Turkish anti-femicide advocate makes BBC’s 100 most influential women list

Dr. Gülsüm Kav, co-founder and representative for Turkey’s We Will Stop Femicide Platform (KCDP), was named among the BBC’s 100 inspiring and influential women for 2020.

Kav was the only woman from Turkey included in the list, and was accompanied by the likes of Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin, Mayor of Bogotá Claudia López, coronavirus vaccine researcher Sarah Gilbert, and many more activists, scientists, artists and community leaders.

“The women offering resistance today seek equality and freedom,’’ Kav told BBC. “The pandemic, which has shed light on the inequalities that women experience, shows there is no other way than these women pushing for change.”

Being recognised for her work felt embarrassing, Kav told Turkish newspaper Sözcü in an interview, because she was “rewarded” for fulfilling an obligation.

“All the women I fight together with, the families, all people who stand with us, are doing what needs to be done and working to stop femicides that occur in Turkey almost every day,” Kav said.

It is no coincidence that Kav was recognised and the work of the KCDP was highlighted in the list, as the most important problem for Turkey’s women remains the same, she said.

“I wish we had received an award for having gone past the struggle against violence, for looking at what is to come,” she said. “But on the other hand, a significant fight has been cultivated against this important social issue. In the end, (the struggle) also represents Turkey’s women defending their own future.”

Her inclusion in the list is recognition of Turkey’s women’s fight to decide for their lives and themselves, she said.

The KCDP was established in 2010 after the gruesome killing of teenager Münevver Karabulut at hands of her boyfriend shocked Turkey, to monitor the lawsuit against her murderer.

The organisation has continued to monitor lawsuits, create resources for women subjected to sex-based violence, and keep and maintain a database and statistics for women who have been murdered by men in Turkey.

Public authorities have only recently started to use the concept of femicide, or women’s murder, Kav told Sözcü, after nearly a decade of advocating for similar simple changes to better combat violence against women in the country.

In Turkey, there is “a bad tradition of violently suppressing anybody who demands their rights,” Kav said. “Women’s search for freedom against a strong patriarchy is attempted to be suppressed with blind violence.”

Even after several waves of crackdowns on the opposition, intensifying after the 2013 Gezi Protests and gaining further traction following the state of emergency declared after a failed coup attempt in 2016, women’s movements in Turkey have remained strong. Thousands of women have been taking to the streets consistently over the years for rallies and demonstrations regularly to advocate for abortion rights, and against gender-based violence.

This summer saw a series of mobilisations by women defending the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence, better known as the Istanbul Convention, after government officials expressed intention to withdraw from it. KCDP has been a leading organiser for many of the protests.

Women of every social group are standing up for their modern rights, Kav said, which is why women’s rights movements can’t be vilified.