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Strength Of Unity; Mor Çatı Kadın Sığınağı Vakfı

Founded in 1990 to combat violence against women, Mor Çatı Women’s Shelter Foundation volunteer Hale Çelebi answered our questions about the foundation’s efforts and the fight for women’s rights.

For nearly 30 years, Mor Çatı has been supporting women who have been subjected to violence by offering them both a sense of solidarity and a shelter. The foundation is also a prominent representative of women’s solidarity. How did you become a part of its story?

I met feminist women when I was in college. I realised that feminism was the sense of rebellion generated by years of sexism and inequality I’d experienced as a woman, and decided to join the organised effort. The feminist movement builds political grounds based on different themes and mobilises meetings to advocatethem. Back then, like Mor Çatı, the Social Feminist Collective, of which I was a participant, was a part of Istanbul Feminist Collective. I think we’d been together on many common platforms but, most of all, I had the chance to learn about Mor Çatı through IFC and to engage in policy-making with them. Since then, I’ve been a volunteer for Mor Çatı.

What are your thoughts on the fact that there’s still discussion about Law No. 6284 and the Istanbul Agreement, and the cultivation of a language of hate against women in daily politics?

Law No. 6284 and the Istanbul Agreement are two of the most important achievements of women’s justified and formidablemovement. The long-established attacks against women’s rights continue to this day. These discussions surrounding Law No. 6284, which serves as a fundamental pillar for women’s fight against violence, and the Istanbul Agreement - especially when brought together with political statements that cultivate social injustice between sexes, lack of punishment for the perpetrators, women’s accounts of experiences, and malpractices witnessed during field studies - aim to create an environment that encourages perpetrators and weaken the women’s fight to eliminate violence. The Istanbul Agreement was the assurance that women’s lives could not be controlled or pressured through violence. By signing it, Turkey promised, in international context, that they would protect women and children from violence and abuse. Breaking this promise is equal to announcing that their agenda no longer takes an interest in building a life where women are not subjected to violence. When we listen to the arguments made by those who opened the Istanbul Agreement and Law No. 6284 up for discussion, we see a narrative that imprisons women within families through roots or heteronormative marriage and cares more about maintaining men’s comfort zone in society as well as family, rather than worrying about how to protect women from violence in a more effective way. So, the goal and message of these discussions are pretty clear.

One of the foundation’s most influential efforts is to provide women who have been subjected to violence with shelter and, thus, empower them. Can you tell us about your work about women and children?

Mor Çatı has a solidarity centre and, as you said, a shelter. Women who call the centre to report a violent case are first listened to, without judgment, questioning or discrimination. Together with them, we evaluate their needs, the abuses of rights in their accounts, misconducts, risks, what they want to do, their options and plans, and strengths and resources; of course, the final decision lies with the women. Since the solidarity we build with women does not depend on any conditions, such as pressuring them into making the that are expected of them or regarded acceptable by social norms, their decisions and actions are respected. If any possibility of obstacle arises during the process, they’re assured to come back to us anytime. While empowering women to notice their strengths and resources, we also work on mental and social efforts on the effects of violence on children whether they were subjected to it or witnessed it. We also strive to empower women to deal with the challenges of parenting they experience with their children. The most popular effort of Mor Çatı may be the direct solidarity it builds with women, I’d also like to briefly talk about our political activities that are less visible but keep this entire effort holistic and possible. Our field studies stay current and can improve thanks to the change, power, and opportunities created by our other political activities. We organise workshops to evaluate the new requirements we’ve made note of over the year and create new grounds for discussion. Every year since 1998, we host the Assembly of Women’s Shelters and Solidarity Centres to share our experiences in combatting violence against women, assessing our options together, deciding on common policies, and establishing a channel of communication between public organisations and women’s groups. We organise training sessions and workshops for those working at public establishments and municipalities in the fight against violence against women. We attend national and international workshops, seminars, and conferences - that welcome NGOs, women, LGBTI+, and refugee organisations - to share and enhance our experience. We make press statements, organise social media campaigns, and prepare publications to raise awareness against male violence and inform the public about our monitoring and policy-making efforts and recommendations. By participating in the monitoring committees of international agreements to which Turkey is a party, we co-write independent reports that share our experience and observations on the implementation of these agreements.

What do you think about the development of the Women’s Movement in history?

I’d like to answer this question with reference to the anti-violence march “Dayağa Karşı Yürüyüş” which helped us start telling the story of Mor Çatı’s foundation. This march took place in 1987, back when the pressure of the 1980 coup d'état still continued, thanks to the courageous struggle of women on the street and paved the way for the introduction of feminism to thousands of women. Since then, feminism states “personal is political” and has spread across communities and still continues to do so. Each day, more and more women identify themselves as a feminist because it’s an inclusive movement that draws its strength from its independence. Every year, the Feminist Night March in Taksim on March 8 grows more crowded, nourished by our uprising against attacks and inequality despite the pressure and attempts to ban it. This is because women have won every achievement thanks to their own efforts and struggle. Fighting against oppression is what we do best. And, with this in mind, I believe we’ll soon re-sign the Istanbul Agreement and live in a place where our bodies, lives, and decisions cannot be controlled and where we can exist in all aspects of life on equal grounds. I’d like to finish my words with a slogan I often shout in the streets - You will feel the earth move, when women are free. We can live in a world that is equal and where women live free!


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