german version

Entstehungsgeschichte und Hintergrund

Our research was kick-started by the Womens´ Law Office in Berlin where we assisted temporarily. At a congress in Istanbul in the year 2000 18 women had spoken out publicly about their personal experience of sexual torture by police and army. This has been unique so far in the history of Turkey. As a result it was the women who were prosecuted but not the perpetrators.

In 2001 we joined one of the trials as observers and gained first impressions. It was there that we met a few of these women and ended up talking about their different ways of coping with the atrocities. A few months ago more than 30 young women had committed suicide in the Kurdish regions in the South-East of Turkey.

It was a huge shock. Regional newspapers reported about the suicides, however, they were not asking questions about the reasons for this incident.s

Suicide as response to rape is common in this region, that is what we learnt, and: suicide does also respond to a social environment that treats raped and sexually tortured women as a disgrace and stain on its immaculate surface.

By speaking about sexual violence women inevitably destroy honour and reputation of their families. On the other hand: whenever they keep silent, they end up completely on their own, confronted with their feelings of shame and guilt and again they are excluded. Moreover: they are threatened with state sanctions once they leave privacy behind. In a number of cases the only way out is to escape to another city, another country or even into death.

On a discourse level “Who speaks?“ discusses the following questions:

  • How does society deal with “the woman“?
  • In which way is the female body territorialized by social values?
  • How is social or cultural identity articulated in the female body? (The final question relates to the fact that in Kurdish regions the female body is where the destruction of the Kurdish cultural identity takes place; i.e. one way of eliminating the identity of “the Other“ is rape.)

"Who speaks?"

also wants to find out about: who has the right of definition, who speaks the judgement?

"Who speaks?"

is about privacy and public acting and points out how speaking in public can become an act of resistance.

October 2004. The beginning of the negotiations about Turkey´s
In the member states of the EU the image of a changing Turkish state is spreading quickly, including human rights matters. At the time of the EU negotiations of Turkey’s entry into the Union and the conference of the European Green Parties in the Hilton Hotel in Istanbul the following happens:

In Kadiköy, in the Asian part of Istanbul, we meet Tugba Günmüs, a 26 year-old woman and textile worker who is actively involved in the union. She tells us about her family history and how she was kidnapped and sexually tortured by civil police during the NATO-conference in Istanbul in 2004. The “systematic torture“ in custody whereby registration was necessary as common practice used by security personnel has changed to methods of intimidation and torture during brief kidnappings, this is what we learn from Human Rights Lawyer Eren Keskin.

Ten minutes after the end of our meeting Tugba is picked up from a local bus by civil policemen. They explain to the other travellers that she is a terrorist carrying a bomb on her body. Tugba is dragged into a small van where masked men are waiting for her in order to kidnap and torture her again.
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