About the Organisation
Could you tell us a little about the work your organisation does in the field?
I work in the child development centre of the Metropolitan Municipality, in the Roma neighbourhood. We conducted women’s health education training, handcrafted activities, and conduct awareness trainings about early marriage of girls. We are right in the middle of the Roma neighbourhood. We held women’s health seminars with the Syrian Solidarity Association; 6 seminars lasting for 6 weeks. We also conducted health seminars for Kurdish, Syrian and Iranian women (with the support of Foça Peace Women) in Foça. On behalf of the Women’s Solidarity Association, we offered solidarity with Syrians in Eski Çam; we held health seminars with the youth association. We conducted activities focused on the body, reproductive health, sexuality and gender. I have done a lot of work with Turkish woman too.
What does the concept of “multiculturalism” mean to you?
There is a culture of the society in which you are born; your traditions, communities and history has its culture. For example, I am a Bosnian, but we have lost many elements of our culture. So, I do not have that culture, Turkey is not very open to this. For example, I have been mocked in many places, because I have worked with the Roma people. Multiculturalism is actually these cultures living together. The aim of our work was to understand each other and to work together by using empathy. I also don’t like the concept of tolerance. In the groups I worked with, I saw that different cultures clashed and became diversified from each other. Roma began to discriminate against Syrians, for example.
What does the expression “living together” mean for you?
Trying to live by paying attention to everyone’s sensitivity, by caring and not being selfish; without ignoring each other, its culture, but not looking at it as integrational. We do not use the term integration; we are against it. Without integrating, destroying, assimilating; meeting on common grounds together. Developing with and learning from each other’s culture. For example, Syrian women who I work with ask me why I am so maintained, why didn’t I have more children? I tell them why; they tell me why. They see a young woman dressed in fashionable clothes and ask in surprise, “Is she Kurdish?”, for example. I worked in the municipality’s women’s shelter; the security staff used to ask, “Where are these women from?”. They would not believe that they came from the villages of İzmir; they have the presumption that women with dark skin came from the East. Women also discriminate each other; Syrians also exclude each other. They say, she’s from Aleppo or from Idlib; to be from Aleppo is much more “cool”, for example. They don’t like each other’s food. I say that your dishes are the same… “We are more educated; our families are more cultured” they say. Kemalist groups also exclude women with headscarves, but when they get to know each other, they see that there is nothing to be excluded/criticized about.
What are the barriers preventing different identities living together? What are the main problems? Is it possible to categorise these barriers? (politically based, expression based, etc.)
Prejudice. They don’t know each other; they judge each other with the information they hear from the media and the environment. We are not at peace with ourselves as a society, we do not have an understanding of citizenship. As Turks, we are a society with a complex, we have a habit of seeing ourselves superior. How did Kemalist women and conservative women come together in my groups; Kurdish, Syrian, Roma women worked together… They got to know each other, they met at a common ground and understood that the other person was a human. If there was a discourse of brotherhood and equality in the mainstream media, would there be discrimination/prejudice in schools? No. This is also the case with Alawis and Sunnis. For example, Syrian women say Pakistanis smell; I feel very sorry.
What are some of the cultures and identity groups in the field/city in which you are active?
Romas (they have organisations but they have few activities, males are more active), Kurds, Yezidis, Afghans, Iranians, Syrians (they are organised, we can reach them, they can reach us, somewhat dispersed), Turks.
Which civil society organisations are active in the area of culture and identity in the field or city in which you work?
Bridging People Association, Mülteci-Der, ASAM, Roma Women Solidarity Association, Roma Youth and Solidarity Association, Contemporary Romas Association, Konak Refugee Association…
What are the conflicts and discrimination aspects which are specific to identities? Could you categorise these? (Politically based, expression-based, etc.)
They think they are treated differently in employment, schools, women’s platforms, organisation and access to services. They say Romas and non-Romas get more services from the State. They say our children are beaten in schools, there is no park in our neighbourhood, etc. Syrians have similar complaints. But when I look objectively, I can say that they all have healthcare opportunities.
Regarding the discrimination which identities and culture groups are subject to, are there any areas open to cooperation with the aim of transformation and acting efficiently? What would be your suggestions?
A lot can be done. Projects can be made for women to acquire a profession; I say this for refugee women. They are very work oriented, they are needy. Turkish language courses can be provided, I do not think that this is assimilation. They can learn to express himself where they live. Turkish and refugee groups need to be brought together more often; empowerment work should be conducted. We should conduct awareness and inclusion activities.
Biraz kendinden ve derneğinden bahsetmek istedi:
In one months’ time, I will retire. Our association gets support from the Civil Society Development Centre (STGM). We divide the fee we get into four, between four women friends. I want to give more training, I want to work on projects on a voluntary basis. We have 15 volunteer lawyers and 24 volunteer psychologists in the association. We also support volunteers. We receive applications, the emergency hotline, women call and we help them. In fact, I am glad to retire to devote more time to these. Because at the Municipality, we act according to the Syrian policy of CHP-led municipality, we do some of the things we do secretly. I cannot share some things on Facebook, for example. It is for this reason that I do not want to work here anymore, there is discrimination here too. They say that we cannot sharing even on our personal Facebook accounts. I want to focus on my association work.
What should be the objectives of civil society organisations for the steps to be taken?
They can all undertake certain responsibilities in their areas of activity.
About the Project
Who should/could participate in the series of workshops we will be conducting in Istanbul, İzmir, Diyarbakır and Gaziantep?
I think there must be LGBTI associations, as you say; there are also people working with Syrian trans individuals. It may be necessary to bring religious women and Alawi women together. Maybe we can choose a topic, a theme; because there are those who suffer from multiple discrimination. It may be important to focus on a specific topic rather than combining all forms of discrimination. For example, I work with a group for a long time, so it is effective. To provide a training and then to leave is bit like looking from a superior level.
We expect the outcomes to be …… If your were to design a workshop series based on these outcomes, how would you do it? Who would you invite?
A discrimination workshop can be held, for example, followed by a handicraft workshop. Poetry can be written, jewellery can be made. They can be made to produce something together. After that, integration workshops can be held.
We want to discuss these …… topic areas. What would be your recommendation for method?
There can be games; there are a lot of gender workshops/discrimination workshops. For example, we write sex worker on the board, then we act like one for some time. We ask, how do you feel; they understand what it feels like to be in the shoes of the other. I will share these methods and workshops with you.
We developed a project with KADAV for Syrian women to provide textile training. It was the request of Syrian women. GIZ issued the funds to us, but the money did not reach us from the government. NGOs were forbidden to provide training; the money went to public education. But Syrian women did not go to public education courses. Because public education teachers are problematic; we cannot leave vulnerable women to them.
We wanted to develop a sapling growing project for women living in the camps, close to greenhouses, and we could not do it.
Instead of these, we were able to provide training on jewellery making, etc.; we wanted to create a site and sell them. There are websites such as dolap.com , etc. These handicrafts could be sold. You know that tool for featuring an item? Dolap can make them stand out, for example.