Saturday, 24 May 2008, 1.30-5pm
Garden Court Chambers, 57-60 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, WC2
Speakers and participants includes
Leyla Zana, prominent Kurdish politician and former political prisoner is making her first visit to London since her release in 2004 to highlight the situation of Kurdish women and put the case for peaceful resolution of the ongoing conflict in Turkey. She received the European Parliament Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, the Rafto Prize & the Bruno Kreisky Award
Dr Susan Breau, Reader in International Law and Assistant Associate Dean for Research at the School of Law at the University of Surrey
Dr Catherine Barnes, Policy Analyst, Conciliation Resources
Bairbre De Brun, Sinn Fein MEP
Jean Lambert MEP
Houzan Mahmoud Spokesperson of Organisation of Women's Freedom in Iraq OWFI
Margaret Owen, Director, Widows for Peace and Democracy (WPD)
and Gender Action for Peace and Security (GAPS UK) and member of Bar Human Rights Committee
Hannah Rought-Brooks, Barrister at Tooks Chambers
Vice-Chair, Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers
The meeting is supported by the Bar Human Rights Committee, the Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers, Sebahat Tuncel MP, Democratic Society Party (DTP), Turkey, Kurdish Women’s Project, Peace in Kurdistan Campaign, Roj Women’s Group, Kurdish Federation UK, OWFI - Abroad Representative
Please come and join us in this important debate!
“I devote my life to peace and fraternity among Turkey’s peoples. I would not step back, even under harsher punishment…. Peace, once attained, will bring women, Kurds – and Turks as well – innumerable opportunities of developing their human capacities.” Leyla Zana
It is time for the voices of Kurdish women to be heard at the international and European level, both in the context of the Turkish accession process and the progress of human rights for all women in Turkey and also in relation to the current military conflict and Turkey’s military incursions into Northern Iraq.
Kurdish women and girls have suffered for decades from human rights abuses, perpetrated by both state and non-state actors. Hopes that law reforms, to comply with the EU Copenhagen criteria would bring justice to Kurdish women, have been dashed through non-compliance. They continue to be vulnerable to human rights deprivations and have no access to an impartial justice system. Lack of language rights effectively bars Kurdish children from school. Hundreds of thousands of Kurdish families have been forcibly evicted from their villages to the overcrowded slums of cities, or to so-called concentrated village settlements that are little more than open prisons. Illiteracy, unemployment, bitterness, and hopelessness have caused a huge increase in domestic violence. Many girls are victims of early and forced marriages. Depression and suicide, honour killings, and forced prostitution are consequences of the impossible situation these women find themselves in.
Many Kurdish women, active as politicians, leaders of civil society organisations, as human rights defenders or as lawyers have also been systematically targeted by the security services and subjected to harassment, beatings, detention - and even torture.
Progress towards democracy, justice and the establishment of the Rule of Law must accommodate initiatives to bring about gender equality and the elimination of violence to end discrimination against women. This advancement can only take place in an environment of peace. Peace cannot be built through the gun, but must be through dialogue and understanding.
Evidence from around the world demonstrates that exclusionary decision-making during peace building reduces the chance of peace. The impact of this 25 year old conflict between the Turkish state, and its 20 million strong Kurdish population has caused extraordinary suffering to women and girls. It is now time for the international community and the EU to support their efforts to enjoy their fundamental human rights as enshrined in international law, and in compliance with UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000).