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February 20, 2008, Wednesday

I enthusiastically applaud these libertarian women

While everybody was speaking, they kept quiet. Everybody was talking and no one bothered to listen to them. They have always been mentioned merely as objects of political analysis, subjects of arguments for or against their rights.While one segment of society exalted the victimization of these young women, turning it into a legend; the other segment has always viewed them as material with which they can feed their paranoia and pathological delusions by regarding them as traitors to the regime.

They have never gotten used to being treated like aliens teleported from outer space, referred to as a “different” species, subject to remorseless classifications, labeled with generalizations or portrayed as identical and homogenous with one another. Similarly, they have never accepted being “snacks” for intellectual discussion tables or being turned into a pawn in battles over the regime. The biggest difficulty they suffer has been to find sensitive and fair people willing to heed their peaceful revolt against injustice. They may have been the target of pressures and inhumane bans for years, but they are not willing to accept the abrogation of the bans for the sake of limited freedoms. What they want is full freedom, not just for themselves, but for all people.

“If freedom is at stake, nothing can be counted as a mere detail,” they have declared in a loud voice. With a sense of empathy that has been denied to them for decades, they have proved to be so conscientious and fair as to shout out “We are not free yet” to draw the attention to the other crowds that are still facing pressure.

This is the voice of the covered women who have grown tired of being the object of discussion and are now taking their destinies into their own hands. The manifesto of freedom they have posted at www.henuzoz to be signed by the oppressed and their supporters and the great support provided by nearly 800 covered women, including prominent journalists, artists, writers and activists, is strong enough to shatter into pieces all the primitively generic generalizations and hateful and ruthless labels put on them. It is possible to see in this manifesto both the bitter experiences of having gone through terrible things and the glad tidings of a free society yet to be achieved.

“The pains we have suffered since the day the university doors were abruptly shut in our faces have taught us something: Our real problem is the repressive mindset that thinks it has the right to meddle in people’s lives, appearances, words and thoughts,” they say on the Web site.

Their response to those who deny to freedoms to everyone but themselves is like a slap on the cheek: “We, as women who have been discriminated against for covering our heads, hereby declare with all sincerity that we will not be happy to enter universities with our headscarves on,” one by one listing the problems that narrow down the country’s borders of freedom and that spread atmosphere of such bans.

“Unless the legal and psychological atmosphere required to make Kurds and other discriminated communities feel like essential elements of this country is formed; unless the ruthless murders are investigated; unless the constitutional amendment required to put an end to lawsuits still open in connection with Article 301 is made; unless those who still shamelessly infringe on minority rights are seriously rebuffed; as long as the religious practices of the Alevis are seen as cultural activities and their places of worship as cultural centers; unless the repressive mindset stops telling us when, where and how to tie our headscarves; and unless the Higher Board of Education (YÖK), the biggest obstacle to true scientific freedom, is abolished. … Briefly, unless the Constitution made under heavy pressure by the coup of Sept. 12, 1980 is completely abolished and a thoroughly civil constitution is made, we will not be happy.”

Here you have a legend of empathy, a strong manifesto of freedom: “Unless this repressive mindset that spreads the fear that we are threats to one another to perpetuate this unjust system disappears completely, no freedom will be a full freedom. As people who know what it means to suffer from limited freedoms, from now on we will be against any sort of discrimination, violation of rights, pressure or impositions.”

I applaud these open-minded and intelligent women who have never let their victimization turn into a devastating anger and hatred; who have preserved their dignified and proud stance, who, with a perfect wisdom stemming from their years of affliction, have developed their sense of empathy, which the society has lost to a great degree; and who are raising their voice in the name of “freedom for all.”

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