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Antimilitarism and Feminism in Turkey: Practice and Ideology | Can Başkent

Can Başkent

logic and the rest...


International Seminar: September 27-30, 2001, Sıgacık, Izmir/Turkey


After a long break, friends from ISKD (Izmir War Resisters’ Society) organized a set of seminars and workshops on antimilitarism and –this time with- feminism, putting in a great effort. The activity, which was held in a small coastal town of Izmir, Sıgacık; gave approximately 70 antimilitarists and feminists a chance to share their ideas, learn about international experiences, comment on international conjuncture, and meet other antimilitarists, anarchists, feminists and revolutionists.

First, let us give you a little summary of four days’ program. Thursday, Sept, 27 was reserved for getting to know each other, playing meeting games, a general evaluation of Sept. 11 attack and for two short films [“Resistance 1111” of IAMI (Istanbul Antimilitarist Initiative) and “For A Change” of British ‘Non-violence For a Change’ group]. We played a funny –getting each other known- game after the dinner of this evening. This way, the participants warmed up to the atmosphere, and to each other. On Friday and Saturday, 4 in the mornings, 4 in the afternoons, 15 total presentations and/or workshops were held. (One presentation was cancelled due to not coming of one presenter) At the end of both days, one person from each group informed all the participants briefly about their workshops’ conclusions in a general meeting. This way, we all had the chance to get some ideas about the workshops that we couldn’t participate. Sunday was reserved as “open space”. Through the Sunday evening, participants left for their homes. In the evaluation meeting of ‘Sept 11 Attacks’ on Thursday, Sept 27; Vivien from WRL (War Resisters League), peace activist-CO [conscientious objector] Jorgen from Norway and Nilgün from Turkey shared their thoughts. Vivien told us that short after the attacks, WRL developed an attitude on three major concerns: “First, scapegoating of Muslims, second military response, and third, violation of liberties”. Nilgün, however, indicated the necessity for antimilitarist movement to appear in the scene of civil politics and added that it would be good if antimilitarists were in the parliament. This, in our opinion, is nothing more than too much (and in a way foolish) optimism that still hoping any benefit from Parliamentary politics. Moreover; we, personally, didn’t really like her speech in which she neglected the internal dynamics, existential political and philosophical identity of antimilitarism. Jorgen, who is a conscientious objection activist in his home country, claimed -with a detailed explanation- that this actual concept does not fit in the well-known war definition and war laws. Therefore peace activists and antimilitarists should also develop new strategies and methods regarding this “new” kind of war, which he named as “Network War”. This network consists of a set of invisible individuals and organizations, therefore this is not a war “between two states” as indicated in international laws. Koen [Belgium] from the audience said, “You don’t have a peace movement for just one war. I don’t think we need to change our message. Our goal should be to win hearts and minds.” As indicated the need for a non-violent revolution, Koen added that this war is standing upon economics. So, any hit against the economics, like blocking the main trade roads for a couple of days or not paying taxes as a majority, can strike the war. Then, the audiences kept on discussions on thisഊissue. One of the short films (For a Change) showed after the discussions, were new to the Turkish participants. It included scenes from a non-violent training and actions of British activists. The film caused to start some discussions among the Turkish participants. While some claimed that, nonviolence is impossible for Turkey, others argued that, they strongly believe in it.

There were two activities we participated in Friday, Sept. 28. Serdar S. & Serdar T., in their panel-like discussion, named “Turkey, Politics and Militarism”, talked about the effects of the militarism and coups (d’etat) on the politics in Turkey. Once again, we realized the role of the military in politics. Clearly seen, the military interrupts the politics. We even talk about the “National Security Politics Document”, on which there are many restrictions these days. [N.S.P.D. is the name of the secret document prepared by the army. It has some very strict restrictions about the parliamentary politics. All the politics obey the rules written on it.] The other activity we participated was named “Connection between Feminism and Lesbianism” prepared by Hilal and Alev. In the workshop, we talked about the exclusion of the lesbians in women’s movements, bias and what can be done to overcome these. At the end, we came up with a list of suggestions including a 2-3 days training and increasing the communication between lesbian and heterosexual feminists. “Masculinity and the Military” of Andreas @ WRI [War Resisters’ International] and “CO movement in war and peace-International Experiences” by Oscar from Chile and Sicko from Serbia were the ones we couldn’t participate. We were in Coskun & Ferda’s workshop on Friday afternoon: “non-violence and non-violent action. Is it possible in Turkey.” Here, we formed small groups to brainstorm on two scenarios given. Our aim was to answer the question ‘Is any action that does not include violence, a non-violent action?’. This way, every individual came up with ideas and answers framed by her/his own idea of non-violence. At he end of the brainstorming, some new questions like, ‘whether the damage to an object can be considered as violence’ or ‘whether a hierarchical organization/structure is suitable for the basis of nonviolence or not’ emerged. Then we came up with a list on how nonviolent action should be. Then we considered the conditions in Turkey and questioned how well that list could be applied to the practice. After listening to each individual’s thoughts, we realized that most of the participants were interested in the concept of nonviolence and believed that it can be possible even in the paranormal conditions like Turkey’s. No doubt, it was a very inspiring encouraging result. After the finish of the workshop, some of us left with the ideas that support their “violence paradigms”, while others were leaving with the results that support and prove their nonviolence utopias. Other workshops of this afternoon were; * “New Social movements and Homosexual (gay) Movement” by Kaos GL group
* “Links Between Antimilitarism and Feminism” by Ellen (Norway) and Gulkan (Turkey)
* “Manufacturing and Trading of Arms –EU, NATO and Turkey- “ by Serdar S. (Turkey) and Guido (Holland)
Unfortunately, neither writers of this article had the chance to attend to any of the these workshops above. Friday, Sept. 29, there were two workshops we couldn’t participate. One of those were, “Study on a CO case and the CO strategies as a result” by Ugur @ IAMI and “Anti-oppression movements and anarchist culture” by Zelha and Erkan. One of the activities we attended was prepared by Bart (Holland), namely “Is there a right for CO-International Laws and Human Rights.” Although not very fun, this workshop was pretty informing. Bart, who is from Holland where conscientious objection is “given” as an ordinary right, informed us about the CO movement in his country. He talked about the difficulties of action in a non-militarized country, and said civil service option and professional army strikes the antimilitarist movement. Whereas, we talked about the difficulties of living in an insensible, injected militarism and facing a governmental structure like ours, which does not recognize the international treaties and laws. Drawn, was not an optimistic picture. But, in a way, this is what supplies us the energy and the power we need in activism in Turkey. Another workshop we participated in Saturday morning was prepared by Hilal (Turkey) and Jörg (Germany) and was called “Patriarchy in mixed –men & women- groups and women”. In the first part of the workshop, men and women formed two separate groups. In women’s group the question ‘which behaves of men in mixed groups disturb us? Why?’ was discussed. Whereas men discussed, ‘how they were understood by women and the effects of the patriarchy on their own lives‘. In the second part, we shared the outcomes of the first part using “fishbowl” method. Men and women formed two circles on inside the each other. Outsider circle listened to without interrupting while insiders were talking about them. At the end, women told that their main complaints were the facts that, they feel under pressure while around men, that men always behave in a way as if they knew everything and they don’t give importance to women’s thoughts. Men, in the other hand, blamed the patriarchal culture/society that is injected tot them as the reason for such behaviors. We spent Saturday afternoon with two workshops. One was ‘how can fanzines/magazines be effective tools for us?’ This was work of Ippy from British “Peace News” and Jan from the Netherlander “Tomorrow’s World” magazine. We exchanged thoughts on issues in which almost every alternative media member is interested, such as reliability and conflicts of alternative media; good/bad sides of Internet.

The other workshop was “strategies against militarism and antimilitarist campaigns”. Oguz (Turkey), Inci (Turkey) and Guido (Holland) presented this workshop. Guido does researches on militarism in Turkey. Naturally, what he told and what he suggested were in a perspective that could easily fit to the reality in Turkey. After Guido’s presentation, we talked on militarist conditions of Turkey, in detail for about two hours. As a result, we came up with a long list that thrilled and horrified especially the foreign participants. Especially the, mention of the “Oath” that is repeated everyday in primary schools made us sick. This is still being practiced and we recognize it as a deep strategy of militarism. [In order to recall the some lines of the “Oath”, let us write down some. ‘I’m Turk. I’m confident. I’m hardworking. (…) My existence is dedicated to the existence of the Turkish nation.’ Think about the 7-12 years old children repeating those lines.] We couldn’t participate the “Symbols” workshops of Nilgun (Turkey) and Gulkan (Turkey). But their presentation in the general evening meeting was interesting. They sang an old Turkish rock song named “In the name of Honour” and added ‘this song is not just a song.’ [The song tells about a man who is in prison for killing someone who had sexual relation with his wife.] Sunday was reserved as “open space”. Christine from Germany explained briefly the aims of this activity. Open space was a time for the ones who weren’t able to end up their discussions in the workshops, or the ones who would like to present and discuss an issue that they think was missing. Another characteristic of the open space was that, anybody could leave or join any group at any time. Thus, a workshop day that is dynamic and simultaneous was created, and we got rid of the boredom, laziness of a fixed pre-organized program. Some of the workshops held in open space were;
* Antimilitarist strategies and campaign in Turkey
* Anti-oppression movements and anarchist culture
* May 15, 2002 WRI action plan
* Sexual harassment in mixed (men + women) groups
* Antimilitarism and feminism
It was a very efficient meeting in terms of the energy it provided for the participants. Our greatest comfort was the simultaneous translation in three languages (Turkish, English, Spanish). In the other hand, in some workshops, we faced with a language problem. We overcame this problem with the help of the professional translators and the volunteers among the participants. In a general view, it was a well planed and a successful organization. On Sunday afternoon, we were leaving the hotel excited, full of hope. We had already started to think about the future strategies.

Our thanks goes to the friends who organized those four days.