A campaign to make Istanbul's roughly 3,100 mosques more welcoming for women could set off a gender revolution in Turkey's places of Islamic worship - and one that may not be uniformly welcomed.

"This is about mosques being a space for women," declared Kadriye Avci Erdemli, Istanbul's deputy mufti, the city's second most powerful administrator of the Islamic faith. "When a woman enters a mosque, she is entering the house of God and she should experience the same sacred treatment. In front of God, men and women are equal; they have the same rights to practice their religion."

Roj Women’s Association has just published its last Annual Activities Report that maps out the organization’s campaigning and community work from April 2010 until March 2011. Field research in Kurdish regions of the world, community research among the Kurdish Diaspora, lobbying meetings at British, European and United Nations forums, grassroots groups capacity-building, seminars for university students and communities, to mention a few, are the activities that materialize a wider strategy that seeks to improve the lives of women in Kurdish regions and communities of the world.

In a recent summary report of their campaign for an effective implementation of the National Action Plan to combat violence against women Roj Women explain why they believe the Turkish Plan is failing to deliver its goals. In South East Turkey 1 out of 2 women are victims of violence against women. The national average is 39%. In a context of social and economic development neglect, pervasive patriarchal attitudes and militarization all contribute to high rates of violence against women in the region.

On 18 July 2010, the Prime Minister of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, held a consultation  meeting with women’s non-governmental organisations in the context of the ‘Democratic Initiative and National Unity and Brotherhood Project’, also dubbed ‘the Kurdish Initiative in the popular press.  This initiative aims to resolve the conflict that has plagued the South-east of the country, pitting the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) against the Turkish military. The PM addressed the women in attendance as mothers “whose voices would drown out the sounds of bullets” – thus enlisting them to the cause of peace. Among the 80-odd attendees were members of NGOs with established feminist credentials such as KA-DER and theFoundation for Women’s Solidarity, among others. This goes some way towards explaining why some participants took the PM to task during the question period for addressing them exclusively as mothers, overlooking the fact that they are fully fledged economic, political and juridical personae. It is at this point that the PM apparently interjected: ‘I do not believe in the equality of men and women. I believe in equal opportunities. Men and women are different and complementary’.

Control and Sexuality by Ziba Mir-Hosseini and Vanja Hamzić examines zina laws in some Muslim contexts and communities in order to explore connections between the criminalisation of sexuality, gender-based violence and women’s rights activism. The Violence is Not Our Culture Campaign and the Women Living Under Muslim Laws network present this comparative study and feminist analysis of zina laws as a contribution to the broader objective of ending violence in the name of ‘culture’. Attached is the whole book, available for download for free. Please do consider making a donation to WLUML.

"I was the lawyer of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani and I had the right to defend her," Iranian lawyer Mohammad Mostafaei says of the case that has drawn international attention. Mostafaei was defending Ashtiani, the Iranian woman sentenced to death by stoning for adultery when Iranian officials jailed his wife, her brother, and his father-in-law in an apparent attempt to pressure him to back down. In his first interview after fleeing Iran and surfacing in Turkey, Mostafaei talked to RFE/RL's Golnaz Esfandiari, condemning the Iranian judiciary for taking his wife "hostage" and vowing that he will never surrender to Iranian authorities. He also talked about the circumstances under which he was forced to escape Iran and leave his family, including his 7-year-old daughter, behind. (Mostafaei was reportedly taken into custody by Turkish authorities and the UN's refugee agency has said he should be allowed to apply for asylum.)

Mohammad Mostafaie, a human rights defender and lawyer of Sakineh Ashtiani, the woman whose sentence to death by stoning in Iran in June received worldwide public attention, has been arrested and detained by Turkish authorities. On 24 July 2010, his wife, Fereshteh Halimi and brother in law, Farhad Halimi, were arrested and are now detained at the infamous Evin Prison in Tehran. Prior to their arrest, Mostafaie was invited for interrogation and subsequently released by the police but was immediately ordered to be arrested again.

Press Release: Roj Women is an umbrella site that seeks to publicise the work of Roj Women’s Association, a women’s charity working on community development in the UK, and of its political branch, Roj Women’s Assembly, that campaigns for far-reaching legal and political reforms in Turkey. Roj Women strives to give Kurdish women, whether in their countries of origin or in the diaspora, a voice to publicise the gender and racial discrimination they face. Beyond raising awareness at the national and international levels, Roj Women campaigns for change and offers services to support Kurdish women and child victims of male and military violence.

Press Statement: On 06 April, 2010, Yosma Altunbey, a mother of six living in the village of Çığırgan in Kars, Southeast Turkey, was subjected to a brutal physical assault by her husband and his brother. She managed to escape to her parents’ house and filed an official complaint against the perpetrators at the gendarmerie station. According to reports, Gendarme Specialist Sergeant K.T. tried to make her withdraw her complaint, threatened her and eventually assaulted her himself when she refused.

Insanlar mücadeleleriyle varolurlar“. Zeynep Gambetti, a scholar of Kurdish politics, found this comment inscribed in the visitors’ book at the Diyarbakir Art Centre’s exhibit of photographer Ami Vitale’s Kashmir photos. The phrase roughly translates as; “people come into existence through their struggles“. The struggle to “ensure the equal rights of men and women to enjoy all economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights” has indeed defined the existence of many ethnically Kurdish women in Diyarbakir and, more generally, in the south-eastern region of Turkey. The obstacles in this struggle for equality are manifold. While the efforts of Kurdish women in Turkey to overcome these obstacles have been remarkable, there is still considerable progress to be made.

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