Languages: Kurdî ‏سۆرانی‎

Open Letter: Stop The War Crimes of Turkish State Against Kurdish Women

Ms. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka
United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women

Dear Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka,
As Kurdish women’s organisations from all four parts of Kurdistan and the Diaspora, we are writing to you concerning serious and systematic war crimes faced by women in autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) also known as Rojava and more specifically in Afrin.

Afrin was invaded and occupied by the Turkish state on March 18, 2018. Prior to the illegal Turkish occupation, Afrin was part of the AANES and was an area where relative stability, economic prosperity and gender equality prevailed. Before the occupation, 92 percent of the population of Afrin consisted of Kurds. After the Turkish invasion, approximately 300,000 people from Afrin were subjected to forced migration and had to live in Shahba as internally displaced persons under very harsh conditions. Unfortunately, despite this reality, the UN has still not yet defined this occupation by the Turkish state, which ignores the international legal norms, as an ‘occupation’. This unacceptable situation clearly legitimises the colonisation of Afrin by the Turkish state. This silent complicity has directly led to the Turkish state escalating its occupation now to the level of ethnic cleansing. In Afrin, the Turkish state applies colonial, racist and deeply repressive laws.

  • Some of the war and humanitarian crimes committed by the Turkish state in Afrin so far:
    Systematic changing the demographic of Afrin by placing Uyghur, Arab and Turkmen jihadist militant groups and their families in Afrin, supported and controlled by the Turkish state.
    Violating the rights of the Christian, Alawite and Yazidi faiths.
  • The looting of civilian homes and workplaces in evacuated areas.
  • The illegal sale of olives and olive oil grown and produced in Afrin on the market in Turkey.
    Pillaging of natural underground and surface resources.
  • Providing compulsory Turkish education to Kurdish children.
  • Systematic assimilation policy for Turkification.
  • Destruction of or illegal sales of historical artefacts.
  • Kidnapping to Turkey of the very few remaining Kurds in Afrin and the surrounding Kurdish villages.
  • Systematically physical and psychological torture of Kurds.
  • Banning of the Kurdish language, imposing Turkish as the language of education and daily life.

Dear Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka,
While the Turkish state is implementing genocidal policies against the Kurdish people, it exhaustively uses feminicide as a means of war against Kurdish women both because of their ethnic identity and women’s identity. However, gender-based violence against women – especially rape – during war was declared as a war crime by the UN.

ISIS gangs supported by the Turkish state implemented similar methods against Yazidi women in Shengal in 2014. The Turkish state tries to legitimise these crimes by exploiting Islam. However, this has nothing to do with Islam, but with the fact that the Turkish President Erdogan and the male-dominated Turkish state culture abuse Islam for their own purposes.

Just between March 2018 and November 2019, 1,200 Kurds were the victim of violence carried out by the invaders, 40 women were killed, 60 women were raped, 100 women were subjected to physical torture and over 1,000 women were abducted.

Crimes committed by the Turkish state against Kurdish women in Afrin include:

  • The sale of abducted Kurdish women in Turkey.
  • The rape of women by Turkish soldiers and gangs.
  • Child marriage and forced marriages.
  • Child abuse.

On 28 May 2020, due to the clashes between the armed groups affiliated with the Turkish state, the al-Hamza Division jihadist group published a video on social media about the release of 11 abducted Kurdish women. Currently, there is no information regarding the fate of 10 of those women. These women have been subjected to severe torture and rape before. This situation led to indignation among Kurdish women and the Kurdish people.

As Kurdish women, we consider these attacks as an attack on each and every one of us. Unless the expansionist policy of the Turkish state led by Erdogan is stopped and this invasion continues not to be defined as an occupation by the UN, the Turkish state which introduced neo-Ottomanism the Middle East will continue to be a threat to the lives of all Middle Eastern women. Wherever it invades and intervenes, it sells women, rapes and harasses them with help of mercenary gangs and its army.

For this reason, the United Nations should not be content with just criticising the Turkish state, it should punish it harshly with sanctions for its direct crimes. All the practices of the Turkish state and its armed proxy organisations against women in Afrin fall under the title of war crimes.

All UN standards of law are being trampled on. The UN’s continued inaction brings into question the organisation’s dedication to its founding principles, to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to the Declaration on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, and to the Geneva Convention are brought into question.

We expect you, referring to your authority within the framework of the UN’s women’s treaties to stop the war crimes such as occupation, exploitation and rape by the Turkish state and start sanctions against Turkey for these systematic crimes by putting UN mechanisms into practice.

Kind regards,
Leyla Birlik
Spokeswoman of the Women’s Commission of the Kurdistan National Congress (KNK)

Supported by:

  • Union of Kurdish Women (PUK Women’s Union),Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI)
  • Women’s Organisation of Gorran – The Change Movement, KRI
  • Women’s Organisation of the Kurdistan Toilers’ Party, KRI
  • Kurdistan Women’s League of the Kurdistan Communist Party, KRI
  • Organisation for Development of Women’s Right of the Kurdistan Socialist Party,KRI
  • Women of the Union of Former Parliamentarians, Erbil, KRI
  • RJAK – Organisation of Free Women in Kurdistan, KRI
  • ASUDA – Empowering Women to Lead, Sulaymaniyah, KRI
  • REPAK – Kurdish Women’s Relations Office, KRI
  • EMMA – Organisation against Discrimination of Women, Erbil, KRI
  • RASAN – Organisation for Defending Women and LGBTQI Rights in Iraq, Sulaymaniyah, KRI
  • DABIN – Women’s Organisation for Democratic Development and Human Rights, KRI
  • Mrovdostan Women’s Organisation for Humanitarian Aid, Sulaymaniyah, KRI
  • EZMUN – Women’s Association for the Development of the Society, KRI
  • Kurdistan Women’s Doctors Organisation, KRI
  • Women’s Section of CHAPK – Organisation of Human Development, Sulaymaniyah, KRI
  • Women of ZARYAB Organisation for Cultural and Intellectual Services, Erbil, KRI
  • AZADBUN – Organisation of Liberating Kurdish Women, Sulaymaniyah, KRI
  • SAZAN – Organisation for Human and Women’s Rights, KRI
  • Xusonî Zeyton Êzîdî Women’s Organisation, KRI
  • Women’s Organisation for Peace, KRI
  • Semen Gul – Organisation of Women, KRI
  • SAYE – Association of Women, Sulaymaniyah, KRI
  • Women’s Section of Komala Party of Iranian Kurdistan
  • KJAR – Free Women Society of Eastern Kurdistan, East Kurdistan (Iran)
  • Women’s Organisation of the Movement for a Democratic Society (TEV-DEM), North & East Syria
  • Women’s Council of the Democratic Union Party (PYD)
  • Women’s Organisation of The Kurdish Democratic Left Party, North & East Syria
  • Organisation of Women of the Democratic Change Party, North & East Syria
  • Organisation of Women of the Kurdistan Toiler Party, North & East Syria
  • Women’s Organisation of the Democratic Party of the Kurds in Syria (al-Parti), North & East Syria
  • Organisation of Women of the Democratic Peace Party of Kurdistan, North & East Syria
  • Women’s Organisation of the Free Patriotic Union Party, North & East Syria
  • Women’s Organisation of the Future Movement, North & East Syria
  • Women’s Organisation of the Future Party of Syria, North & East Syria
  • Women’s Organisation of the Kurdistan Modern Democratic Party, North & East Syria
  • Women’s Organisation of the Democratic Agreement Party of Kurds in Syria, North & East Syria
  • WJAR – Foundation of Free Women in Syria, North & East Syria
  • SAWÎŞKA – Associations on Empowering Women in Syria, North & East Syria
  • Network for Kurdish Women Peace Leaders, North & East Syria
  • TJK-E – Movement of Kurdish Women in Europe
    Kurdish Women’s Cultural Centre, Colorado, USA
  • SARA – Free Women Collective Toronto, Canada
    International Kurdish Women’s Movement, Moscow, Russia
  • Movement of Free Kurdish Women, Armenia
  • Kurdish Women’s Union, Melbourne, Australia
  • Kurdish Women’s Committee of Democratic Center, Sydney, Australia
  • Women’s Board of Kurdistan Islamic Society (CIK)
  • YJAD – Union of Democratic Alawi Women, Germany
  • Women’s Section of Confederation of Democratic Alawites, Germany
  • Umbrella Organisation of the Councils of Êzidî Women, Germany
  • Umbrella Organisation of Êzidî Women’s Organisations, Germany
  • Umbrella Organisation of Êzidî Women’s Associations, Germany
  • BINEVŞ – Council of Êzidî Women in Berlin, Germany
  • ZEYNEP – Council of Êzidî Women in Achim, Germany
  • XANÊ DEMIR – Commune of Ezîdî Women in Bielefeld, Germany
  • AVESTA – Commune of Ezîdî Women in Saarbrücken, Germans
  • Organisation Mala/House of Êzidî Women, Germany
  • NEWROZ – Women’s Organisation of the Feyli Kurds, KRI
  • DAR- Women’s Organisation of the Kurdish Zoroastrians, KRI
  • MÎTRA – Women’s Organisation of the Yarsan Kurds
  • AZHAR- Women’s Section for Development of the Zoroastrian Kurds
  • Organisation House of Hawraman/Horaman Women, KRI/East Kurdistan (Iran)
  • Organisation of New Life for Woman Victims of the Anfal genocide
  • RONAK, Organisation of Kurdish Women in Sweden
  • SARA, Organisation of Kurdish Women, Sweden
  • SMARA Council of Kurdish Women in Stockholm, Sweden
  • WARŞÎN, Association of Kurdish Women, Sweden
  • SEMA Kurdish Women’s Commune, Gothenburg (Göteborg), Sweden
  • Kurdish Women’s Initiative Uppsala, Sweden
  • Kurdish Women’s Initiative Borlänge, Sweden
  • Kurdish Women’s Initiative Örebore, Sweden
  • Kurdish Women’s Initiative Helsenborge, Sweden
  • Kurdish Women’s Initiative Söderhamn, Sweden
  • Kurdish Women Organisation, Sweden
  • Kurdish Women’s Initiative Oslo, Norway
  • Kurdish Women’s Initiative Helsinki, Finland
  • SÊVÊ – Council of Kurdish Women Copenhagen, Denmark
  • RONAHÎ – Women’s Council in The Hague, Netherland
  • FATOŞ SAĞLAMGÖZ – Women’s Council in Arnhem, Netherlands
  • JIN – Commune of Women in Rotterdam, Netherlands
  • ROJBÎN – Commune of Women in Amsterdam/Zaandam, Netherlands
  • YJK – Union of Kurdish Women’s Organisations in Germany
  • CENÎ – Kurdish Women’s Bureau for Peace, Germany
  • AZADBUN – Organisation of Liberating Kurdish Women, KRI
  • KONGRA STAR Representation in the KRI
  • RONAHÎ – Council of Women in Mannheim, Germany
  • NÛJÎN – Council of Women in Hanau, Germany
  • VÎYAN – Council of Women Mainz, Germany
  • BERÇEM – Council of Women in Giessen, Germany
  • AMARA – Council of Women in Frankfurt, Germany
  • PAKÎZE NAYIR – Council of Women in Siegen, Germany
  • SARA – Council of Women in Offenbach, Germany
  • DENIZ FIRAT – Council of Women in Aachen, Germany
  • EKIN VAN – Council of Women in Troisdorf, Germany
  • DEST-DAN – Council of Women in Berlin, Germany
  • SÊVÊ – Council of Women in Bremen, Germany
  • RÛKEN – Council of Women in Bensheim, Germany
  • JÎYANA JIN – Council of Women in Kiel, Germany
  • NÛCAN – Council of Women in Leverkusen, Germany
  • VÎYAN – Council of Women in Cologne, Germany
  • ROZERÎN – Council of Women in Dortmund, Germany
  • VÎYAN – Council of Women in Wuppertal, Germany
  • UTA – Council of Women in Dresden, Germany
  • ASYA YÛKSEL – Council of Women in Duisburg, Germany
  • BERÎWAN ŞENGAL – Council of Women in Essen, Germany
  • FÎDAN – Council of Women in Hagen, Germany
  • ROJBÎN – Council of Women in Hamburg, Germany
  • LIM ARÎN – Council of Women in Esslingen, Germany
  • NÛDA – Council of Women in Freiburg, Germany
  • LEGERÎN – Council of Women in Tübingen, Germany
  • ARÎN MÎRKAN – Council of Women in Walsrode, Germany
  • GULAN GULO – Council of Women in Lehrte, Germany
  • BERÇEM CÎLO – Council of Women in Salzgitter, Germany
  • ŞÎLAN – Council of Women in Münster, Germany
  • HELÎN BAGOK – Council of Women in Limburg, Germany
  • ARJÎN – Commune of Women in Meschede, Germany
  • SARA – Commune of Women in Munich, Germany
  • TÎJDA EKICI – Commune of Women in Grevenbroich, Germany
  • TÎJDA – Commune of Women in Bingen, Germany
  • MERYEM – Commune of Women in Hildesheim, Germany
  • BARÎN KOBANÊ – Commune of Women in Nienburg, Germany
  • MARYA MAZDA – Commune of Women in Gelsenkirchen, Germany
  • SARA – Commune of Women in Trier, Germany
  • NALÎN MÛŞ – Women’s Initiative in Düsseldorf, Germany
  • EKÎN VAN – Women’s Initiative in Krefeld, Germany
  • ŞERWÎN – Women’s Initiative in Recklingenhausen, Germany
  • TJK-F – Kurdish Women’s Movement in France
  • ARÎN MÎRKAN – Centre of Kurdish Women’s in Marseille, France
  • ZÎN – Association of Women in Rennes, France
  • ZÎN – Organisation of Kurdish Women in Villeneuve, France
  • ZÎN – Association of Kurdish Women in Drancy, France
  • ZÎN – Association of Women in Villiers le Bel, France
  • ÇÎÇEK BOTAN – Women’s Association in Evry, France

A copy of this letter will also be sent to the following institutions:
Dr. Michelle Bachelet Jeria
High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) of the United Nations
UN Women Liaison Office in Geneva
UN Women National Committe Germany
UN Women Liaison Office in Japan
UN Women Liaison Office in Washington, D.C.
UN Women Liaison Office to the African Union
UN Women Liaison Office to the European Union
UN Women Liaison Office for the GCC
Arab States Regional Office
Egypt Country Office
Maghreb Multi-Country Office
UN Women China
UN Women India Multi Country Office
UN Women Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

c/o: Kurdistan National Congress
E-Mail: [email protected] or [email protected]