NİGAR DURU
Views: 3439

NİGAR DURU

ANTALYA WOMEN´S MOVEMENT

Interviewer: Senem Yıldırım
Place: Antalya Women´s Counselling Centre and Solidarity Association
Date: 28.08.2015

Gallery

Interview


Could you tell us about yourself?
I was born in 1954 in İbradı. The literacy rate in İbradı is high. I studied sociology at Hacettepe University and I decided to become a teacher. I taught classes in philosophy mostly in Antalya, and in Istanbul for a while. I retired from teaching in 2005.


How did you get into the women's movement?
I can say that teaching a subject that constantly questions and interprets the world we live in pushed me into the women’s movement little by little. During my university years, we set out with a group of women who saw that women were oppressed and this would only be overcome with organised movement. In short, I started with the women's movement in my 20s. In 1978 we established an association in Antalya, the Antalya Revolutionary Women's Association. Like all democratic institutions it was also closed down after the military coup in 1980. Even our friends were investigated and some were imprisoned. In the beginning of the 1990s, we continued our struggle with a group of female friends from the Antalya branch of Eğitim-Sen (Education and Science Workers' Union). Since women are oppressed in our society as they are in other societies and are treated as second-class citizens. As the fruit of our labour we decided to establish a market, primarily because women are economically vulnerable. We have provided for a market place in front of the now demolished special provincial administration building where women can sell their products. We thought that we had to encourage women. It was necessary to raise their awareness and reassure them. Women are insecure, because they were always told such things like “Long of hair, short of mind” or “Don’t interfere with a man’s job with dough on your hands!” Work was always categorised and women were reprimanded with “You can’t!”

What were your struggles at the beginning of the 1990s in Antalya? 
The demands for democracy increased during that period. Political parties demanding rights for women were established. At that time, we worked to increase the quota for women in political parties. There is nothing about women in the Political Parties' Law. Men also have more time to deal with politics and more opportunities. Men who work 8-10 hours per day still have time remaining for themselves. For women it's the opposite. Women on the other hand, are referred to as housewives and work for nearly 20 hours a day that is invisible to all. Especially if there are little children… While being busy with home care, child care, patient care, elderly care, etc. they devote so little time to themselves that even spending half an hour with a neighbour can sometimes become a problem. Working women have a lot of responsibilities. After work men can go sit in a tea garden for an hour and socialise, while women have to run home and arrange dinner. As a result, men are more involved in politics since they have more free time on their hands.
 
What is society’s view regarding women’s participation in politics?
People find it difficult to place women in politics. For example, one day in the 1990s we’re sitting together with our family. A guest came to our house and he was having a conversation with my father. I joined in the conversation and I told them my opinions. When I looked at my father I saw that he was winking at me implying me to stop speaking. Although my brother could talk freely, just because I was a woman my father wanted me to keep quiet even though I’d been a teacher for many years. The prevalent mentality is that men may engage in politics, but women can’t. It's important for women to take part in politics. Women don’t have even time to read books to improve themselves. They are made to carry heavy loads like being a good woman, a good wife etc. They tell men to earn money and support their home. If you fail to provide you’re not a good man. Men are also humiliated in this way. There are men who commit suicide, because they are unable to find jobs. So gender roles are shared. Now we’re saying that political parties should consist of 50% women. Women need to gain confidence and they need to be given the opportunity through positive discrimination.

What is your work in recent years?
This association was founded in 2000. I am taking an active role in the association since 2007. Principally we’re standing by women who are subjected to violence. There are a lot of troubled women in our country. In Antalya, as in all provinces, there is violence against women. Some women experience economic subjugation. Even women who want to earn money or childcare assistance apply to us. We support women, so that they can gain self-confidence. We refer those who want to find work to the relevant locations. Sometimes employers come to us, because they want to employ these women in need.

What's the situation of violence against women in our country?  
According to the Turkish Statistical Institute, the level of domestic physical violence against women in Turkey is 39%. The punishments stipulated in the law are not enforced and thus the level of violence doesn’t decrease. Instead there are mitigating circumstances or the sentence is reduced for good behaviour. When you look at the women who are being killed, most of them are either divorced or going through a divorce. Because the mentality that views a woman as his commodity, can’t bear to think a woman being independent from himself. Men who use physical violence against their wives, don’t kill their bosses who laid them off. This is also a fact. They view their wives as a commodity and there is a power relationship involved. He can’t say anything to his boss when he is laid off from work – although he could if he were unionised – but he uses violence against his wife because of his perceived superiority. For this reason, women who file for divorce are more susceptible to violence.

When do women first start to encounter discrimination in society?
Discrimination against women starts right at birth. Having a son is something to brag about. While there is a big ceremony held when a boy is circumcised, when a girl has her first period she is told what a shameful and bad thing this is. A girl entering puberty is considered to be very shameful. Masculinity is exalted and power is accorded to it. We may not be physically built the same, but this doesn’t mean that we’re inferior to them. The system is constantly trying to impose on us that we aren’t equal. "Motherhood is the ultimate career," they say. That's not a career. There are huge deficiencies in our education system as well. I know this because, because I’m a teacher. When a girl does something bad at school, the teachers reprimands her by saying: “You’re supposed to be a girl!” and gives her a punishment. But when a boy does the same thing it’s not regarded that way. During the economic crisis of 1994, a circular letter was sent to the school I worked at. It said that we were forbidden to discuss the ongoing economic crisis and inflation in the country. I was teaching sociology at that time and I refused to sign this document. These issues are covered in my classes; how could I not discuss them? I would give my students time to follow up on newspaper articles in my classes, but other teachers were opposed to this. How much education can a system provide that is even opposed to students reading newspapers? We have to include gender issues in our education system and need to shape the education of our children accordingly. Not like “You’re a girl, you have to do this” or “You’re a boy, you have to do that.” Instead, the attitude that girls and boys are capable of achieving anything even though they are of different gender has to be conveyed. This is very important.

What do you think was the biggest gain of the women's movement in Antalya?
We learned how to become organised. Our association has almost 1000 volunteers. The awareness that it’s necessary to come together occurred among women. Women realised that when they joined forces they could make a difference. We took up this fight when a prostitute was raped in Antalya in the 1980s. According to the law in those years when a prostitute was raped, her rapist would only receive one half of the stipulated sentence. The state was in fact implying that these women could be raped. To bring this incident to light a film named Article 438 was made. Gülşen Bubikoğlu starred in this movie and afterwards the article was changed. This victory belonged to the women of Antalya. Today, the penalty for this crime has been made equal. If this crime is committed against children or the disabled the sentence increases. In other provinces, especially with women's organisations in Istanbul, the biggest gains were in legal matters. Many articles were amended. We also ensured that a women’s shelter was opened in Antalya. There are only two shelters in the centre of Antalya. The law stipulates that there has to be a women’s shelter for every hundred thousand people, but this isn’t enforced. You may ask if this is enough for women, but at least it is vital for them to escape out of the spiral of violence.

Abused women come from which segment of society?
Domestic violence also occurs among highly educated people, but housewives are most exposed to physical violence. Domestic violence can be encountered anywhere. For example, during my time at the union a woman who was working there came with a purple eye one day. Later we learned that she was abused by her husband. Both husband and wife were involved in the struggle for democracy. As another example, there was a famous doctor and his wife was a psychologist. He was both cheating and abusing her. This woman finally came to us. Imagine, both are highly educated and successful people. If we dig a little deeper many of our friends might have similar stories to tell. You can perceive this from their testimonies and their sorrowful demeanour. When we talk about violence this doesn’t only mean beating a woman but also exerting psychological maltreatment. One time a friend of mine who was also a teacher told me: “I don’t know how much my salary is.” When I said to her to come and apply to us she told me: “I have adjusted to this situation. I’m managing somehow.” She seemed unhappy when she actually said those words. That woman came in wondering what we were doing. They are hesitant to recount their stories to the outside. Hidden domestic violence is much greater since it remains unnoticed. And some aren’t aware about what constitutes violence. Many of my friends ask me: "Why are you in the women's struggle? I don’t see any discrimination." When I reply and ask them if they were ever harassed or made a pass at they ask me if that is also violence. Yes, that’s also violence.  Also women are being subjected to violence and intimidated at the workplace. Women at the workplace are often told to take care of their child first and then come. If a woman has to take one or two days off because of her children this is hold against her. In the traditional structure women are supposed to raise their children. There is this mind-set that because she is a woman it doesn’t matter if she advances in her career or not. No matter how successful a woman may be, this glass ceiling is a barrier in her path. Telling a working woman to look after her child instead is also type of intimidation. In short, women encounter hostility everywhere even if they aren’t always aware.

Is Antalya an advantageous city with regards to the women’s movement?
Antalya has its advantages in a way. I can see it when I go to other parts of our country. Everywhere I go talk with women and commiserate with them. Women are more oppressed in areas where there is a feudal structure. When I mention that I come from Antalya they say to me: “You can live more freely and you have better opportunities.” In Antalya we can say that women should be free, but you can't say that in every city in Turkey. Our friends from women's movements in other cities say they can’t repeat all the slogans they want to. Antalya is a good city to live in this aspect.  It’s a touristic city that turned its face towards the West. The level of education is Antalya is high and there is less religious pressure. These are advantageous for the women's movement of Antalya. When religion, oppression, racism and conservatism increase, violence against women increases.

As a woman, do you enjoy living in Antalya?
Antalya is a city that stands for modernity, democracy, secularism and equality. Although conservatism and racism is concentrates in certain areas of our country, we’re more at ease in Antalya. It’s a city with a lot of social activities. Sometimes there is less interest towards events. We aren’t like Istanbul, but I think that there are a lot of people in Antalya who understand us. In this sense, I am happy to live as a woman in Antalya. Antalya is one of the cities I am most comfortable when it comes to clothing. Not only in terms of clothing, but the city has a relaxed attitude when it comes to other issues. Since there are many conscientious people it’s easier to become organised.

What would you like to see for women in Antalya?
There must be places where people come together. Different social activities should be done. It should be made easier for women to get together and socialise. One of the most important characteristics of women is that they associate and commiserate together. There they can gossip and chatter, which is a breather vale for women in a sense. It’s vital that women can share their problems with their friends and this can be therapeutic. Women must have venues such as cultural centres in Antalya. Women should be able to provide comfort to each other, socialise and talk about different things. It would be wonderful if cafes and cultural centres catering solely to women were opened and embraced by them. We expressed this when the Al Yazma monument was being built.

How was the Al Yazma (Red Scarf) monument built?
We were having a meeting before March 8 at the Eğitim-Sen Union. One of our friends had the idea to engrave the names of each murdered woman. It was said that a log wouldn’t be enough to cover all names. Then we decided to erect a monument. I put forward this idea as a spokesperson in the city council. It was received very favourably. The location for this memorial was searched for a long time. The idea of doing a contest for the design of the monument arose. Muratpaşa Municipality gave financial support.  Our friends have worked hard on this issue. The monument was finally erected in Bayındır Park. Our aim was to immortalise the names of those women and draw attention to the murder of women, but unfortunately the killings continue unabated.

From whom did you get the most support in your activities over the years?
I received tremendous support from my family, especially my brother, in my struggle for democracy. It was my brother who taught me when I was in middle school that there isn’t such a distinction as a man’s job or woman’s job. My mother always encouraged me. Since she didn’t receive an education she went out of her way to support me. My family trusted me completely. After marriage, my husband and I were working together in the revolutionary movement. He never interfered with me, but in recent years he was slowing me down and this frankly upset me. He tells me to begin living for myself, but I never understood the logic of this. I’m not individualistic, I’m still collectivist. As society rises, so too will we. My children offer me a lot of support. When my daughter is here we participate in events together.

What are the benefits of being a feminist?
Many people don’t see where they stand as women. They say: “My belly is full and life goes on. These things happen in other societies too even if there isn’t democracy or our movements are restricted.” However, on the contrary, if women remain silent this oppressive system will become firmly entrenched and everything will get worse. The system is further subjugating women by confining them to the home and isolating them from men and the community. Feminism isn’t something to be feared. We’re so happy when we come together. Those women who participate in our activities experience the camaraderie at first hand and feel encouraged to become members or volunteers. Once they enter into the women’s movement they tell us that they feel more empowered and secure. Women wearing headscarves have joined us. After all, she is a woman. We do not differentiate between any women. Some are trying to portray us as enemies of men. We aren’t hostile to men. We never have been. Most of us are married and most of us have children. We don’t discriminate against men. We’re not against men, we’re against the system. Once equality is achieved, why would I struggle?

Who are the major female figures for you?
Emma Goldman and Clara Zetkin are among the important figures in the women’s movement. There is Simone de Beauvoir. Apart from these, there are many women. From Turkey, Nuran Akyüz comes to mind. The founders of Mor Çatı Women's Shelter are very important. There are so many women to list and we learn something from each one.

What is your advice to women?
We have to continue this fight until this system of exploitation, in particular the secondary position of women and the patriarchal system will come to an end. I'm hopeful for the future. Without hope, there would be no action. I think this is why women should continue tirelessly with their struggle.

What do you think about the Antalya Women Museum?
This is a very good project, I congratulate you. Women have a distinct history and this must be conveyed. Official history either conceals or distorts everything, but in my opinion museums are important institutions that enlighten and enable people to access knowledge. The museum should display the achievements of women. Pioneering women also need to be represented in this museum.
 
NİGAR DURU