Are the abortion rights in France at risk due to the upcoming presidential elections?

17/01/2017

This January 17th was the forty-first anniversary of the “veil law”, which gave cisgender women of France the right to get an abortion. This right was won by the hard work of determined feminists in France. It was a long battle, spanning many centuries. Back in the forties, having an abortion in France was penalized by capital punishment and even though that the last execution took place in 1942, having an abortion was still a crime until the seventies. In 1944 women were allowed to vote in elections in France, at the time the feminist movement was spreading around Europe and in France, the main focus was on reproductive rights. After family planning was established, several clinics opened up and contraception was legalized in 1967 – yes folks, it was illegal!

In 1971, 343 female public figures signed a manifesto declaring that they’d had an abortion and asked to stand trial. The text of the manifesto was written by Simone de Beauvoir and began as follows:

One million women in France have abortions every year. Condemned to secrecy, they do so in dangerous conditions, while under medical supervision this is one of the simplest procedures. We are silencing these millions of women. I declare that I am one of them. I declare that I have had an abortion. Just as we demand free access to contraception, we demand the freedom to have an abortion.” (via revolvy)

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Cover of Le Nouvel Observatoire

The manifesto was published on Le Nouvel Observatoire is often referred as the “Manifesto of 343 sluts” due to the fact that after the release of the manifesto, cartoonist Cabu (who was murdered during the Charlie Hebdo shooting) drew a cover for Charlie Hebdo stating: “Who got the 343 sluts from the abortion manifesto pregnant?”

Two years later, in 1973, over three hundred doctors in France signed a declaration stating that they support abortion rights and a woman’s right to make decisions about their reproductive health. Finally the public began to support the campaign and abortion was legalised in 1974 for up to 10 weeks of pregnancy, this was later extended to 12 weeks. Additionally, since 1982, abortion fees have been paid through social security as a fundamental right.

With this brief history of the battle driven by feminists in France over half a century, to improve the access to a safe and legal abortion, France may now be seen to be taking a step backwards regarding this issue in the upcoming presidential elections. There has been a huge increase in anti-abortion campaigns run by conservatives. The current parliament even voted to ban anti-abortion websites, however, it backfired with huge criticism from conservatives stating that banning these websites is against their freedom of speech. Presidential candidates for the upcoming election are taking their stand on the issue as well. François Fillon, the official candidate from the Republican Party, Les Républicains, has stated that because of his religious beliefs he is against abortion, but that he would not change the law itself. Yet far right candidate from the Front National, Marine Le Pen, said that she does not agree that abortion should be paid for with social security and that she would like to alter this decision.

As the campaigns against abortion increase and as the political candidates start taking their stands on the issue, the current access abortion rights appear to be at risk. As a result of this, on the anniversary of the day when the legalisation of abortion passed in France, INSOMNIA, a feminist squad based in Paris, known for their night actions, walked the streets of Paris and hung a thousand posters using coat-hangers with the following statements:

  •         IVG: non au retour du cintre en mai 2017  (Abortion: we say no to the return of the hanger in May 2017)*
  •         Avortement  sans médecin: plus jamais (Abortions without a doctor: never again)*
  •         IVG  remboursé en 2017 : un droit non négociable (Socially secured abortion in 2017 : a non-negotiable right)*
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Photography by Pauline Makoveitchoux

These posters and the use of coat-hangers were designed to attract the attention of passers-by, as they are tragic reminders of the lengths that women were forced to go to when abortions were illegal. INSOMNIA intentionally left coat-hangers and posters in front of the building of Le Figaro, which is a newspaper known for supporting the central-right and which has recently published an advertisement using anti-abortion propaganda.

INSOMNIA, in their press release, stated that abortion rights which have been won in France are non-negotiable and that politicians do not have the right to make decisions on women’s bodies. They demand that the compensation of abortions should remain a constitutional right in the French legislation. They also demand that the right to abortion be inscribed in the Charter of fundamental rights of the European Union.*

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Photography by Pauline Makoveitchoux

Never forget that a political, economical or religious crisis is enough to cast doubt on women’s rights. These rights will never be vested. You have to stay vigilant your whole life.” – Simone de Beauvoir.*

*Localisations of the slogans, the press release and the quote of Simone de Beauvoir were done by INSOMNIA

(This article was published on European Young Feminist Blog on 26/01/2017)

“In Turkey, girls aren’t raised to be heroines”

24/10/2015

“Mustang”, a movie about young girls’ oppression in Turkey, has been nominated for the Oscars in the category “Best Foreign Language Film”. An interview with its director, Deniz Gamze Ergüven

All of these people that I’d met or run into this past summer told me that I should see Mustang – an epic tale of five sisters who live with their grandmother and uncle in a seaside village in Karadeniz, Turkey. I went to one of these old cinemas in Paris to watch it this October. After all those scenes where little laughter and giggles filled the theatre, I felt like there was this big knot in my throat. I was born and raised in Turkey, I have a sister as well, and those scenes seemed so familiar. After a point this knot got bigger, tears went down my face and I when looked through the audience, I saw this French man crying right next to me. Once the film was over I walked outside, and just in the corner of the cinema, I hugged my boyfriend and cried for minutes. I remember I kept saying “these things happen in Turkey and then people dare to ask me why we need feminism.

The film is directed and co-written by Deniz Gamze Ergüven, a woman who was born in Turkey and moved to Paris when she was 6 months old with her parents. She completed her entire education in Paris yet has never broken her bonds with Turkey. I had to find this woman, the woman who left an elephant sitting on my chest, who stealthily told a story, a story about being a woman, a story about how conservative culture oppresses young girls and destroys their lives, yet there is hope to be found! I contacted Deniz Gamze and we met in a café in Paris back in October 2015. She was so familiar it didn’t feel like an interview!

 

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“Mustang” got nominated in the category “Best Foreign Language Film” in Oscars 2016.

Can you explain the development process of Mustang?
I wrote the scenario with my friend Alice Winocour in the summer of 2012. The story had a structure and mechanics, just like a clock. The script didn’t allow much change and new versions. Whenever we wanted to change something, it was as if the balance was broken. After graduating from La Fémis, I’ve written a script, but I couldn’t shoot it. That’s why I was so ambitious to start shooting, and to work with actors and actresses.

 

How did you pick the 5 artists for the roles of the sisters?

I thought about these sisters as one character, as if they had 5 heads, 10 arms and 10 legs, like a Lernaean Hydra. I worked with a casting director and tried different combinations for 9 months. For me the hardest part was distributing the roles. It was important to show the cross relationships within the group and also the group’s relationship. Plus they all needed to look similar. Some of them look like twins. When they first met each other they were observing one and other with surprise.

This is your first feature-length film. It collected so many awards and attention. Were you expecting this? The movie was nominated for the Oscars by France and not from Turkey, how do you feel about this?

To be honest, while I was making the film, the furthest part that I saw was the movie making it to Cannes. When we were at Cannes, all of the distributers who’ve bought the movie came to talk to me and not once did they mention “to how many places did they sell the film” but instead they talked about their feelings towards the movie. This really affected me. People from many different cultures have bought this movie, they were sensitive to the issue and they understood the story. The nomination process for the Oscars actually happened very spontaneously. A very powerful distributer from USA has bought the movie and told me that he wanted to have an Oscar campaign for this movie. Actually I was expecting it to be elected from Turkey, but it didn’t turn out that way. But I had this instinct about this movie making it to the Oscars. Then it got elected from France and it came as a surprise! This is a very big honour for me. Really.

I read the comments in Turkish social media after your first interview getting published in Turkish media such as “there’s no child marriage tradition in Karadeniz” or “another director in Europe who tries to make Turkey look bad.” What do you think about these critics? Do you believe that your movie realistically narrates the cultural structure of that area?

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The official movie poster

Since the first screening of the movie in Cannes critics of “this movie is not Turkish” had begun. This was strange for me, hearing this from people who did not even see the film.  Do movies really belong to a nation? We are one of those countries that rarely sends movies abroad. When the situation is like this, then we are forced to look through only one window, as if we are responsible to narrate the entire reality of Turkey. When there’s such obligation then you cannot do what you actually would like to do. This movie, does tell some realities from Turkey. These are things that I have lived, I have seen. If the stories told in the movie are not real, why was I told exactly the same things when I was at the same age of Lale? I was playing with my cousins and I got on the shoulders of some boys, and I’ve got told the same accusations that Lale got! My reaction was to look down, to be embarrassed. This is a story that happened to me in Turkey. What is fiction in this movie is the part where Lale refuses this oppression of embarrassment and she breaks the chair on the terrace saying “these chairs have touched our asses, they are disgusting too.” This, of course, is not real. What Lale does there is something heroic. In Turkey girls are not raised to be heroines, they are raised to be well behaved and polite. Mustang is not a historical work. The reality I sought in this movie was the reality of a feeling, the feeling of being a woman. Does Mustang tell the feeling of being a woman? I think it does.

The concepts such as abuse of young girls, child marriage and insect are a big taboo. There’s a common perception such as “it would not happen in our family”, “someone I know would not do this” or “this is not specific to our country” where there’s a denial of the crime or an attempt to blame someone else. What do you think should be done in order to break this taboo?

What surprises me the most is that, I don’t mean small families but in big families, I don’t think I’ve ever come across one that this doesn’t exist. Our responsibility is to question and look into the reality. When you swipe the dirt under the rug, it does not disappear, on the contrary we should make it more visible. Not just as artists but as citizens, our duty is to question, to reflect on it and search for reality. As a filmmaker, I cannot close my eyes and pretend that these experiences of people don’t exist. Especially on issues like these, I don’t think I have the right to do that.

In the past couple of years the conversation around sexism in Hollywood has increased. What are your opinions on sexism in cinema?

Actually there has been a very fast change regarding this issue. In our school we were only 2 women in my class. For example there’s a position called “script supervisor” and it’s mostly women who are in these positions. They call them “script girl.” There’s a perception such as each job is more suitable for women or men. It’s as if women are being pushed away from jobs that require leadership. To be a director means that you have to fight and persist on your idea sometimes. And it’s so interesting; there are some women who say “I do not have this in my character.” There’s a perception as if women cannot have these characteristics.

Don’t you think these are actually gender stereotypes?

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“Mustang screens intelligent girls as brave figures.”

Of course they are and they exist so strongly! This exists in Hollywood as well but now people started to question it. Mustang screens intelligent girls as brave figures. We lack this in cinema! In the western world, women feel more equal yet they have so many things to say that are stuck in their throats. This movie portrays so much of what we live, what we want to say in an optimistic way that it appeals to Western or American women as well. This is beyond me or Turkey.

You were pregnant throughout the shooting of this movie, how did this reflect on the movie?

I learned about my pregnancy just one week before the producer quit the movie. I did not have the right to be stressed and not shooting the movie just because I’m pregnant was not a choice. I guess this situation gave me some kind of calmness. When the producer left the movie, I was basically dead for the team. The movie did not exist, everything was over. And everybody pitied me, saying “look what happened and the poor thing is pregnant.” I guess when I accomplished to put everything back on track nobody dared to mess with me. The pregnancy, holding everything together, me being persistent, all of these created a different mood for the team.

I gave birth on the same day that we learned about the murder of Özgecan Aslan [20-year-old student who was brutally murdered by 3 men as she resisted rape in February 2015 in Turkey.] I was disconnected from the world for 24 hours and the next day when I looked at the news, I saw Özgecan. I will remember that photo forever. During those hours as a woman I was experiencing giving birth and her experiencing that affected me a lot. Just 2 days after birth I started working again, I never stopped. I finished this movie cheek to cheek with my child. The first 3 months after birth is like the continuation of pregnancy, he was just like a little monkey attached to me. We finished the post-production together.

Can we say that you’ve given birth to two things at the same time, your child and your movie?

Yes, I always talk about it like this as well, they’re twins! I gave birth during the sound editing of the movie. I was going to work with someone I don’t know and we were supposed to meet in a café yet I realized I couldn’t get out of the apartment. I was just out of the hospital 2 days ago, I have a crying and hungry baby and I myself don’t even know what to do! So I called him and invited him to come over. When I opened the door he saw me with a 2 day old baby in my arms. It’s the first time we meet and there I am breastfeeding. I don’t think he ever saw me without my baby attached to me.

Many find similarities between Mustang and Virgin Suicides. How do you respond to that?

Yes this question is asked many times. Yet they are similar but I was not inspired by it. I read the book and I watched the film but Mustang is my story. My family, just like in Virgin Suicides, is a women’s family. Especially when I look at the photos of my mother’s generation, I see girls in long hair, if I was to describe them romantically they are like a girls’ nebula. I also have one interesting story from my childhood. One summer we were at our family house and other relative girls arrived as well. Blonds, brunettes, we were all together like in a coop. A neighbor boy has asked our friend the phone number of the house and our friend asked “for which one?” and he responded: “doesn’t matter, just any one of them.” I still remember this memory. This approach of not being able to differentiate between the girls, this perception of “what difference does it make, it’s just a girl.” This memory I have is a very common point with Virgin Suicides.

We see an #OccupyGezi t-shirt being locked in a closet with the rest of the “objectionable and dangerous” objects in the movie. What was your experience of Gezi Park protest in Turkey? Do you have hope for the future of Turkey?

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Dilara Gürcü (left) with the director Deniz Gamze Ergüven

My eyes are always on Turkey. I don’t lose my sleep over France but I do over Turkey. When the Gezi Park Protests began, I was in Los Angeles, and immediately I flew to İstanbul. When the police attacked to empty the park, I was there, standing on the stairs of the park. Not being there, was not an option for me. The ideas that women established there were very exciting, revolutionary, and even more modern than of the western cultures. There were ideas that got transferred from one occupy movement to another. New critical perspectives were created on capitalism, ecology and feminism.

But of course, after that, it was like we were beaten with wet wooden sticks. It was as if we really lost a big combat. Now we are in a period in Turkey where people are afraid to and therefore cannot really express their opinions publicly. The public conversation is suppressed. We are in a period where our main values are shaken, from democracy to secularity. It’s very difficult to see the future of Turkey. The geopolitical situation of the country is very sensitive.

It’s difficult to say if I am hopeful or not. Yet what I find truly healthy and hopeful is that there’s always an amazing reaction whenever something negative happens. For instance whenever they do or say something conservative about women in Turkey, the feminists react very collectively and powerfully.

What are your plans for your upcoming movies?

Each day there’s a new project coming up. I’m in a period just like when Mustang was developing. There are some cars on the street and I don’t know which one is going to pass the other one. Alice and I are writing a new script which takes places in İstanbul and my Los Angeles project is on discussion again, it’s becoming a very strong possibility.

*All images are courtesy of Cohen Media Group. The last picture was taken by freelance journalist Sophie Janine

(This interview was published on European Young Feminists Blog on 15/11/2016)

Feminists in Paris gave a name to invisible murders: Femicide!

25/11/2016

In France a woman is murdered by a man they know every 2.5 days. Lea G. aged 18, Fabienne S. aged 56 and Maryvonne G. aged 73 were all murdered in France this year at the hands of men. This year alone 100 women have been murdered in France.

Parisians woke up on the 25th of November to witness a feminist intervention on 100 billboards scattered around Paris. INSOMNIA, a feminist squad based in Paris, took over the streets during the night of 24th November for a subversive collective action. They replaced 100 billboards on the major boulevards of Paris, with posters of the 100 women who were victims of femicide. Each poster detailed the name of one of the women, their age, and who killed them. They were murdered by their husbands, partners, ex-partners, fathers or brothers, men who were close to them. INSOMNIA declared that their motivation is to give a name and an identity to these women whilst emphasising their cause of death: femicide!

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INSOMNIA declared that their aim was to influence the French Government to recognize femicide as a crime, like it is recognized by Italy, Spain and seven countries in South America. Currently, the French Government is discussing a new law proposal called: “Equality and Citizenship” where the sex of the victim would be considered as an aggravating factor. INSOMNIA are demanding that this new law is passed and once it’s in place, it should be applied by jurisdiction.

Femicide is not a common crime, it is not a private family matter, and it is definitley not a passion crime. The media, by not naming the victims and perpetrators, demonstrates their ignorance towards male dominance in society and contributes to the normalization of these crimes. INSOMNIA calls for the media to portray femicide with the proper and correct acknowledgments when publishing news stories on femicide.

INSOMNIA is a new feminist squad formed in Paris who combat sexism with subversive street action at night. Their first action took place this summer, they covered the windows of a bagel shop, Bagelstein, in Paris due to a sexist advertisement they displayed. This summer, Denis Baupin, the former deputy speaker of the French Parliament was accused of sexual assault by his colleagues. Bagelstein used this sexual assault story as “humour” to adversite their bagels. The advertisment posters were pulled down quickly after the action and changed by “le jury de la déontologie publicitaire” the French governing body who make judgements on advertisment ethics.

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Today, on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women INSOMNIA took the streets once again to revolt for the all the women who are victims of femicide and victims of male violence! They call for proper action to take place in order to end femicide!

 (This article was published on European Young Feminists Blog on 25/11/16)

Beyond the breaking point: No Tolerance For Rape in Greece!

26/09/2017

In Greek city of Larissa, two senior men abducted a 14-year old girl. They held her against her will in an apartment for 15 days, sexually abused her and systematically forced her into prostitution. The two men (one of them was her Godfather) were arrested yet others who were involved into this crime are still not. The girl’s identity is being kept hidden and she’s currently under protection, yet what was the public reaction to this crime in Greece?

Feminists in Greece have reported that they were highly disappointed in the fact this crime was seen as specific case whereas this girl is not the only person who has been sexually abused in Greece. They explained that no protests were organized and the media coverage was poor and mainly focused on pitying the victim and ignoring the sexual violence issue in Greece. They stated that the rape culture in Greece is beyond the breaking point and therefore they have gathered to formed a movement called: “No Tolerance”. No Tolerance will the voice of women in Greece who have been a victim of sexual, physical, psychological, economical violence and sexist discrimination.

Here’s the statement from No Tolerence: “Five people are accused for what the 14-year old girl went through. These people, as usual, are presented by the media as “monsters”, “sickos” etc. However, when we look at their photos, we only see ordinary men and not “antisocial elements”. The rapes were not committed by “antisocial elements”, they were committed by relatives, neighbors, lawyers, grocers and family men of the town. A whole society stands silently by, complicit in this rape and in every rape. The media are also complicit, when they represent each case of rape, murder and abuse of women as a surprising and isolated event. Those who are, every single time, shocked, and then quickly forget, are complicit. Those who believe that women are solely responsible to protect themselves are also complicit. We refuse to forget. We know that what happened to the girl in Larissa could happen to anyone, an acquaintance, a friend or a classmate; and we know it has happened and will happen again to others. We demand justice. Justice means that the punishment should be proportionate to the crime, for all perpetrators. Justice means changing the institutional framework in order to better support the victims. Justice means that the media should openly discuss these crimes without feeding sensationalist articles to a spectacle-thirsty audience. Justice means that those who do not see and do not hear, who never speak out, should also be held accountable. Justice means not to be afraid – on the street, at work, at home, out with our friends. So that the rape of the 14-year old girl does not go unanswered. So that none of us feels alone against the patriarchy!”

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On 24th of September, No Tolerance have organized a protest in Athens, against rape culture where over 100 people have joined. They chanted: “Not tolerance in Larissa, no tolerance anywhere, the fight against rape is everywhere!” Feminist who participated in the protest said that the reaction from the public was highly positive and many bystanders stated that they were not aware of this crime and they thanked the protesters for raising awareness.

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No Tolerance also did not forget to show solidarity with the women of Poland who are currently under the risk of loosing all abortion rights as the Polish government is discussing to ban abortion without any exceptional cases.

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No Tolerance is determined to continue their fight against patriarchy and calling out to every woman in Greece to join them! If you would like to connect with No Tolerence you may write to them at kamia.anoxi@gmail.com

Free Jacqueline Sauvage and make her case an example for violence against women law to pass in France!

UPDATE: Jacqueline is now free! – 28/12/16

After 14 months of hard work and campaigning run by feminist in France, Jacqueline Sauvage will finally be freed! Jacqueline was condemned to 10 years in prison on 10th of October 2014. Feminists protested and created a petition for Hollande to grant his forgiveness, which was signed almost 400.000 times! On 31st of January 2016, Hollande partially pardoned her which would result her being in prison for 2 years and 4 months. The lawyers asked for her probation but the court ruled out this demand August 12th, 2016. Today Hollande made a historical announcement and declared: “I have decided to grant Jacqueline Sauvage a gracious remission of the remainder of her sentence. This grace will put an immediate end to her detention.” Yesterday it was Jacqueline’s birthday and as of today she will be a free woman! Thanks to feminists in France, thanks to the big fight they’ve put! You may read Jacqueline’s story below, I hope her case will become an example case for more “equal” laws in France!

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There’s this belief that human rights have developed so much in Western countries, therefore we don’t need feminism anymore. As a woman born and raised in a “less developed” country such as Turkey, and who now lives in Paris, I would be lying to say that I don’t benefit from the modern and democratic life in France. The rights and freedom that I have here has liberated me, made me a different woman over the past 2.5 years. Yet there’s still so much more to achieve when it comes to women’s rights in France.  When I announce myself as a feminist to someone, I often get this response: “Oh, so you’re a feminist for privileged women, but what about the women who get raped in Middle-Eastern countries, what do you do for them?”

I’m sorry for not being able to be in touch with every single woman who is oppressed in the world, for not being able to raise awareness on each one’s oppression. Please let me know if you know someone who’s capable of doing that. I’d like to tell you that even though some women are more privileged than others, they still face the similar kind of oppression. As for Jacqueline Sauvage’s case, they also face the similar kind of justice.

Jacqueline Sauvage is a 68-year-old convicted murderer in France. She shot her husband of 47 years, back in 2012 and recently she has been convicted of murder and sentenced to jail for 10 years. Why would someone shoot a person that they have lived together for 47 years, and had 4 children with? What’s wrong with this woman?

Here’s what’s wrong, and the thing that’s wrong is not with this woman, but with the patriarchal abuse. Jacqueline Sauvage woke up one night to her husband trying to get in their room. He actually broke the handle of the door, threw it at her, and started to punch and kick her. It was a regular routine for her. Why was he doing it this time? Because he wanted soup! Once the beating was over he went out in the terrace, waiting for his soup. That’s when it finally hit Jacqueline, that she could not stand this anymore. She took the rifle from their room, walked towards him, shot him in the back 3 times, and then called the police to say: “I killed my husband.”

Jacqueline Sauvage met her husband when she was a teenager. She was physically and psychologically abused for almost half of a century! This man abused not only her, but their four children as well. Their son committed suicide just one day before the murder, due to the fact that his father beat him. Their daughters have been physically and sexually abused by him. Sylvie Marot, one of the daughters, testified in the name of her sisters and said that the sexual abuse began when they were about 6-7 years old, and once they got older he started to rape them.

People who testified in the court, neighbors, friends, even the mayor explained about the ongoing abuse for all these years. One neighbor even said “thank you” to Jacqueline Sauvage, “now we can sleep easily.”

Yet the court decided to come to conclusion on two facts; none of the victims ever took this ongoing abuse case to authorities, until the murder occured and the restrictive French law that states, when there’s an attack, an act of riposte is self-defense and that the two acts have to be proportional. Jacqueline Sauvage killed her husband not during but after the attack. She used a rifle, whereas he used a door knob, his fists and his kicks, so the court ruled that it was not self-defense. She was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Jacqueline Sauvage was suffering from battered person syndrome, which is the physical and psychological condition of a person who has suffered persistent emotional, physical and sexual abuse from another person. The courts in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, UK and USA accept battered woman defense, where women have used force to defend themselves or killed their abuser due to the abusive and life-threatening circumstances they are in. This law does not exist in France, therefore the court have focused on the fact that the victims did not report the abuse, but not on the fact why they could not!

Below you may watch how Jacqueline’s daughter broke down in tears after the court’s desicion:

There’s this pardoning system in France, which I came to be aware of due to this case, it’s called “la grâce presidentielle.” It dates back to the monarchy times when people objected to the judiciary system and sought justice from the power above. So François Hollande, has the right to “pardon” Jacqueline Sauvage for the “crime” she committed. The daughters of Jacqueline Sauvage had lodged their application for the pardoning and in the meantime a feminist activist from “Osez le Féminisme”, Karine Plassard, launched a petition via change.org to collect signatures for Jacqueline Sauvage to be pardoned. Currently there are over 325.000 people asking Hollande to pardon her.

In the meantime a Facebook page was dedicated for the cause and women have prepared a postcard template to send to president Hollande with the request. People are also sending letters to Jacqueline Sauvage to show their solidarity with her. On January 22nd, FEMEN protested in front of the prison where Jacqueline Sauvage is kept, asked for her to be free and dug up a symbolic tunnel for her to escape.

On January 23rd solidarity with Jacqueline movement organized a protest in Bastille square, Paris, where hundreds of feminists participated in speak out the demand on liberating Jacqueline Sauvage. I participated in that protest, where I saw not only representatives from various feminist associations but people who are not a part of one. There were many who travelled from various cities around France to participate in this protest.

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Photo)

I briefly interviewed Karine Plassard, who has launched the petition and organized the gathering, and learned that there has been no statement from Hollande yet. I know that this pardoning will help Jacqueline, who was in psychological captivity and was physically abused for 47 years, live the rest of her life free, but I asked Karine if this will solve the real issue, and there I learned the fact that there actually is no law for “violence against women” in France! She told me that there are articles that state equality between men and women, there are articles that state violence against women but it’s all scattered within the law. There’s no inclusionary main law that addresses this issue as a whole!

This was the case for Turkey as well, but back in 2012 feminists have gathered a law themselves and made it pass through the parliament! So I asked her if this would be the case for France; she told me that this is indeed what they are working on. Yet she said that all feminists associations should unite for this cause. There are feminists working on various fields, yet for this law to be prepared, they need to work together. They need to work with lawyers, people who know the law, who know what exactly to propose such has having a special budget for this cause as well. She told me that there’s no mention of “domestic violence” in the French law, that if you are abused by your partner it’s handled the same way as if you were abused by some stranger! She also added that the article addressing rape does not mention consent; the word consent is nowhere to be found in that article! She said that they have wanted this law for more than 30 years now, and she called out to all the feminists to unite in order to make this happen.

“Will Hollande pardon Jacqueline Sauvage?” is what the media in France asks at the moment.  In my opinion this is a great opportunity for Hollande and his party to win back the popularity they’ve been losing. Pardoning Jacqueline Sauvage and then working together with women’s rights activists in order to pass this law, is indeed essential for human’s rights development for France!

Three women who defeated a dictator: The Mirabal sisters

25/11/2014

Rafael Trujillo was one of the cruelest dictators in the history of South America. In 1931, he was elected President of the Dominican Republic by public vote after a military coup. Over the years of his dictatorship, he refused to step down from his throne and ruled over the country for 31 years.

The upper middle class of the Dominican Republic supported Trujillo – they saw him to be  “improving the economic development of the country and providing much-needed infrastructure”. The bourgeoisie ignored all of his murders and human rights violation. With the development of the economy came corruption and those who benefited the most were, of course, Trujillo himself, his close family and business people who chose to stay close to him.

Trujillo led in such a way that he was known as “El Jefe” (the chief). Due to his narcissistic nature, he re-named some cities, and even mountains, after himself. He had no tolerance for those who opposed him.  Those who did were either imprisoned or murdered by unknown assailants. Trujillo was responsible for the murder of 50,000 people, including the Parsley genocidal massacre against the Haitians.

The leader was quick to suppress any sort of rebellion against his regime, yet the public began to secretly form solidarity groups and organisations to resist. One of these organisations was the “Butterflies”, formed by three brave women known as the Mirabal Sisters. These sisters and their husbands put up a strong fight for human rights and democracy by risking their own lives. They distributed flyers about the people murdered by the regime of Trujillo in order to inform the public. They were also in possession of arms, which they were preparing to use once the movement would become an open revolution. They were declared as terrorists and traitors by Trujillo, and were arrested many times under the charge of dividing the unity of the country. The state took possession of their land and houses.

mirabal-sisters

On November 25 1960 as Minerva, Maria and Patria Mirabal were returning from a visit to their husbands in prison, Trujillo supporters beat them to death with sticks, shoved them in the back of a car and threw them off a cliff. The government declared these as deaths caused by a road-traffic accident.

Trujillo thought that he could get away with the murder of the Mirabal sisters, just like he got away with the murder of thousands of people. He thought he could extinguish the movement that these sisters had founded. However, instead the deaths fueled the spirit of revolution in the Dominican Republic. Riots increased and, six months later on May 30 1961, Trujillo was assassinated.

In February 1963, the Dominican Republic elected a democratic government for the first time in decades. Dedé Mirabal, who was no in the car with her sisters on that day, dedicated her life to telling the story of her heroine sisters, and founded the Mirabal Sisters Foundation and Mirabal Sisters Museum. Her son Jaime David Fernandez Mirabal was elected as Vice President of Dominic Republic on 1996 to 2000. He is now the Minister of Sports, Physical Education and Recreation of Dominic Republic. Minevra Mirabal’s daughter Minou Tavarez Mirabal was the deputy foreign minister from 1996 to 2000 and she is currently the presidential nominee for the 2016 Dominican Republic general elections.

Since 1981, 25 November is remembered as a day to raise awareness on violence against women, with various rallies and congresses organised worldwide in commemoration. In 1999, the United Nations officially announced this day as “International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women”.

The regimes of dictators all around the world have worked in the same way throughout history. It supports those who ally them, and suppresses those who riot against them as traitors. These dictators, drunk on power, fear women the most. They fear women who are educated and brave, women who speak out and chose to resist.

Feminist “Butterflies” of Turkey

The same man has been ruling in Turkey for over 13 years. His title as the prime minister or president, it really does not matter. He is in power and is capable of causing a civil war between his party and that of the opposition in order to maintain his position. He has great supporters – those who are blinded by patriotic and conservative views, and those who are empowered by the fake stability of the economy. Ignorance in areas of human rights and freedom of speech is unsurprising, as people are convinced that the system (which they now benefit from) will never have a negative effect on their lives, as it has on the lives of others.

Yet what we see in the feminist movement in Turkey over the past 2,5 years is amazingly empowering. Women’s lives are the most damaged by conservative regulations and unequal human rights, therefore they resist the most. A cleric announced that “pregnant women should not walk the streets” (as it is seen as pornographic), so thousands of pregnant women filled the streets with their baby bumps. A politician proclaimed that “women should not laugh out loud in public”, so millions of women react with their laughter by posting photos of them laughing on social media platforms! A male politician says, “as a women you should shut up” to a female politician, and thousands of women shout loudly “as a woman I speak up!” Millions of women filled the streets of Turkey when Özgecan Aslan was brutally murdered last February – they united under the belief of “we do not want men who rape and murder women to get discounted sentences!” The law’s symbolic name is the “law of Özgecan”, and pro-government women’s rights organisations have started to support it. The law has been presented in the parliament and has gained support by pro-government women’s rights associations so it will probably pass and there will be deterrent sentences for the murderers and rapists.

Women of Turkey, the more the feminists speak up, the more they become aware of their human rights, and the more they react. They are not locked between the walls of their households. They are out on the streets, protesting and claiming their fundamental human right – the right to live!

It’s never too late to accomplish what the Butterflies had accomplished. Let’s remember what Patria Mirabal said: “We cannot allow our children to grow up in this corrupt and tyrannical regime, we have to fight against it. I am willing to give up everything for this, including my life.”

(This article has been edited by Aoife Mary Mangan and published on European Young Feminists Blog on 25/11/2015)

Who would bomb a rally organized for peace in Turkey?

10/10/2015

99 people are reported dead after the bombing that occurred at a peace rally in Ankara, Turkey. [The number has increased to 109.] Saturday, 10th of October, “Peace, Labor and Democracy” rally was organized by many unions, civil society organizations and non-governmental organizations. The rally was a response to the ongoing war between Turkish Armed Forces and Kurdish militants in southeast of Turkey. The demand was to enter ceasefire.

1 (ETHA) (©ETHA)

Saturday morning, people started to unite at the rally’s meeting spot, Ankara Train Station. According the official declaration of Turkish Security Forces, there were 14.000 people present in the area. Participants of the rally lined up with their associations, holding banners demanding peace. The crowds chanted: “Resist the war, make peace now!

At exactly 10:04 AM there were two consecutive explosions, suspected to be suicide bombings, within close distance to each other. Video footage shows the exact moment when the bomb went off, as people were singing and dancing:

Soon after the bombing, within the chaos, cries and screams for help, various civilians in the area and press workers started using the social media announcing that there are tens of dead people in the area and no ambulances were arriving. Doğan Tılıç, a participant of the rally explained the moments of the attack on his article on BirGün newspaper: “I was 20 meters away from the area where the bomb went off. The police forces entered the area by throwing gas capsules. I have not seen any ambulances when the police was arriving. Here [Turkey] the distance between life and death is only 20 meters.” Member of Turkish Medicine Association, Hande Arpat gave a statement to Agos newspaper: “Because the police attacked with gas capsules right after the explosion, we could not perform immediate medical intervention on those who were wounded.” HDP (People’s Democratic Party) Istanbul deputy Filiz Kerestecioğlu also gave a statement to Agos newspaper: “I arrived 30 minutes after the explosion; immediately we started carrying the wounded people. They [police] made an intervention on the first ambulances that were trying to exit.

This footage shows the police attacking the people trying to escape and blocking their way:

Many videos taken right after the bombing are circulating in the social media. Most of them contain graphic content and I watched them all. In one of them there’s a woman crying “My flesh is falling apart, I am dying!” The man shooting the video, in between his sobs keeps saying “Hang in there, you will resist, please don’t die!

I was going to be there. My feminist association, erktolia, already made a call for women’s associations to participate in this rally. I was going to be there with my friends but we cancelled because the plane tickets were too expensive. The minute I woke up on Saturday morning, I saw messages from my friends about the incident. I started searching through the Facebook profiles of each person I know who was to attend the rally. On each click, my fingers were shaking. I could have been there with them, and we could have been dead. And here I am today, in Paris, miles away from people I love, miles away from this massacre, searching through the lists of dead and wounded people, trying to see if there is a name that I recognize.

Just a couple of hours after the bombing, Turkish Radio and Television Supreme Council announced a ban on press coverage from the area. The request was made from Vice Prime Minister of Turkey, Yalçın Akdoğan. Then people from Turkey started tweeting that they could not access Twitter and they had to use various VPN services to tweet.

2 press ban  (©Diken Newspaper)

Interior Affair Minister Selami Altınok, Justice Minister Kenan İpek and Health Minister Mehmet Müezzinoglu gave a press conference on condemning this attack. Health Minister explained that there were 4 ambulances in the area (where 14K people were rallying) and by 11:00 AM (55 minutes after the call for help was made) 21 ambulances made it to the area of the bombing. He also said that hospitals are fully equipped with staff and medical needs yet as he was saying that, the Turkish Medicine Association made a call to say that more staff and blood is needed. Interior Affairs Minister also said: “Necessary measures were taken. I don’t think that there was vulnerability in security.”

In Ankara, the capital of Turkey, where about 4.5 million of people live, a national peace rally was organized. As I write, the death toll is 109 and there are 516 casualties, and the officials say that the security measures were taken?

Just 1 day ago, on 9th of October, a local newspaper in Rize, Turkey organized a protest against terrorism. Well known gang leader Sedat Peker participated to this rally and he said “blood will be shed, and once rivers of blood are shed, then they [terrorists] will understand” yet there were no bombings there. Just 20 days ago, a rally was organized in Istanbul against terrorism where Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said “you have to work hard for 1st of November [general elections day] and make AKP the ruling party.” President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan gave a speech there as well, yet there were no incidents.

According to the info-graphic prepared by Cumhuriyet newspaper 694 civilians, soldiers, police and Kurdish militants have died since the last elections on June 7th. 694 people have died in 4 months and not a single official has resigned!

infographic (©Cumhuriyet Newspaper)

On the night of the bombing, in a press speech, Selahattin Demiştaş co-president of HDP, addressed to the AKP government’s inadequacy on investigating such attacks within its history and accused AKP for being responsible of this attack: “Has there been even one massacre that you [the state] found the criminals perpetrated them? Did you find who did Roboski massacre? Did you find who murdered kids in Gezi protests? Did you find out who bombed our Diyarbakir rally? Is Suruç massacre resolved? This massacre will not be brought to justice either because there are no dark hands behind it. They are conveying this message “We can kill you and blow up you into pieces in broad day light in the middle of Ankara! This is not just an attack on us. They want to give this message: We can kill anyone who stand up against us [AKP] and cover it.”

Many AKP members and pro-AKP media were quick to blame PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party) which is an armed pro-Kurdish organization. Yet PKK has announced one day before the bombings that they are willing to enter ceasefire and they made a statement saying that the attack was not done by them.

The protesters ask for justice. They claim that whoever is being this attack, the state should be held accountable for, because it’s the state who dragged Turkey into a civil war and it’s the state who did not take majors in investigating DAESH militants existing in Turkey. A banner from the İstanbul protests says: “Murderer State”

4 (AFP)(© Ozan Köse/AFP)

We don’t know who organized the bombing in Ankara yet. What we know is that the Turkish state failed to protect its citizen in a national rally, emergency response was inadequate and was focused more on harsh control and banning freedom of press. As I write, 48 hours passed since the attack, and no names have been released and the officials refuse to take responsibility over this failure.  Doesn’t that say something?

Anniversary Update (10/10/16): 36 suspects [who had strong relations with DAESH have been detained after the attack. 10 of them were arrested. All of them are still on trial.