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)

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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)

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!

The excluded ‘misbehaved’ feminists: FEMEN

16/09/2015

Well-behaved vs. misbehaved feminists: FEMEN

This Saturday, 12th of September, FEMEN organized a protest at a Muslim Conference: “The women at honor”. Only 1 of the 10 speakers of this women themed conference was a woman, and there were cooking shows and Islamic women’s clothing fashion parades. Two FEMEN activists participated at the speech of Mehdi Kebir and Nader Abou Anas where they discussed the value of women in Islam. Nade Abou Anas is known for legitimizing marital rape by encouraging women not to refuse to have sex with their husbands or else “they will be cursed by the angels all night.” FEMEN jumped on the stage to protest while the two Imams were talking about whether it is okay to beat your wife or not, and stating that Muhammed did not beat his wife and Muslim community should follow the lead of the prophet.

The two activists took off their burkas and stood on the stage with these messages written on their naked bodies: “No one can enslave me, no one can possess me, I’m my own prophet!”

I shared the photos from the event on Twitter and the reactions the protest gor was insane! Most of the people attacked FEMEN for being pointlessly hostile. It’s easy to see that there was a reason behind this protest as these two imams who were discussing about women were not particularly women’s rights defenders. There was one significant Muslim woman who defended that FEMEN was not physically violated on the protest, even though the live footage clearly shows that one of the activists was brutally kicked on the floor by multiple men while being taken away. I’ve got quite upset over that claim. Why would a woman turn her back on other women who got abused by male violence? What makes you turn your back on your sister? Why would she choose to have her Muslim identity over her woman identity?

This question made me reflect on the 3 days that I spent with FEMEN on the last week of August at the FEMEN & MLF training camp. I see that many people, including feminists are easily judging FEMEN, so I thought I should write about my own experience with them.

Before the camp, I obviously knew who FEMEN was but I didn’t have any further information about what they actually defended. They were clearly a militant group formed against women’s sex trade and had a manifesto where they declared that they use their bare breasts as weapons to fight for sextremism, atheism and feminism. I knew that in Turkey, they were called “women who use their breasts to get attention” and that they were named as “white-feminists” (privileged feminists) who patronizes underprivileged women.

So there I was on a Friday afternoon 2 days right after FEMEN received death threats on their headquarters door. As soon as I saw the police patrol car with a squad outside the building, I realized that we really had to be protected by the police in order to carry out this feminist training camp.

The first day of the camp was more of an introduction to MLF (Women’s Liberation Movement of France) which was founded after realizing how male dominated the May ’68 student protests was. They were active since then. They were the women who marched for the right of abortion with Simone de Beauvoir. They were the women who were in solidarity with Leyla Zana who was imprisoned by the Turkish regime. I felt quite excited to meet such long-time feminist activist women!

The second day was more of a reality check for me as we were outside in a park (again protected by undercover policemen) and practiced various tactics for protests. I was literally a participant of a FEMEN protest yet with no target to attack. We practiced some skills such as protesting together in a line, combating obstacles and what to do during arrest (as each FEMEN protest ends with police intervention.) I believe the arresting act was a bit too much for me as I am quite distressed about police touching/beating my body. Yet I really felt empowered during the slogan exercises, especially when all of us, shouted loudly and angrily feminist slogans.

On Saturday night we had a discussion session open to public: “Women and Religion” with the participation of Zineb El Rhazoui (journalist and human rights activist), Inna Shevchenko (leader of FEMEN), Waleed Al-Husseini (Blogger on exile from Palestine), Michele Idels (MLF activist), Maryam Namazie (secularist and human rights activist on exile from Iran) and Corinne Rey (Charlie Hebdo cartoonist aka Coco).

What did these people have in common?

Some of them had to leave their home countries for being secular and doing blasphemy, some of them were not even safe in the countries they live in as they were fighting for freedom of speech against suppression of religion.

What did they all agree on that night?

Religion does suppress women. As a woman who grew up in a Muslim society, I could not agree more with this point. I do not see the day where women’s rights are fully achieved where any religion exists.

On Sunday, being exhausted from the intensity of the last two days, I could only participate at the photo shoot part where esthetic presentation of FEMEN was introduced. Obviously that was the part where I saw different women, from different ages, different races, speaking different languages, using their body for declaring their message. I saw so many different body types, with so many “faults” on them as the patriarchal media would tell us. Why do FEMEN activists look so white and like supermodels on the photos then? Well – there was obviously something odd there, either with our perception or the touch of the media – because all I saw was perfectly un-perfect bodies of women, present in a room, with pride, anger and full willingness to denounce patriarchy!

There was a point during the camp where I actually confronted FEMEN and asked them about the country flags and why would they use such patriotic symbols. Their response was that they use the flag to denounce patriotism and actually it’s the patriots who hate them the most for using their sacred symbols. I also told them that I see them as white feminists as most of the women and especially Middle Eastern women do not agree that FEMEN represents them, and they believe FEMEN’s statements are patronizing. Their response was simple: FEMEN protesting in your country does not mean that they represent every single woman there. They are also not talking over you. They are talking for themselves, yet they do have many supporters from those countries, of which they get constant appreciation from but these supporters don’t show their appreciation publicly as they are scared.

I guess that was a clear moment of realization for me. Why did we expect FEMEN to be the voice of every feminist and why did we expect them to do everything for feminism? Because they are the ones who get the most media attention. Why did they get this attention? Because they are protesting topless. So many feminists believe that they are re-creating patriarchy by sexually objectifying women and using their naked bodies to get attention. There’s a difference to understand here: do they use their bodies, or do they do just whatever they want to do with their bodies? Why do we label them as misbehaved feminists just because they are naked? They have every single right to use their body as a political platform for displaying a message, but here we are teaching them morals. Morals created by patriarchy. Because of these morals, they are being judged for sexual exhibitionism in France. What gives us feminists the right to tell FEMEN to change the way they protest or what to protest for? Isn’t that what men always do to us? Aren’t we being like men by shaming FEMEN for not using the media attention the way we want them to use it?

I don’t dare to judge a feminist group as longas they don’t re-create patriarchy and FEMEN doesn’t do that! Each feminist organization fights against patriarchy. Each has their part to combat for and contribute to the big fight with their ideology. You don’t have to become a member of that group in order to support them. Feminism is a roof uniting all women. We should not be divided but be united instead. If there is a social identity that should bring us together, than it is our womanhood. We are all women and we are all oppressed. This is and should be our common ground!

Interview with former Charlie Hebdo journalist, Caroline Fourest, on France, Charlie Hebdo, religious fundamentalism and secularism

26/01/2015

“Who is this Caroline Fourest?” most of you would ask. Well she’s a well known “militant for minority rights” in modern history of France, yet she’s not just one but many things. She’s a journalist to begin with, an author, a director, scriptwriter and co-founder of the feminist, anti-racist and secularist magazine ProChoix.

Having worked for Charlie Hebdo for 6 years, she’s well known for her works on critics of the far-right and fundamentalism, her support on secularity, women rights, LGBTI rights and anti-racism. Her previous works mainly focused on universalism and multiculturalism. For 16 years she’s worked on all types of religious fanaticism. She also had a column in Le Monde for 5 years. Currently she has a daily editorial on radio channel France Culture and has a program during the summer season on radio channel France Inter.

I have to admit, I’ve been very nervous before I met her. The first interview I’d do in my entire life would be with an important character from France’s feminism history and a former journalist of Charlie Hebdo! Even though that I’ve been living in Paris just for 1.5 years, over the past 3 weeks, I could tell that Charlie Hebdo became the milestone of a new era. En era of fighting for freedom of speech, fighting for secularity and fighting against fanatics. We met at a café in the Marais, and we’ve got into a deep conversation immediately.

– Let’s begin by talking about Charlie Hebdo. How would you define Charlie Hebdo?

Charlie Hebdo is a satirical newspaper, it’s a paper known to make people laugh about all types of power, domination and ideology. It’s very important to understand that no cartoon in Charlie Hebdo goes to publication without context. The fanatics and the literalists cannot or do not want to understand this. It probably did a hundred times more caricatures of the Pope, the Catholic Church then of Islam. They’re making caricatures about politics a lot, all types of politicians but especially the extreme right. The worst enemy of Charlie Hebdo is National Front and Marine Le Pen. There were lots of caricatures about Nicholas Sarkozy as well because it’s a leftist newspaper. It defends another type of economy, a less capitalistic one. Charlie Hebdo defended Palestine as well, yet it is less known. Charb and Tignous who got killed were strong pro-Palestine activists and there were many caricatures about Israeli soldiers at Gaza in Charlie Hebdo. It’s a newspaper reacting to the actuality. It means that if a Rabbi would kill in the name of defending Moses, then probably Moses would be the cover, as that would be the current actuality.

– You were working for them during the time when Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published the caricatures of the prophet Mohammed. Charlie Hebdo decided to publish them as well. How was that process?

It’s very important to understand why a newspaper very different from Charlie Hebdo, a lot more conservative one, published those cartoons. A publisher in Denmark wanted to do a book about Mohammed, a very positive book to explain his life and the importance of him as a character. Yet not a single cartoonist wanted to contribute because they feared of dying like Theo Van Gogh in Netherlands. Jyllands-Posten published those cartoons in the context of denouncing auto-censorship. 12 cartoons have been published. Probably nobody saw them in Syria or Iran, before to burn the embassy and to threat the citizens of Denmark, yet those cartoons were innocent. Mohammed was portrayed in a sweet manner. There was only one which created the debate, one which showed a bomb inside the hat of Mohammed. There’s a saying in Denmark. “If you put an orange in your hat, it’s giving you luck.” This cartoon is showing that putting a bomb in your hat gives you bad luck. And it wasn’t a new cartoon. The cartoonist did that cartoon back in the 90’s to denounce the bombings in Algeria. It just got republished. Yet all these details don’t mean anything to the fanatics who did not see the cartoons. The cartoons have been instrumentalized and manipulated by some countries. It’s important to know the political context of these events. For example, during the Rushdie affair, Saudi Arabia was in the course of winning a war in Afghanistan, with USA of course. During cartoons’ affair of 2006, Iran was in a difficult situation with the nuclear program, Syria was under huge pressure about the case of Hariri’s murder so they all decided they needed to do something to speak in the name of the Muslim world and they all attacked these cartoons.  Suddenly spontaneous crowds started to demonstrate in those countries, where we know demonstrations are not so free. “Spontaneous” crowds started burning Danish embassies. In Charlie Hebdo, we had one job as any newspaper did, to cover the actuality, so we did. But as we are Charlie Hebdo, we wanted to cover the actuality in our way. We published those cartoons inside the newspaper and our cover was different. We decided in a meeting that these fanatics are always making Mohamed speak in their sense, giving a bad image about religion. We wanted to portray Mohamed thinking he cannot stand those fanatics speaking and killing in his name. So in that cover Mohamed is almost in tears and saying “it’s so hard to be loved by assholes!” That cover is the reason why they killed my colleagues because the death treats started after that.

– Mocking religion goes back in France history, about 500 years. During the Renaissance there were many representations of priests as “importunate louts” or of mocking church bells for public disturbance. France abolished the offence of blasphemy 1791 as well. How would you define this culture of blasphemy in France?

Our culture, our philosophy our democracy is based on that possibility of laughing about religion. This is why there’s no religious majority who can oppress another religious minority within the state.  The state does not fund any religion as the state does not have a religion. Whereas in Turkey, Sunni Islam is the majority and even the Shiah Islam and Alewi Islam under a clear discrimination, let alone any other religion, or non-believers. In France, we want every religion to be equal, and no religion is favored or prioritized by the state. To obtain that, we had to fight the Catholic Church, which was connected to state back in the medieval times and during the monarchy times. We established a secular republic by fighting against this. In order to fight we had to first de-symbolize the sacred power of the Catholic Church. It was a very insulting and violent process. For example in Charlie Hebdo, the actuality of pedophilia in church was covered many times, by portraying priests as child molesters.

– There is a story going around in Turkey that in 2009 a cartoonist name Siné was fired from Charlie Hebdo, because he drew about Sarkozy’s son and and about Jewish people. Is this story true? If it’s true would you now consider this favoritism? If it’s not true why do you think his expulsion is related with his drawings?

I know this story very well and the propaganda that goes with it. Siné was fired because he insulted our director, wrote a lie in his column and then refused to correct it. This is something unacceptable in journalism! Yes, he used all racist clichés about Jews in his column. As I said, Charlie Hebdo is an antiracist newspaper. It defends the right to mock ideas or belief but not being racist against people. This is also against the antiracist law in France. A few years ago, Charlie Hebdo’s director did the same thing with another journalist who supported a writer who attacked Muslims. Surprisingly no one was shocked this time or no one noticed that this is solid proof that Charlie Hebdo is an antiracist newspaper. What is strange to me is why some people are accusing Charlie Hebdo of being Islamophobic yet they refuse to see that Charlie Hebdo does not incorporate racist journalists? Is it because for some people being racist against Jewish people is OK but blasphemy is not? I think we all know what their problem is.

– I believe Charlie Hebdo has expanded its meaning after the shooting. In your opinion, what does Charlie Hebdo represent today in France?

The irony of this crime is that those jihadists have killed the journalists of Charlie Hebdo because they wanted to silence this newspaper, but today they pushed the whole world to subscribe to Charlie Hebdo. The cartoonists who have been killed, we grew up with them. They made us laugh since we were very young, about the actuality, about religion, about politicians, about everything! To see this pure violence, fanaticism, this completely stupid brutality against these sweet, smart and funny people, it created a big shock in France.  Today, Charlie Hebdo is the symbol of the progressive people who want to continue to be free to criticize religion, to defend a secular republic and democracy. It’s the symbol of those people who are fighting against the extreme-right, the conservatives who want to divide people and create hatred against Muslims. This was, is and will be the symbol of Charlie Hebdo. This is the balance, which we want to keep alive for many years.

– You’ve been invited for a live interview with Sky News, a TV station which has chosen not to show the cover of Charlie Hebdo yet you’ve showed the cover of the magazine and they cut you out of the interview. What do you think about that?

In the middle of this horror, it has been great to see the support of some colleagues from all around the world, even from those who took a risk, like in Turkey.  Yet, we’ve been completely betrayed by many of the newspapers from USA and UK. As they live in complete democracy, they’re not taking any risk, or they are not facing any pressure like the journalists in Turkey, yet they failed to show the cover. They’ve asked us continuously “what will Charlie Hebdo’s new cover be?” because the whole world was wondering about it. So I showed the cover on the Sky News, and they cut me out. And they’ve apologized to the viewers who could have been shocked! This is just insane! It’s a very sweet cover, where Mohammed is crying, it’s a cover of forgiveness for these brutal attacks. It’s what my colleagues could do after surviving a slaughter like that. And the channel is apologizing to the believers who can be offended by a cover of forgiveness, but not by the killing? There are many people coming from Muslim background who don’t share this opinion of these journalists. By saying that my colleagues did something “wrong” by drawing this cover, they are justifying violence. It’s very irresponsible of these media platforms. In France we have a completely different story about secularism and freedom of speech. In USA, freedom of speech is based on freedom of religion, not freedom of believing or not believing. And in England the state has a religion, where Anglicans are favored. I believe the religious rights are becoming more important than the rights of non-believers’. They revealed the bloody images of the victims from the slaughter, yet they cannot show a simple cartoon about religion. What Sky News did, created a scandal, and the debate is not over on that.

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– You know that Cumhuriyet has published 4 pages of Charlie Hebdo’s post-attack issue in Turkish without the cover, and two journalists wrote about Charlie Hebdo in their columns with publishing the cover. T24 has also published the whole issue in Turkish without any censorship. At the moment, Cumhuriyet is under many threats, being protected by security forces 24/7 and an investigation has begun against the journalists for “offending religious values and agitating the public to grudge and enmity.” What’s your opinion on that?

In the middle of this solidarity and bravery, the support of our colleagues from Turkey was really important. We found hope on that. I’ve been to Turkey many times; I did even a big TV inquiry about AKP in solidarity with journalists from Turkey who are in jail. It is so important that we maintain this common history, culture about secularism, between Turkey and France. Turkey has a constitution which is more similar to France, in terms of secularism, because AKP did not change it yet. I also would like to emphasize on the hypocrisy of Prime minister of Turkey, Ahmet Davutoğlu who has come to the march in France. We know that many cartoonists in Turkey are under a big pressure for mocking the president of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Turkey is still one of the countries with the biggest number of journalists imprisoned.  These journals in Turkey are brave enough to inform, even under this pressure. They are brave despite the fanatics and the religious politicians. I think this is where the resistance is! This battle is going to be a long one and an important one.

– The president of Turkey, Erdoğan attended the 10th Conference of Parliamentary Union of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation Member States and he has said that “Islam’s prophet is the red line for the Muslims. Just like killing people because they’ve drawn comics is terror, provocative actions are just as much terror.” What do you think about this?

I think that if someone once believed that Erdoğan was a democrat, they can see in his sentence, he’s anything except that. He’s speaking as if he’s leading a religious state, not a democratic one. In a democratic state, he has to respect all citizens who believe and who do not believe. I know that he’s always tried to censor journalists. Trying to compare someone who’s drawing to support freedom speech and secularism with someone show’s killing, physically killing, because they don’t share the same opinion is just showing that there is something deeply wrong in his view of democracy. He’s losing rationality. Having a president of a state who is losing rationality at this point, it’s something very dangerous for everyone.

– You’ve attended the Secular Conference back in 2014 November, where CHP PM Şafak Pavey was invited as well. You’ve spoken about AKP’s policy on secularism there, and you’ve written some articles on this issue too. What is your opinion of secularity in Turkey?

If Turkey is losing its tradition of secularism, it means that the world is losing something. Of course I worry about my secular friends and colleagues from Turkey. Erdoğan is showing more and more his goal is to break, to kill secularism. Adding the corruption and censorship on top of that, it’s really a lot! He’s also transforming education. Last time when I was in İstanbul, I realized not many journalists were talking about the public schools’ transformation into religious Imam Hatip schools. It’s not a minor number, we’re talking about thousands! We’re in the middle of a big debate about secular education in France at the moment, and as secularists we believe fanatics are trying to wash the brains of children. In Turkey, these schools are state funded schools and the government is doing this with intention. They want to create future fanatics, not citizens.

– Your books especially “Crossfire: a comparison between Jewish, Christian and Muslim fundamentalism”, “Brother Tariq : the doublespeak Tariq Ramadan” and  “Marine Le Pen unmasked” were highly criticized. You’ve become the hate target of the far-right. How could you manage to stay strong and keep speaking up?

I don’t consider myself brave because I’m surrendered by much more brave journalists and activists. Surrendered by colleagues from Turkey, Tunisia, Algeria who have been under much more worse pressure. I only have to fight the fanatics, not the state. On the contrary my colleagues have to fight both the fanatics and the state which is against them, instead of protecting them. They can’t work under a democratic context. I know it’s a privilege for me to continue my work as a journalist from a secular democracy like France. So I consider myself quite comfortable. Even inside this secular democratic country, I’m criticized and insulted a lot for my works. I’ve been portrayed as an “Islamophobic”, since I criticize religion, and I’ve been attacked as “Islamophile” by National Front and the Catholic fundamentalists.

– Yes about that, you’ve been beaten on the street on broad day light by the conservatives, how did that happen?

For France 2 channel, I was covering as a very big Catholic protest against same-sex marriage. Yet I hid myself with a hat and a scarf.  FEMEN arrived and those fanatics attacked them brutally. In the middle of the fight they recognized me. I’m a journalist they particularly hate so they beat me as well. I have no doubt that every extremist can be as brutal and stupid as the other one. They’re using different identities, different flags such as a flag of a religion or a nation but once they’re patriarchal and extremists, they look quite the same to me. In their mind, in their hearts, they look very much alike.

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– How about the French government’s attitude as an outcome of these shootings? What was your opinion on the Republican march on January 11th? Many left organizations have criticized it because of the call for “national unity” and for inviting world leaders who have nothing to do with freedom of speech in their countries. There are also many concerns on how this would affect the Muslim minority in France. What do you think might happen?

The march of January 11 was really moving. I’ve never seen Paris or France like that before. Streets were full of all sorts of different people in a complete communion supporting freedom of speech. We did not see those authorities there; all we saw was that huge crowd. Honestly the authorities of France have been very kind and supportive. François Hollande supported Charlie Hebdo, during the events in 2006. He was not in the position to become a president back then. He has a big sense of humor, including when we mock and criticize him in Charlie Hebdo. Believe me we did caricatures about Hollande that could make him cry, but still he is full of respect. He has some other defaults but he is real democrat and he is someone who respects humor. So they’ve been doing their best after that slaughter.  We’re hoping the citizens of France would avoid believing National Front is the answer to those fanatics’ act, as this is the risk for the Muslims living in France. Marine Le Pen was the only politician missing in that communion. Honestly people from Charlie Hebdo did not want her to be there; but she insisted to be in the front, with her flag. No other politicians were there with a flag. She wanted those cartoonists to look like martyrs, yet she was not considerate. My colleagues were not even buried and we were just mourning them. I hope her actions would help many conservatives of France to understand that National Front is not the answer against jihadists and fanatics. Secularism is the only qualified answer.

– What do you think about the “rising right” in France? National Front got a 25% vote on the European Parliament elections last year. Marine le Pen has used Charlie Hebdo shootings on her advantage by declaring a war against Islamists in France, and addressed this issue as a problem of immigration laws in France. What is your idea on fighting Islamists by using racism and religious fundamentalism?

Marine Le Pen did not declare a war against Islam, she is trying to avoid speaking that way and that’s why support is growing for her. She’s trying to appear very moderate by doing this distinction between Muslims and Islamists. Of course, we all know that inside her party they all think the problem is Muslims not Islamists. I think that she’s the one who is the most illegitimate person to speak in the name of Charlie Hebdo. She’s one of the main targets of Charlie Hebdo, it’s known that Charlie Hebdo hates National Front. The organizations that sued Charlie Hebdo the most are the Catholics close to National Front. So she’s in a bad position to claim herself on Charlie Hebdo’s side. Yet she will loose from that 25%. I don’t know maybe in 2 years. It depends of the attitude of Muslim French citizens too. It’s difficult when Muslim organizations in France, close to the Muslim Brothers continue their hypocrite, double speech. They say on one hand, they do not support the terrorists, but on the other hand they condemn those cartoons. They can disagree, they can even sue, yet as long as they don’t add the sentence “but they have the right to draw those cartoons” then it’s double speech. If they add that missing sentence to their announcements, then people will start to believe Muslims are capable of accepting freedom of speech for real. We try to explain there are a lot of Muslims in France who are supporting Charlie Hebdo. They’re trying to confuse all Muslims with the conservative ones. I try to avoid using the term Islamophobia because this is creating a huge debate. Semantically, the word in definition is a phobia against Islam, therefore you are racist. There are people who are criticizing religion who are secular, who are feminists, and they definitely are not racist. There are many racist writers, who are xenophobic, who try to look as simple secularists yet they are the racists ones. Is there racism against Muslim in France? My answer is yes. Mostly it’s from the colonial times. But honestly this racism was nothing before 9/11 because the new generation in France is very anti-racist. They’re very different. So this racism was almost dead in France before 9/11 occurred. After that, some religious organizations tried to fight secularism, the right of blasphemy, and test the French philosophy. So this created reaction. So the situation is more complex then racism. The blame is on the people who are killing in the name of Islam. They are the ones who create fear amongst non-Muslims.  But how could non-Muslims not be afraid of seeing the actuality? It’s true that exactly after 9/11 France has added acts that I qualified as racist yet these attacks against Muslims during the past weeks are the first time in France. If you look at the statistics of attacks before the slaughter, only 4% of Muslim cemeteries were under graffiti attack, yet the attack against Jewish cemeteries were 11%.

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– Being a strong-hearted feminist, you’ve also written a book about the founder of Femen, Inna Shevchenko. Did you know that Femen exists in Turkey as well? Feminists in Turkey are fighting a big battle. What is your opinion on the relationship between religion and feminism?

I am far from FEMEN today but what interested me was their beginning. Those feminists in Ukraine were fighting against prostitution, against patriarchy in Ukraine. Probably this was one of the things that lead to the Ukrainian Spring we witnessed afterwards. All the feminists fighting in the Arab Spring or the ones fighting in Turkey are showing that there’s a link between secularism and equality. There are no women’s rights in religious regimes, never! Because the religious domination always attacks the women’s body first. They want to control the body of women. I think it’s their main motivation. It’s been almost 16 years that I’m working on fanatics from all religions and I do not find them obsessed by spirituality. They are more obsessed about women and controlling women. This is why feminism should be leading the resistance against the fanatics. Of course this is exactly what the fanatics are afraid about. As a backlash to religious fundamentalism, fight for equality will grow bigger, a lot bigger than how fundamentalism is growing.

– What would your advice be to the feminists in Turkey?

To continue to be strong feminists, secularists and democrats. And we will win! You know why? If the fanatics succeed in creating a state with a regime according to their law and their view like in Syria today; that country will be a nightmare for everyone except them. When secular democrats are leading a state, when they’re really democratic, and not dogmatic, there’s a place for all. This is why secular democracy will out-number theocracy. People can be completely crazy enough to join a sort of jihad to go kill and rape in Syria but at the end of the day, the majority of human beings want to live under regime of respecting basic human rights and that is a democratic and secular state.

(A shorter version of this interview was published on Radio Farda in Persian.)