One of the biggest handicaps of Turkey’s opposition is the undermining of its sense of self-justification and legitimacy. The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), during its 18 year reign, has resorted to all types of methods in its handling of opposition groups, sometimes using a carrot but usually a stick, but always focusing on eroding the opposition's feeling of legitimacy. This has been the AKP's basic method of oppression, including during the period when it was in alliance with the Gülenist movement.
Courts and police, but essentially “discursive power,” have been and continues to be systematically used for this purpose.
This method has been practiced so successfully that not only the democratic opposition, but also those who broke away from the AKP, have started seeing expressions of guilt in their reflections in the mirror.
However, even in its severest periods, when the most intense aspects of fascism have been imposed on society, there has been one opposition force that the government was not able to traumatize and disturb the sense of legitimacy of, one movement it was not able to remove from the streets and force to stay at home: The feminist movement.
Women, who are under attack not only by the government and the AKP but also by men in general, are engaged in a struggle of life and death. Let's put aside the statistics: those who have been murdered, injured, kept under physical and psychological attack, raped and abused, are not only numbers but are souls.
The political power which supports men, and all the institutions that are under the control of this power, in both its political practices and discourses, is today trying to delegitimize and criminalize feminists.
They are activating intense pressure campaigns against women on the street and at police stations. In the pro-government media, the “mullas” are using religion to adapt new generations to misogyny. And in school curricula and mosque sermons, the misogynistic, discriminatory discourse is being spitefully incorporated.
In courtrooms, murderers of women enjoy time off for “good behavior.” Legal gains toward the equalization of genders are trying to be narrowed down to purely formal legal status--and they are even trying to be scraped from there also.
Murderers of women know that if it were not for the resistance and struggle of women’s movement they would be able to wear the shield of impunity.
Women’s institutions are besieged; they are trying to be “conquered” from both inside and outside.
On days such as the International Women’s Day on March 8, heavy attacks are inflicted on women in their numerous acts and activities.
But despite all these sieges and attacks, the women’s movement in Turkey continues to constitute the biggest barrier in front of hegemony of both the main opposition and the government in the country.
If the AKP had been able to fully oppress the women’s opposition and the feminists up to now, they would have had a rose garden in front of them. Yes, women, in the eyes of the government are not “roses;” they are thorns.
The two components sustain any opposition movement are valid for feminists also: The feeling of being justified and being legitimate, and the awareness that even reconciliation - let alone giving up resisting - will be the end of everything.
Those who have closed their mouths under pressure, those who have hoped to emerge from the political storms unharmed, without paying any price, those who avoid forming an alliance by using disputes as excuses - those that can easily be postponed - and those who assume they can be free of the wrath of the government by acting moderate, should look at the feminists, at the women’s movement.
The women’s movement that does not feel the need to be under one flag, one political party or one leader, is showing the general opposition not only what is happening now, but also what should be happening. They are free discrimination on the basis of ethnicity or belief; they do not put ideological differences at the center of their joint struggle. They care for each other, they do not say “but,” they do not disregard the prices paid, and they fight with extraordinary resistance for each woman murdered, demanding justice.
Moreover, this opposition is able to be woven from every field of life, not only on the street, social media or meeting halls.
Without relying on anything or anyone, without looking for reconciliation, without shying away from confronting the harshest face of the government, they pay prices and show the opposition what the price of a lack of such an opposition is.
The fact that the feminist movement knows that their own struggle is an issue of life and death, and that they do not lose their belief in their own legitimacy, makes the movement stronger and larger in the face of pressures. Thus, this experience has a lot to tell all opposition groups.
Feminists will of course explain it better but, when looking from outside, one can say that one of the driving forces of this strength is the awareness that the struggle for others is at the same time the struggle for one own self. This seems to be one of the biggest deficiencies of the opposition in Turkey – apart from feminists.
Thus, even though they have been positioned against the government, those who are dispersed with each wave of pressure, those who are after proving their innocence instead of their justification, have a lot to learn from the feminist movement.