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Turkey Should Immediately Stop Targeting Kurdish Women Human Rights Defenders

The regional coalition for women human rights defenders (WHRDs) in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is outraged by the arrest of both Kurdish WHRDs Ayla Akat, spokeswoman of the Free Women’s Congress (KJA) and a leading figure of the Kurdish women’s movement, who had participated in the Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID) 13th Forum in September 2016, who was arrested by the Turkish authorities on Wednesday 26 October 2016, which followed the arrest of WHRD Gültan Kısanak, Co-Mayor of Diyarbakir Metropolitan Municipality on Tuesday 25 October 2016. It is also important to assert that both Akat and Kisanak served as members of parliament in the Turkish Parliament.

Both Akat and Kisanak are important leading figures in the Kurdish feminist movement; as they represent the courageous fight against physical and sexual torture by ISIS, and their phenomenal work in documenting these crimes and calling for accountability is pivotal, to say the least. As the statement entitled: “Gültan Kışanak belongs with us women! We demand her immediate release” states: (Kışanak) “was arrested and taken under custody in the town where she had been elected mayor with 55% of the vote. This arrest took place the very day she addressed the Parliamentary Commission to Inquire into the Coup Attempt. Gültan Kışanak’s arrest is a concrete example of how the current state of emergency and the ongoing war restrict, limit and make life unbearable for us women…This arrest comes at a time when all that women have gained in local/municipal governments are being destroyed by way of appointed administrators (kayyum). These appointed administrators who have replaced elected mayors by way of state decree have either closed down or rendered ineffective all women’s centers and units operating within municipalities”.

 Subsequently, the WHRD MENA Coalition expresses its utmost solidarity with both Kisanak and Akat, as they are WHRDs that represent the systematic crackdown on WHRDs in Turkey, and their sister WHRDs in the MENA region, and finds it flabbergasting that 2 members of parliament are criminalized, especially since they conduct legitimate work in fighting violence and discrimination against women. Moreover, the WHRD MENA Coalition calls on the Turkish Authorities to abide by The United Nations recognition of the important role of WHRDs, as highlighted in both the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders (53/144) and the Resolution on Protecting Women Human Rights Defenders (68/181) that mandate states to protect, promote and implement all human rights and to take all necessary measures to ensure the protection of everyone against any violence, threats, retaliation, adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the Declaration, in addition to putting in place gender-specific laws and policies for the protection of women human rights defenders. The WHRD MENA Coalition also calls for their immediate release, while holding the Turkish government responsible for both their psychological and physical well-being.