Adalet Kaya, the Green Left Party’s candidate in Diyarbakir: “I will bring the voice of women to Parliament”
BIRCAN DEGIRMENCI- Adalet Kaya, true to her name, is a just and conscientious woman. She is the President of Rosa Women's Association, which was established 5 years ago in Diyarbakir. She is well-known among women in Diyarbakir because she has been actively engaged in the struggle for women's rights and freedoms, making a meaningful impact on their lives. As a candidate for the 4th place in the Green Left Party's Diyarbakir list for parliamentary elections, Kaya will now carry the voice of women to parliament. We met with her during her busy election campaign to get to know her better and listen to her story.
Kaya was born in 1977 in Kulp, Diyarbakir. She spent her childhood there until she completed middle school. She is one of five children of a father who worked as a driver between Diyarbakir and Kulp, and a mother who was a homemaker.
"We had small livestock in the backyard of our home where we grew vegetables and fruits. It was enough to meet our needs. I believe those were the best times of my life. Until the conflicts intensified."
During the year 1993, when street protests and violence from both Hezbollah and the state escalated, and homes were raided and people were fired upon, Kaya's family also experienced the forced migration that many families in the region faced. They moved to Diyarbakir.
"We lost almost everything. Uncle, grandfather, aunts, we left our family home, our living space behind."
The challenges of starting a new life were also immense. The family did not have an economic field to support their livelihood. The first year was very difficult for the whole family.
"Those who came from the village lived together in two-room houses, which actually revealed our society's ability to live collectively. We survived that period with our own strength and solidarity. Later on, everything fell into place, everyone somehow established their routine. But that transition period was quite exhausting for both children and parents."
School presented another challenge for Kaya. She was enrolled at Fatih High School. Just like in the streets, the influence of Hezbollah was present in schools as well. Her school days passed with Hezbollah members walking around with knives in hand, instilling fear in classrooms and corridors, and empty classes due to a lack of teachers, and protests for better education.
"We couldn't go to school alone, we had to move in groups. We were always on edge. In fact, a girl in our lower grade had acid thrown in her face just because her skirt was short. Her whole life was ruined. They were constantly trying to create fear. Witnessing this period, looking back, we were quite brave. Many things seemed normal. It means that many types of violence can become normalized, but being organized against it empowers you. We didn't leave each other alone, we had this protective mechanism."
Kaya, who was a bright student, was accepted to Ankara Gazi University Faculty of Economics and Administrative Sciences, Department of Political Science and Public Administration. This was the first time she was separated from her family. Adjusting to Ankara was not easy. Her college years coincides with a period between 1995-2000 when student movements once again intensified.
"I received an excellent education from very good professors. There is a huge gap when compared to today's academia. There is nothing left of academia. We were really lucky in that sense. Public administration is a department that draws on four main disciplines: local government systems, political science, sociology, and law. Building my civil society identity on such a foundation made my work easier in many places."
MARDIN METROPOLITAN MUNICIPALITY PERIODFormun Üstü
After graduating, Kaya started working at the Ministry of National Education through the Public Personnel Selection Exam (KPSS). Then she worked as an advisor in parliament for two terms on temporary assignment. Later, she worked as the Head of Private Office and in the Women's Commissions at Mardin Metropolitan Municipality.
"Mardin was won by the HDP for the first time and became a metropolitan municipality for the first time. All the institutional structuring was carried out during our period. A serious quota for women was applied in determining the employees. Therefore, the number of women employees, managers, and advisors was quite high. The zipper system and equal representation criteria applied to elected officials were also applied in determining the employees. Mardin became a municipality with the highest number of women employees in this sense. Therefore, there were intense efforts in women's areas. Two places were opened where women's economy would be strengthened and where women who experienced violence could apply."
Of course, with the appointment of a government trustee in 2016, all these centers were closed and eliminated. Like many other employees in the municipality, Kaya was dismissed from her position.
"Our labor rights were taken away. One morning, I realized that I had returned to the starting point as if I hadn't done anything for 15 years. This was not very important, as we were constantly audited by inspectors while working in the municipality. They couldn't find anything because everything was done properly. Transparency and accountability were fundamental principles of our local governance system. We were not doing this under pressure from the state. But despite not finding anything, these attacks were carried out from above, with looting and eradicating the will of the people. As a public servant, I can say that I felt liberated and relieved because trying to do something under constant pressure can become very exhausting."
After overcoming the shock, Kaya became involved in the women's movement and continued to stay in Mardin.
"Because it had become a matter of determination for us. They kept asking us to leave our homes, our lives, with every intervention from outside. I stayed because I didn't want to leave that place. I participated in women's activities."
ESTABLISHING THE ROSA WOMEN'S ASSOCIATION
Due to the economic difficulties, Adalet Kaya and her daughter moved back in with her family in Diyarbakir to carry out this struggle. She initiated the work of founding Rosa Women's Association with the women there. These were traumatic times when all civil society organizations were being closed, the state of emergency continued, and everyone was under pressure.
"When we look at the data of Human Rights Association (IHD), we see horrifying numbers of escalating violence. It showed us how functional the women's solidarity and consultation centers established within local administrations were. When we look at Batman and Silvan where suicides and feminicides were heavily prevalent, we see that they almost decreased to zero. During the periods when the women's movement was the strongest in the cities, there were no feminicides, harassment, violence, or suicides. But the state of emergency period was a time when the women's movement was weakened. Many women lost their jobs and were displaced. Domestic violence increased. There was a lot of disarray. We rolled up our sleeves to gather and create new spaces."
After the lifting of the state of emergency, they opened the Rosa Women's Association in December 2018. Despite not conducting any organizational work, the fact that many women came, especially those who experienced violence, shows how much they needed such an organization. Upon this, they took the lead in the establishment of the Violence Prevention Network, which includes various institutions including the Bar Association, the IHD, and the Commission for Children's Rights, to provide legal, psychological, and shelter support to women.
WOMEN'S POVERTYFormun Üstü
Kaya says that the issue of poverty is the most important problem in Turkey. "People have been made dependent on bread and shelter. When we look at the current system, we see a system where a certain capital group is empowered, enriched, and all resources are directed towards them. An economic policy is being implemented where the people are getting poorer every day. We need to fight against this. In fact, we need to reclaim what is rightfully ours, and create a new system, a new economic model that grows, multiplies, and ensures equal distribution. When we walk around the neighborhood, we don't need to explain anything to people about what this government is putting them through. Everyone is fully aware, everyone is right in the middle of it. They just wonder when they will be able to earn their bread. We need to completely remove these things. Nothing was spared from harm. [The rulers[ have an attitude of hostility towards women, nature, agriculture. The cause of this poverty is war, lies, and profit-oriented policies. We need to establish new mechanisms of production.
The issue of women's poverty always comes up. We already knew and saw situations such as anxiety about the future, inability to sustain life, being disciplined through hunger. But today, we need to talk about an economic model that can address a wider and more comprehensive range of social groups.
People are truly weary of hoping. There is a fatigue, but there is also anger. The anger has intensified with the earthquake. People have been disciplined with hunger, cold, and death. Funerals were not conducted according to people's beliefs and traditions, and we were not able to bury our loved ones properly. All these rituals have significance in this society. Therefore, there is anger stemming from this. The earthquake was a natural disaster, but it has turned into a thousand-year catastrophe due to the policies of the government."Formun Üstü
"END TO THE PATRIARCHAL MINDSET"
Kaya emphasizes that they will stand against the patriarchal mindset and behavior in politics. "Sometimes even a woman can exhibit patriarchal behavior. We see this a lot in politics as well. We should never allow such a thing. Every word we say, every action we take should be inclusive of gender equality, freedom, and every individual in society. We can achieve this because we are nourished from a foundation of women's liberation. We should also be sensitive to nature as a society, defining nature within the framework of free and equal coexistence, beyond all established dichotomies. Nature is not something we should exploit. Neither states nor societies should do so. Disconnecting from nature has been our downfall. As the Kurdish society, we are still somewhat successful in preserving these codes, and we should not lose them. Our mothers start their day by looking at the moon. They pray by looking at the land and water. We carry these codes, and hopefully, we will strengthen them even more."
"I LEARNED ABOUT MY CANDIDACY AT THE SAME TIME YOU DID"
Women who have walked together with Kaya support her candidacy. "I did not apply for candidacy myself. Friends called me up. I come from the field. My name had been recommended. There was no offer or application by myself. I come from a grassroots, local background. It is an honor for me to be recommended by women in civil society. They said, 'Send your file.' I said I would like to work in this field if there is a need. I learned that I am the 4th candidate on the Diyarbakir list at the same time that you did. Politics is a very difficult field. It is a field dominated by a patriarchal mindset, and the women's movement really needs to have power there. When I look at the Diyarbakir list, I see that all five women come from the women's movement. And this makes me very happy. The first candidate in Gaziantep also comes from the women's movement. The same goes for Sirnak and Urfa. It is very valuable to see women who believe in the struggle for women's freedom, who come entirely from the field, fighting in this field today and then continuing in parliament.
I have many comrades who are with me or not with me today, who are in prison or in exile, whom I started together with, such as Ayla Akad and Yuksel Baran. It is a struggle that we started together, but unfortunately, they are no longer here. There are the efforts of many women in Rosa Women's Association alone. I am the candidate representing all of them today. And I am deeply honored. I have embraced this party and worked for it for years. Therefore, representing it today is both an honor and a great responsibility. It also keeps me awake at night. How can I do better, how can I strengthen it? It is very important to carry the will and responsibility of a people. It is the responsibility of a people, the responsibility of mothers who have lost their children in war. We owe mothers and children a better life. By taking on this responsibility, I am indebted to them. We need to take the words of every mother we engage in dialogue with to the Parliament. I will continue my journey with this belief."