially the culture of questioning yourself and relationships and trying to prevent hierarchy and power inequality.”

Hilal Esmer: “Amargi really has a political view that can include a lot of women (…). I came to Amargi for myself. Women change their lives, but in Amargi I saw women literally coming about projects for themselves. All women have different concerns in their heads; some want to work with Kurdish people, some about homophobia, some want to develop art-performance.”

Yasemin Öz: “Amargi has an anti-hierarchical structure. Because the structure of Amargi is very close to anarchism, I can be a part of it. Anarchism is a very important issue in my life.”

Involvement in Amargi

6 Jan

Cansu Karamustafa: “I knew Amargi since the opening of the feminist bookstore and café in 2007.”

Hazal Halavut: “I didn’t come to Amargi because I thought it is the perfect organization for me, but I was convinced I had to start at some point. At Amargi I could be myself and still be a member of the organization. I didn’t have to give up my independence.”

Hilal Esmer: “I worked as a jeweler at the Turkish grand bazaar in Istanbul for a couple of years in a very sexist environment. No women in this sector, but lots of hierarchy. I felt separated from this sector and got involved in Amargi, saw photos in the newspapers of Pınar Selek, when she got out of jail and read about Amargi, because this organization was newly formed. (…) After a long search I found Amargi finally and met with women, spoke with them but didn’t understand because they were not organized. I expected a NGO, but it seemed that this group of women just getting together.”

Senem Donatan: “First I did a lot of collaboration with Istek, a women’s group. I was a member of the peace movement in Turkey and for example went to Iraqi border to protest the war. Then in 2003 we founded a theater group. This was a collaboration of Istek and Amargi, but still an autonomous group not totally involved in Amargi.”

Yasemin Öz: “I was living in Ankara and knew Amargi was open to lesbians. In 2002 I heard about Pınar Selek, because of her book on transgender women. I knew she was a feminist and open about discussion on sexual identity (…). When I moved to Istanbul, I met Pınar and we became close friends, because our political point of views are very similar and her work in the LGBT community and her questions and struggles are very important to me.”