The violence of the Turkish state against women dates back, before the founding of the state itself. With a system of normalized prostitution and child marriages under the Ottoman Empire, the Turkish state both militarily and domestically protects this culture of violence against women and children. This culture was seen in the example of Martyr Ekim Wan or Martyr Barin Kobane who were killed under the Erdogan regime under the guise of supposed military threats. There are also the examples of thousands of girls who were abducted and raped in Dersim per the founder of the fascist Turkish state, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. Though years have passed between both dictatorships, history has proven no different in terms of violence against women other than the tools which were used to kill them.
In 2013, the world experienced one of the rare moments in human history where words proved insufficient. On a June morning in the summer of 2013, media outlets of world states gravitated around the story of a Kurdish woman, a mother of three. “I was blindfolded, stripped naked, beaten…and they tried to put sticks up my anus. I fainted,” Hamdiye Aslan said. She was describing the torture she was put through by Turkish police after being detained for aiding and abetting members of the PKK.
On another June morning 20 years before Hamdiye’s case, Şükran Esen was also arrested on charges of assisting members of the PKK. In an aggravated felony court in the province of Mardin, a prosecutor indicted 405 members of the Derik District Gendarmerie Command, 65 of whom were senior officers, for raping Şükran Esen.
In 2012, Dicle News reported on the sexual abuse and torture inflicted on Kurdish children whilst imprisoned in Pozantı Juvenile Prison in Mersin. The children, all between the ages of 13-17, weren’t only sexually abused by prison officers, guards and soldiers, but denied medical attention and hung from basketball hoops until close to choking as a means of torture. “Some of our friends were raped by the ordinary prisoners dozens of times. They sometimes tried to force our trousers down. Our experiences cannot be described,” explained 15-year-old H.K.
With the use of social networking sites, the Pozantı case was exposed. The children were moved to another prison. The crimes of most of these children were listed as “throwing stones”.
These women and children who were supposedly raped for their ties to the PKK, or so it was made to seem. The vilest crime in society, the crime of dishonoring and humiliating, was in this way legitimized against the Kurdish woman. Top Turkish state officials appeared on national televisions with locker-room attitudes regarding these crimes, but the language of the excuses evolved. While women were previously only(!) being raped for their ties to the PKK, women were later raped for being Kurdish altogether. And then rape was not enough, Erdogan stood on a stage in Ankara directly commanding that Turkish soldiers kill women and children in their operation in Kurdistan.
But shedding of Kurdish blood was not a new policy of the Turkish state, it is one which dates back hundreds of years, before there was ever a military threat.
The woman’s body was attempted to be turned into tools of revenge by the Turkish man against the Kurdish society. Thus, with the launching of the Heftanin operation only recently, a wave of rape cases shook Kurdistan. These cases were committed by Turkish soldiers or representatives of the rapist state. Later, a young woman by the name of Ipek Er was abducted and raped continuously for 20 days by a Turkish specialist sergeant in Wan who later walked free of any charges, even after the young woman committed suicide. Last week, two Turkish security guards raped a Kurdish woman and pledged loyalty to their state as a defense for their crime.
These examples, a few out of the thousands, show clearly that the crimes being committed against the honor of the Kurdish woman, and therefore the Kurdish society, by Turkish state officials are not one-off events. They are ideological. And none of these inhuman crimes ever started after the founding of the PKK. In fact, the PKK was established on the basis of ending this inhuman treatment.
A short overview of Turkey’s brief yet bloody history as a state points to countless atrocities such as the Kurdish and Armenian genocides. Then there is also the Missing Girls Of Dersim, an atrocity being denied by the Turkish state till date. An atrocity which has fractured the society of Dersim, like the society in Shengal is still broken from Erdogan’s ISIS mercenaries.
The Missing Girls of Dersim
The Missing Girls of Dersim were detached from their families after the 1937-1938 ‘Tunceli Operation’ conducted by the supposedly secular Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. These girls whose families were murdered, were ripped away from their lands and assimilated by the state in psychological warfare centers disguised as boarding schools. Hundreds of the little girls were later placed into homes with sergeants or soldiers loyal to the Turkish state, so they never knew that they were Kurdish.
Reporting on these dirty policies before the operation, Fevzi Cakmak, a commander of the Ataturk army carried out research in the Dersim area to report how the area would be Turkified most efficiently. In his report, Fevzi had written that the people from Dersim should not be conscripted to the army as they pose a threat. The element had also detailed that the people of Dersim could not be assimilated through social assimilation policies, he said: “They only understand the language of the gun.”
The fascist Turkish state, under the rule of Ataturk, propagandized the genocide it committed in Dersim by claiming that it was cleansing the area from uncivilized and dirty people. In its endless quench for blood, the Turkish state cut open the bellies of pregnant women, raped their corpses or tortured children before the eyes of their families. In the name of modernization and democracy, the fascist dictator Ataturk and his hellhounds fed on the bodies of Kurdish villagers. While little boys were killed along with their families, the little girls were to face a different fate. They would be taken by the hellhounds to “boarding schools.”
Not knowing a single word of the Turkish language, thousands of little girls were raised as cadres of Kemalism, the ideology of Ataturk. But these girls did not live normal lives after being abducted by the murderers of their families. They ate under sinks because they were “impure”, their hairs (long hair is believed to be sacred In Kurdish communities) were cut off to be replaced with shorter western hairstyles. These girls were taught to believe that their identity as girls and women was a misfortune. They never found out that the opposite was true, which was why the Turkish state spent years trying to assimilate them, or break their will.
Special missionaries were deployed in the boarding schools, an example is Sidika Avar. A conversation between the murderer Ataturk and missionary Sidika was recorded by surrounding loyalists to reveal that Ataturk had said: “The best way to eliminate a society is by eliminating the families. The best way to eliminate a family is by eliminating the woman.” Just as he had mentioned, Ataturk spent the rest of his life attempting to eliminate Kurdish society by eliminating the Kurdish woman.
The role of the girls of Dersim were not limited to being assimilated, they were to be trained to assimilate too. What remained of the girls, returned to their motherlands as exemplar deputies of the state, as teachers, doctors or scientists. Upon their return, they were assigned to never speak a word of the Kurdish language and to perform as intellectual and forward-thinking role-models of the state. The girls ran Kemalist campaigns all over Dersim, to “help” the poor Kurdish girls of Dersim. These women were trained to reproduce the violence which cost them their identities.