By G. – feminist activist from Turkey – Women’s Assembly of Migrant Coordination

On March 8th we will take our mourning, rebellion and rage and enlighten the night!

A month after a series of devastating earthquakes affecting 11 cities in Turkey, Kurdistan and Syria, taking tens of thousands of lives, women in Turkey and Kurdistan are ready to show their rage and solidarity toward the feminist mobilization on the 8th of march. Amid a situation of crisis, war and conflict, the political consequences of the earthquakes hit the worst upon women, Kurds, migrants, and children. In their public declarations over the severity of this natural disaster political institutions are trying to brush off their responsibilities by repeatedly calling it as the “disaster of the century” The reality is quite different: the capitalist, patriarchal and racist government of Turkey abandoned people under the ruins to die, making a political massacre out a natural catastrophe. This dramatic event showed once again the financial crisis of the state, with material and economic help unable to reach earthquake victims; corruption of public institutions; zoning amnesties disregarding earthquake regulations; lack of shelters; safety deficits; administrative and organizational problems. However, the Turkish State’s incapability to manage the disaster and organize the logistic of support goes beyond the political corruption and can be explained through a well calculated political will of not being present in the area due to its demographic composition and political orientation in view of upcoming elections of May 14th. The area, a part of Kurdistan, is historically inhabited by Kurds, Alevis, Armenians, Assyrians who have been persecuted and marginalized by the Turkish State with its racist and war politics; and by migrants who are considered only as a problem and used as political bargaining chips. The absence of the State in the region, whose presence gets visible only through war politics and bombings against Kurds, got filled by many different women collectives, NGOs, opposition parties who launched mobilization campaigns creating networks of solidarity for children, women, migrants to provide them with shelters, hygiene products, food, water and psychological support.

The responsible of this massacre is Erdogan who is ruling the State, sides by his (inter)national political and economic allies, like a company based on neoliberal politics reinforced by racist and patriarchal measures. This chaos is the evident result of Erdogan’s government which disregarded people’s lives for the sake of profit, by not inspecting contractors and municipalities, not taking the right precautions, stealing billions of euros worth taxes collected regularly and exclusively for the earthquake since 1999, favoring his own economic interests, placing his incompetent allies and family members in important positions of crucial organizations such as the national Search and Rescue Team (AFAD), Turkish Red Crescent (KIZILAY). The result is the death of more than 55.000 people -the real number is thought to be hidden from the public- due to lack of organization, equipment, training. Erdogan’s government not only failed on crisis control, but tried to monopolize aids to prevent helps to reach the area; search and rescue teams from different countries were put on hold for the AFAD’s prohibition to go to disaster zones, abandoning the population to the search for their loved ones under the ruins; aid trucks of opposition municipalities and independent NGOs as well as the construction machinery needed to move wrecks have been stopped and kept on hold to be inspected by AFAD. In every press release Erdogan terrified, threatened, insulted victims and sued those who criticized him and his government. While social media was the main instrument of communication in the first weeks, he blocked Twitter restricting the access in the entire Turkey; many people got detained immediately for their critical twits.

The absence of public institutions in the area renders women, migrants and the poor more and more vulnerable. Those who decide to leave or those who can’t leave their cities are facing an increasing risk of violence. Some of the women who are turning to their ex-husbands’ houses had been subjected to aggressions, and legal removal orders no longer apply. There is no way to assure the safety of the roads to meet toilet needs at nights., There is no state institution where women can report cases of sexual assaults, and harassments. Poor people and migrants who do not have economic resources or family members in other cities of Turkey are forced to stay in the destroyed areas, still trying to meet basic needs. In the aftermath of the earthquake, the Turkish government has lifted restrictions on the movement of refugees inside Turkey allegedly in order to facilitate their relocation, but actually in order to send the subliminal message that migrants should leave Turkey if they have the opportunity. But this is yet another sign of the hypocrisy of Erdogan’s migration policies supported by the EU, which caused more victims in the Mediterranean Sea. Indeed, expecting an increase in the number of people attempting to enter Europe from Turkey, the EU has agreed on tougher measures to reduce the number of irregular migrants. The recent massacre in the Mediterranean Sea is not a coincidence since the boat sank in southern Italy departed from Turkey.

Another immediate intervention of the State was to empty state student dormitories in major cities, and switch to online classes in all universities. Thousands of students have been kicked out from their dormitories and sent back home in one day. These dormitories are supposed to welcome earthquake victims although other housing solutions such as empty hotels, apartments and housing complexes – including Erdogan’s 1150 rooms residency – have been dismissed. While most of the dormitories are still empty, the main reason of this implosive online education maneuver is clear: they are afraid of student mobilization, protests, and organization. In fact, many students who protested this decision in front of the rectorate building of their universities had been detained. The protests claiming the resignation of the government are expanding from dormitories to streets and stadiums.

In a region where the monopoly of violence destroyed lives, houses, spaces, women are saving each other’s lives, through activating feminist solidarities. In the long term, they will demolish away this system that took many lives, to never come back again. This is the time, more than ever, to strike, to protest for our rights, our spaces, our lives. It is the time to strike against a government which is building its political campaign on the legitimization of hate and violence against Kurds accused to be “terrorists” and against women and LGBTIQ people, , in order to protect the “sacred” values of so called ‘traditional family’, the major supplier of unpaid reproductive work.  It’s the perfect time to take the local struggles and to fire back at the capitalist system that tries to silence us with its patriarchal and racist circle of violence. Once again, women from Turkey and Kurdistan are ready for the ‘Big 5th of march gathering’ in Kadıköy, and their ‘traditional 8th of march night protest’ in Taksim; taking their mourning, rage and rebellion to seize the darkness!

“If one of us is afraid of darkness at night, we will set the city on fire!”