In the Kurdish southeast, crippling underdevelopment, enduring feudal mores, and widespread illiteracy among women exacerbate their plight. “Honor killings,” and “honor suicides,” are disturbingly widespread. To make matters worse, the longstanding conflict in the region has created an environment in which law-enforcers are able to commit sexual crimes with impunity; it is common for Kurdish women to be assaulted while in custody on dubious charges of PKK activity.
In 1994 Nebahat herself became one of these victims. Arrested by government forces as a suspected member of the PKK, she was detained for ten days alongside two-dozen men. She alone among the suspects was tortured and sexually abused. Eventually, she was released, only to be arrested twice more in the following months.
Nebahat’s persecution at the hands of the state set her on the frontlines of both battles: the dual struggle for Kurdish enfranchisement and women’s rights. And while her treatment may have been shamefully ordinary, her reaction was not. Following her husband’s murder and her own arrest, Nebahat took the Turkish government to trial at the European Court of Human Rights, charging them with failing to protect the life of her husband and for subjecting her to torture. She won the case, and $135,000 in damages, and, set out to fight for women’s rights in a region where this concept was barely heard of.
Nebahat began the feminist organization Kamer in 1997, with a staff of twelve volunteers. Now, the organization operates in all twenty-three provinces across the eastern and south-eastern regions of Turkey; a vast area fragmented along ethnic, linguistic, and religious lines.”—Kirsten O’Regan: In Turkey, Two Fights for Peace - Guernica / A Magazine of Art & Politics