20 July 2012

Professor Mary Davis, well-known academic, trade unionist and former elected member of the TUC women’s committee, has returned from the Kurdish regions of southeast Turkey after a ten day visit.

Professor Davis was part of an international delegation which was initiated by CENI – Women’s Office for Peace and supported by the Peace in Kurdistan Campaign. With 12 delegates in all, the group visited a variety of women’s organisations, women’s rights and human rights groups based in and around Diyarbakir (Amed), to strengthen solidarity with them in the face of increasing repression from the Turkish state against the women’s movement and the trade union movement.

The mayor of Sur municipality, Abdullah Demirbas, explained that his council would not tolerate domestic violence. Perpetrators would lose their jobs and any financial benefits. This is surely one of the most progressive policies most of the group had heard of.

The delegation has reported that in every one of the projects they visited – from the women-run news agency JinHa, to the women’s advice centre Dikasum, to the women’s section of the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) – they were told that the on going military conflict, state repression, internal displacement and patriarchal violence have continued to exacerbate the oppression of women in the region.

The delegation also travelled to Wan, the site of a 7.2 magnitude earthquake last October which killed nearly 700 people, where they met with representatives from the Confederation of Trade Unions for Public Services (KESK). They also met the ‘peace mothers’: those women whose children have been killed by the Turkish State. The trade union movement in Turkey is also facing a clampdown on their activities as anti-terror raids have swept though union offices; in October last year, 25 members of Egitim Sen, a teaching union affiliated with KESK were convicted of terrorist offences and sentenced to 6 years in prison, whilst just last month, around 70 KESK members were arrested in 20 different cities across Turkey, again on the pretext of anti-terror operations.

News of this attack on unions has begun to reach the labour movement across the world. But as Professor Davis explains,

‘much more needs to be done to draw attention to state repression given that we witnessed a shocking example of this on July 14th when a peaceful demonstration was brutally attacked by the militarised repressive arm of the Turkish state. The plight of the Kurds, especially those residing in Turkey, is little understood in the UK; but it deserves our urgent attention.’

She welcomes that in the UK, a motion was recently adopted at the UNITE policy conference that condemned the Turkish government for decimating the working class movement and fostering divisions among the people, but goes on to say ‘we now need an emergency motion to be passed by the TUC in September’.

This delegation was made possible due the generous contributions of the Lipman-Miliband Trust, UNISON South Lanarkshire and UNITE London North West Branch.

For further information, contact:

Peace in Kurdistan
Campaign for a political solution of the Kurdish Question
Contacts Estella Schmid 020 7586 5892 & Melanie Sirinathsingh – Tel: 020 7272 7890

Patrons: Lord Avebury, Lord Rea, Lord Dholakia, Baroness Sarah Ludford MEP, Jill Evans MEP, Jean Lambert MEP, Alyn Smith MEP, Bairbre de Brún MEP, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Hywel Williams MP, Elfyn Llwyd MP, John

In support of:

CENÎ – Kurdisches Frauenbüro für Frieden e.V.
Kurdish Women’s Office for Peace
Corneliusstrasse 125 D- 40215 Düsseldorf, Germany
Tel.: 0049 (0)211 598 92 51 E-mail: