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Home » Resources » A Woman's Struggle: Using Gender Lenses To Understand the Plight Of Women Human Rights Defenders in Kurdish Regions of Turkey

A Woman's Struggle: Using Gender Lenses To Understand the Plight Of Women Human Rights Defenders in Kurdish Regions of Turkey

Publication Date: 
April, 2012


This report explores the hitherto untold experiences of women human rights defenders in East and South East Turkey, a burning issue. As in other situations of violent conflict and gendered and ethnic oppression, women in the Kurdish region of Turkey have been disproportionately affected from curtailed access to education, decent employment, loss of livelihoods. For decades they have experienced military conflict, internal displacement and the attendant social, economic and political strains, which often work to circumscribe women’s lives and render them more vulnerable to gendered control, both by the state and its security forces and their families and communities. Under these circumstances, becoming active as human rights defenders requires courage.

Yet, the women human rights defenders point out, that it is precisely these difficult circumstances that make it so urgent to address women’s and human rights issues. In taking up this challenge, the women human rights defenders may encounter reluctance from a public, whose rights they are defending, to accept and respect female advocates and activists. Carrying on despite the suspicions of those whose rights they defend requires courage.

The activities of these women human rights defenders have led to many of them encountering criminalization, intimidation, emotional, physical and sexual violence. This report documents the involvement of state security forces in these attacks on women human rights defenders. Interviews with women human rights defenders document violations they experienced at the hands of security forces in the pursuit of their activism. Defending human and women’s rights, despite threats and violence by security forces requires courage.

While some of the women have sought to seek justice against the perpetrators of this violence, this report documents a widespread frustration with the inefficacy of the Turkish legal and judiciary systems to protect them and bring the perpetrators to account. In addition, some women fear that reporting
the abuses they experience will lead to stigmatization in their families and communities, where the potential for sexual abuse is seen as shaming them rather than the perpetrators. Speaking out about these violations requires courage.

Considering all these obstacles in raising the issue of violence against women human rights defenders, this report represents an important achievement by the researchers of Roj Women’s Association. It brings these hitherto untold stories to the attention of the UK and international public. I hope that enough people will have the courage to read it.
Dr Umut Erel

Click here to download the report. A few print copies are available from Roj Women's Association.

Roj Women's Association

Roj Women’s Association campaigns to improve the lives of women in Kurdish regions and communities of the world. Kurdish women are subject to double discrimination as a result of their gender and of their ethnicity.

Our aim is to further their rights and to expand the opportunities available to them by drawing attention to the factors that shape their struggle and by advocating for the necessary changes to overcome them.