Multilayered Intersectional Citizenship: The Kurdish Women's Movement in North Kurdistan/ Turkey

Sunday, 10 July 2016: 12:30
Location: Hörsaal I (Neues Institutsgebäude (NIG))
Oral Presentation
Umut EREL, Sociology, Open University, Milton Keynes, United Kingdom
Necla ACIK, Manchester University, UK, United Kingdom
The image of the Kurdish woman fighter has become iconic in the recent conflict of extremist Islamist groups in the Middle East, symbolising a secular, self-confident Middle Eastern femininity, opposed to Islamization. Yet, few beyond the Kurdish community and area studies specialists, are aware of the long history of Kurdish women’s activism, without which these recent interventions of Kurdish women as fighters and organizers against Islamist violence would not have been possible.

Mobilizing intersectional analysis, this paper explores the Kurdish women’s movement in Turkey/ North Kurdistan through the theoretical framing of multi-layered citizenship. While Kurdish women have been politically active for a long time, in the mobilizations for democratic and ethnic rights since the 1990s they came to form a mass movement. This mass movement is particularly interesting because it became vocal in challenging not only ethnic, but also gender oppression. The paper highlights the role of the Kurdish women’s movement within the Kurdish national movement, disrupting ideas that women’s movements within national liberation movements are bound to be co-opted and confined to the role of handmaidens of nationalism. The Kurdish experience instead, shows how Kurdish women’s movement has established its own institutions, processes of successfully increasing women’s participation and representation in formal politics, such as quotas and the co-chair system, taken up by wider political parties and civil society organizations in Turkey. This activism in combination with campaigns for gender equality, such as that against sexual violence, has established a social consciousness that gender equality is a key aspects of democratization, a cornerstone of the Kurdish national movement’s demands from the Turkish state.

The paper argues that the Kurdish women’s movement has co-created the Kurdish national movement since the 1990s, thereby changing the meaning of politics and sparking debates on representation of women in politics in Turkey more widely.