By Marta Sömek @Ucgenindisinda
ISTANBUL – Since the Genocide of 1915 in which Armenians, Syriacs, Pontic-Greeks were slaughtered, activist women from different nationalities we interviewed indicate that women, children, and millions of people have been exposed to an uninterrupted campaign of racist attacks, murder, and massacres. They point to the despicable murder of Democratic Peoples’ Party (HDP) member Deniz Poyraz as the latest proof of this campaign. Poyraz was murdered on June 17 in a racist attack by Turkish nationalist Onur Gencer in the HDP’s Izmir provincial office. We asked women of different nations for their opinion on the subject: the Armenian Kayuş Çalıkman Gavrilof, the Syriac Sariya and the Pontic-Greek (Rum) Katrin Nikolao. All live in Turkey.
‘We never got the chance to forget our pain’
The Armenian Kayuş Çalıkman Gavrilof about the murder of Deniz Poyraz; “We try to not think of such massacres in terms of ethnicity, but the existing and deep wounds always have their effect,” she said. Such murders and methods have been repeated over and over for centuries, “we never got the chance to forget our pain. Incitement is followed by murder. The victim is blamed, not the perpetrator. After the murder comes the denial.”
‘They try to acquit the perpetrator and justify what happened’
Kayuş said perpetrators are being protected “as if this were an unwritten law written by an invisible hand”. The methodical system of “incite, kill, look for the shooter and killer, and then blame the victim” is a method in use since the reign of Sultan Abdelhamid. And again, we have to witness another murder. Just as it has been for hundreds of years; “You have no time to mourn, no time is given to pay your last respects. “They are trying to acquit the perpetrator and justify what happened.” The event of not being able to mourn is very painful. It’s a systematic thing and I’m experiencing the impact and pain of my historical past to an even greater degree,” she said.
‘There is no opportunity to process your grief’
Kayuş notes that killings and massacres have not ceased since the Genocides of 1915 in which Armenians, Syriacs and Pontic Greeks were massacred. The murder of Deniz Poyraz is the last example of the racist attacks, killings, and massacres that women, children, and millions of people were subjected to. “It both devastates you and they do not even give you the opportunity to process your grief,” Kayuş says;
‘Why this misogyny’
Kayuş said the Istanbul Convention will be repealed on July 1, and that this will pave the way for new killings. “Words have failed, and the front lines have been drawn. This is what we are living through now. You do not understand it. Why this misogyny? Everyone took to the streets and social media in protest of Turkey stepping out of the Istanbul Convention, which protects women. But this government has positioned itself in such a way that it does not listen anymore to anyone or anything. It is like we are facing a fait accompli. All fruits fall and if the fruit will fall anyway, there is nothing you can do about it. The government is on a path whereby it wants to hurt the enemy as much as possible. Until the end and regardless of the damage.
“It is not over. It is not over! This system will surely collapse.”
Kayuş points out that the patriarchal state structure has permeated Turkish society; “We are in such a mess that even 50 or 60 years will not be enough to recuperate from this. All evils have erupted; They have indoctrinated the people, their characters, mentality, they destroyed society sociologically,” she said. She emphasizes that LGBTI+s, women, Armenians, Kurds, Syriacs, Laz and all peoples demand their full rights, and these demands will not go away. It is not over. It is not over. “Our demands won’t go away! Women are in revolt at all time. This system will surely collapse. Of course, it will implode and collapse, we are just waiting for this.”
‘Another mother’s heart is burning’
As Syriac women, they condemn every murder regardless of ethnicity. The Syriac Sariya wants to underline that she condemns all kinds of violence against women. “We have lost a young woman today. We send our condolences to her family. Another mother’s heart is burning.” There has been no progress since 1915. Sariya claims that violence has increased due to the fact that the perpetrators have not been given deterrent punishments. The Istanbul Convention is a protection and shield for women living in Turkey, Sariya said. “As a Syriac woman with daughters and living in Turkey, every day I send my daughters to school with fear. Will something happen to them tomorrow? Me, and all other women with me, will raise their children in this fear. Therefore, we need to keep the Convention alive, we must keep it alive!”.
Sariya calls on all women to stand up and act: “Even women in power are not happy with the situation. Everyone feels remorse for the murder of a woman. This process must end.”
‘Similar to the Hrant Dink massacre’
The Rum Katrin Nikolao also comments about the vile attack against the HDP and Deniz Poyraz; “The murder of Deniz Poyraz hurt me a lot. “Hurting people by throwing them against the street surface, agitation, intimidation of Kurds and other peoples, scaring and intimidation… this is all pure provocation.” Katrin draws attention to how Onur Gencer, the perpetrator of the murder on Deniz Poyraz, is protected and embraced by the prevailing mentality of “praising and empowering private militias trained by our tax money. A mentality which has become evident by perpetrators saying they just were “doing their job so let me go.” We have seen the same with the murder of Hrant Dink.”
‘Women were discredited under AKP rule’
Katrin says that the peoples in this country have paid a great price and continue to pay the price; “It’s a shame, people are made to hate each other. It is such a shame a young woman like Deniz had to pay this price.” Katrin too points to the importance of the Istanbul Convention in the fight against violence. “The Istanbul Convention is almost an insurance for women against violence,” Katrin says. Her evaluation is that women have been discredited during the 20-year rule of the Justice and Development Party (AKP).
‘All rights won through women’s struggle in Turkey will be ignored’
Katrin emphasized that the Istanbul Convention is a very comprehensive document with legal binding consequences. It protects refugee and migrant women and children and includes LGBTI+ rights. It is a human rights document. Katrin concludes that with the repealing of the Convention, all the rights gained through women’s struggle in Turkey will be ignored.
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