At the 8th Assembly on Women’s Shelters and Solidarity Centres held in Diyarbakır, a portion of the schedule was followed while workshops were not held. Debates stretched into the second and third day. The three-day duration of the assembly was not sufficient for the debates to be resolved and for a concluding manifesto to be prepared.

After the facilitating group was created and Diyarbakır Selis Women’s Association, who was the assembly’s host, gave their talk, the debates began regarding the assembly and the participants, with criticism directed at the decisions taken in the intermediate meeting held in İzmir in September 2005.

During the assembly, tensions were occasionally raised, and various viewpoints were put forward regarding the title of the assembly, whom the participants would be, the content of the assembly, the use of the intermediate meeting, feminist ethics, violence directed at Kurdish women, whether violence directed at Kurdish women could be the subject of the assembly, and the duties of the communication centre.

Despite not being able to create a final declaration, participants agreed on the location of the 9th assembly and the intermediate meeting, the subject of the intermediate meeting, how the communication centre would work during the year, and to organise a demonstration for new shelters to be opened.

Some of the viewpoints defended during the assembly:

  • When it was mentioned that the assembly was a feminist meeting place and that feminist ethics and principles were followed, and that groups and institutions with a female perspective came together in the assembly, some women stated that they did not define themselves as feminist, they were not feminists, and that there were non-feminists among the participants.
  • One of the topics debated in the assembly was the subject and title of the congress. One tendency is that the reason the assembly was founded was to bring together institutions and groups working on domestic/familial violence and that this should be the main focus. Participants who defended this viewpoint said that domestic violence was not yet ended, and because it is the most invisible type of violence, it needed more focused and detailed attention, and that if the assembly focused on violence against women in general, it would not be possible to study domestic violence at length in terms of duration, budget, and the amount of participants. They stated that the name of the assembly reflected this and that there could be a separate congress on violence against women.
  • Another viewpoint defended that the assembly was not only focused on domestic violence, and previous participants did not only work in the domestic violence field, and that even though the assembly might have been formed to work on domestic violence, the need had changed and that other forms of violence against women should be included in the assembly. Women who were of this opinion stated that they found it limiting for the assembly to only focus on domestic violence and to include only counselling centres as participants.
  • At the intermediate meeting in İzmir, the decision was made to not hold a separate workshop focusing on “Violence directed at Kurdish Women” and instead discuss the issue within the “Violence Against Women” workshop. Some participants at the assembly defended that violence experienced by Kurdish women differed because of their identity, and it was important to express and debate this violence; that domestic violence suffered by Kurdish women was different, and that practices such as the traditional family model, guardianship system, and implementations regarding family planning changed the nature and severity of domestic violence, and they criticised the decision taken in the intermediate meeting.
  • Other participants defended that no matter what their ethnic background, domestic violence experienced by women had the patriarchy and the male dominated system and perspective as its root cause; that women from every ethnic background came to counselling centres for help and were provided with support; that the debate regarding the subject and the organisation of the assembly had become mixed up with the demand to talk about violence directed at Kurdish women; and that the workshop on violence against women included violence experienced by Kurdish women.
  • In the intermediate meeting, it was decided that assembly participants would be selected from amongst independent women’s organisations and groups, and that non-independent representatives from councils, social services, bar association would not be accepted.
  • During the debates throughout the assembly regarding the participants, the main tendency was that the fundamental components of the assembly should be independent women’s groups, however, it was stated that counselling centres could not and would not be able to work without cooperation from councils and Social Services, and that experiences and information could not be shared if those did not attend the workshops, and that since one of the aims of the assembly’s components was to have a feminist perspective, this could not be done by not allowing certain groups into workshops, and a solution needed to be developed.
  • There were also debates regarding the function of the intermediate meeting. One view point suggested that the intermediate meeting acts as a warm-up for the assembly, and the decisions taken therein make up the framework of the assembly. In previous assemblies, time was dedicated to deciding what workshops would be held, and because this took up a considerable time, it was decided this would be done during the intermediate meeting. If every decision taken at the intermediate meeting is debated over again at the assembly, this would render the meeting useless and non-functioning. The decisions taken at the intermediate meeting were sent out to every component of the assembly, regardless of whether they participated or not, and no criticisms or contributions were received.
  • Another viewpoint suggested that some organisations could not participate in the intermediate meeting due to financial difficulties. The intermediate meeting does not encompass all components, and that since the decisions taken at the intermediate meeting can be regarded as advisory, they could be debated again at the assembly.
  • When it was brought up that the communication centre acted as the coordinator and archive of the assembly and not a commander over it, that it reflected the components’ tendencies and willpower, that it stood at an equal distance from all components, that one of its functions was to distribute documents and information and that it needed the components’ feedback to do this, and that it was difficult to get the expected results by one woman’s voluntary work; some women said that the communication centre could be managed on a rotating basis by the participating institutions, and that any component who took on this function could develop its knowledge and experience on the matter. Some women suggested that groups or institutions from a different region could share and support the communication centre functions on a yearly basis and convey regional information.
  • Presentations were made by Diyarbakır Selis Women’s Association, Diyarbakır KAMER, Adana Amargi, Women’s Solidarity Foundation (KADAV), Foundation for Women’s Solidarity, Mor Çatı Women’s Shelter Foundation, Aegean Women’s Solidarity Foundation (EKDAV), Van Women’s Association (VAKAD), and Şahmaran Women’s Research Institute, and these were also discussed.

There were many other subjects which needed to be discussed during the assembly, however, since there was not enough time, debates were stopped, to be continued in the intermediate meeting and the following decisions were made:

  • The 9th assembly will be co-hosted by the EKDAV and Söke Shelter for Women in Need Foundation in İzmir.
  • The intermediate meeting will be held in Bartın between May 19-21 2006 and hosted by the Bartın Women’s Solidarity Association. The meeting will spread across two days whilst the third day will be an opportunity for women to socialise and have fun together.
  • Despite the financial problems of the Communication Centre not being resolved yet, it will continue to work, and it’ll be ran by Birsen Atakan who will be supported by the Mor Çatı Women’s Shelter Foundation, and for the next year, Selis Women’s Association, Van Women’s Association, and Antalya Women’s Solidarity Foundation will support the flow of information to the communication centre.
  • It was decided that we would lobby for the legislative article “Metropolitan Municipalities and councils in towns with a population of over 50.000 open shelters for women and children” to be implemented. An as-yet unnamed working group was formed with KADAV, VAKAD, Ka-Mer, Mersin Independent Women’s Association (BKD), İzmir Women’s Solidarity Association, Selis Women’s Association, Kardelen Women’s Shelter and Şahmaran Women’s Research Institute. The group will monitor whether local councils are fulfilling their obligation, along with local women’s groups, and oversee the council’s efforts and lobby.
  • Debates which were not resolved were decided to be continued in the intermediate meeting at Bartın, and for this to happen, only participants who were in attendance at the 8th assembly in Diyarbakır will be invited, discussions will be continued on violence, feminism, and participation criteria.

The 8th Assembly on Women’s Shelters and Solidarity Centres came to an end with the singalong of the song “Women Exist” and participants applauding each other.

The assembly expenses were provided by the Turkish Representative of the Heinrich Böll Stiftung Foundation. The assembly was voluntarily recorded on video by Filmmor.

This report was prepared by the Communication Centre and Selis Counselling.

Participants

Participants Invited as Permanent Components:

  • Söke Women’s Shelter Foundation
  • Adana Women’s Counselling Centre-AKDAM
  • Adana Women’s Organisations Union
  • Women’s Solidarity Foundation
  • Solidarity with Women Foundation-Kadav
  • Şahmaran Women’s Solidarity and Research Centre
  • Van Women’s Association
  • Antalya Kadın Women’s Counselling and Solidarity Foundation
  • Antalya Kadın Women’s Counselling and Solidarity Centre
  • Gökkuşağı Women’s Foundation
  • KADAV Köseköy New Steps Housing Estate
  • Değirmendere Women’s Support Centre
  • Bartın Women’s Solidarity Foundation
  • Çanakkale Women’s Counselling Centre -ELDER
  • Ege Women’s Solidarity Foundation-EKDAV
  • Amargi-İstanbul
  • Amargi-Adana
  • Selis Consultancy and Organisation
  • BİLKAD Women’s Support Culture Enviorenment and Management Cooperative
  • Life House
  • İzmir Women’s Solidarity Association
  • Mersin Independent Women’s Association
  • Mor Çatı Women’s Shelter Foundation
  • Kad-mer
  • Ka-mer-Malatya
  • Ka-mer-Hakkari
  • Ka-mer-Adıyaman
  • Ka-mer-Elazığ
  • Ka-mer-Bingöl
  • Ka-mer-Diyarbakır
  • Batman Women’s Counselling Centre
  • Ka-mer-Mardin
  • Günyüzü Women’s Cooperative

Day 1 Participants:

  • Diyarbakır Bar Association
  • Development Studies
  • Diyarbakır YG21
  • Diyarbakır YG21 Women’s Assembly
  • Diyarbakır Mother’s Initiative for Peace
  • Epi-Dem
  • Yaka-KOOP
  • Batman Selis Women
  • Umut Işığı Women’s Cooperative
  • Diyarbakır Metropolitan Municipality - Dikasum
  • Diyarbakır-Bağlar Council Kardelen Women’s Home
  • Diyarbakır Women’s Platform
  • Diyarbakır Labour Unions Platform
  • Diyarbakır GİDEM
  • Diyarbakır Bağlar Women’s Cooperative
  • Bismil Council
  • Meral Damar
  • Necla Bozkurt
  • Arzu Tekeş
  • Figen Ekti
  • Leyla Kızılkaya
  • Nevin İl