The feminist corner at the Gezi-Park is easy to recognize: lilac banner blow in the wind and feminist leaflets as well as beautiful daisies are placed on a small table in front of a tent. I’m here to find out something about the feminist view on Turkey and the latest events. My today’s date Ilke Gökdemir invites me to sit down on the grass next to her and starts to speak before I’m even able to switch on my recorder. As everybody else here she is very proud and happy about what is happening at the Gezi-Park.
“It’s been so impulsively and uncontrolled. Nobody knew what would happen next but somehow we all created this amazing space together. This place doesn’t belong to the government anymore, it doesn’t belong to the police either. It’s just our space” she says. I perfectly understand what she is talking about. Still today Gezi-Park gives me goosebumps every time I visit. There is music everywhere, people dance and I enjoyed more than one delicious meal for free in the bright sun. People just bring all their stuff to the park and share it with a smile. Every stone and every tree has grown into an art-object. “This is a historic moment” Ilke says.
As everybody I spoke to, she points out that literally everybody is here, from the student to the worker. Until now the park-occupation works perfectly without any organization or leader. “Usually, demonstrations in Turkey are dominated by men. Occupygezi isn’t. We are as many women as men and we feel safer here than we ever felt before.”
After we shared some of our experiences in the occupied park, I ask her about her reasons for participating in the protests. “Of course, I don’t want a new shopping center to be built on the Gezi-Park.”, she says. “But isn’t just that. The raise of conservatism in the last ten years influenced women s lives in a bad way. I’m here to create an awareness about it and to fight back.”
In her free-time Ilke is committed in a shelter for battered women. There she meets many women who have experienced violence in their lives. “We have laws in Turkey to protect women. But they are applied rarely. If a women in Turkey goes to the police or conducts a lawsuit she won’t be treated as good as a men is. A lot of the women we work with have huge files because they accused their husband several times but nothing ever happened.” And a new law which is supposed to protect women and families makes the work at the shelter even more difficult. “We were supposed to collaborate on the new law. But in the end about none of our suggestions were used. Instead things we never discussed appeared in it.” And some new laws, like the draft for a new abortion-law are even openly anti-women. The draft was presented earlier this year and ever since women protesting against it. Abortions in Turkey are legal until the tenth week after the conception. The new regulation wants to allow hospitals to refuse the abortion. In rural areas, where is only one hospital, the new regulation would make abortions practically illegal.
As already the students I spoke to yesterday she sees Erdogan’s call for at least three children as a presumption. Also he said women who perform an abortion are murders. Comments like this raise Ilke’s anger. “Tayyip [Erdogan] shouldn’t get away with such statements. Nobody can dictate a women what to do with her body. It’s only her body and only her choice!”
Atatürk once banned the headscarf in public places because he though it is a sign backwardness. Erdogan made it possible again for women who wear a headscarf to visit a public school, university or work for the government. The girls I lived with during the last weekend really liked him for that improvement and also Ilke is positive about it. “The situation for women wearing a headscarf improved. It is a kind of violence if a women who wears a headscarf can’t go to school, university or work. But unfortunately relieving them from this violence doesn’t make them free. Just as every other women they still suffer from men s violence and superiority.”
For now the most important thing for Ilke is to sum up the protests in political requests. “We need to show the world that we are not just against something but also have new ideas. Of course, one request is fixed already: We don’t want a shopping mall. We want the Gezi-Park. As a feminist I add: A women should have the right to decide about her body herself. Everybody should know that it is the women s decision whether she wants to have children or not.” Nobody really know what will happen to the occupied Gezi-Park in the next days. Ilke doesn’t know it either but she sets her hopes in talks between the protester and some politician. “But I’m sure about one thing: If they try to violently clear the park again we will be millions standing up for it.”