The fight against the attacks on women’s lives in the country is increasing relative to the previous years. This increasing struggle continues within Middle East Technical University (METU).
The women’s movement, which has existed at Middle East Technical University (METU) for decades, now stands where women can discuss their needs, gather around their demands faster, and take action to organize the struggle in every field.
The women’s movement at METU needs this fight more today than ever. Because attacks on spaces where women can freely express themselves are increasing daily, the pressure and violence threatening women’s lives are making them feel more and more every day.
The attacks of the political power’s mentality, which exploits and restricts women, are gaining a stable and regular identity. In the face of this continued attack, women’s reflexes to come together are also developing. Women do not stop coming together, even if circumstances prevent them.
Even in the case of pandemic conditions, while women are pouring into the streets all over the country despite the government’s withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention, women in METU also gather on their campuses and organize protests against the exit from the Istanbul Convention, shouting their demands with posters and banners. Women unite against the increasing oppression and violence, against and despite the restrictions placed on their lives, whenever they can.
Women in METU are in the field of fight
Dates such as International Women’s Day (March 8) and International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against (November 25) provide women to come together and voice their demands. As a result, women fill the streets on these dates. METU is one of those spaces. The societies in METU organize panels, interviews, and film screenings focusing on women’s rights in the weeks that March 8 and November 25 fall. In addition to these events, women in METU organize an open forum for women on March 8 and November 25, discussing their problems, what they can do to deal with the issues, and in which areas they can raise their demands.
According to the forum’s outcomes, women in METU plan the night march at METU every 8 March and 25 November. In the discussion, they collectively decide what to write on their posters, which primary demand they will highlight, and the date and time of the march. Women organize their activities collectively. They are not limited to METU only. Women in METU voice their demands at the main rally in Kızılay (a well known street in Ankara -the capital of Turkey- where most of the demonstrations take place) and carry their demands on their posters.
Not limited to dates but integrated struggle networks
Most of the time, women’s gatherings are limited to those dates. After the events or protests, this togetherness disintegrates. However, anytime the rectorate overlooks women’s rights, there is a harassment case or an attack against women’s spaces. Compared to the students, the fact that women give such quick actions against the attacks is a progressive feature of the struggle. When women say, “At least we are free on campus, we are safe,” they see a harassment case exposure on campus. They learn that women’s groups have been closed in some universities; or that the Ministry of Interior has issued a circular restricting women’s platforms and women’s societies in schools. Even though women gathers mainly based on the reflexive act, women in METU are struggling with the awareness of the necessity of building a whole line of the fight against such continuous attacks.
Local women collectives
METU contains these struggle networks with its struggle culture and societies. However, women are facing attacks on their rights or mobbing and harassment in their schools and their faculties and departments. The attacks continue to be localized as well as growing unceasingly. Therefore, women come together in their faculties and establish local collectives against the problems that are becoming localized within faculties and departments. In these collectives, women discuss the problems they have experienced in the faculty and how to build a line of struggle against them. Some examples of these collectives are women in Humanities, Women in Biological Sciences, and Women from the Faculty of Economics and Administrative Sciences (İİBF). Even if the conditions prevent them, women who rush to fight also build spaces where they can express themselves freely. In these spaces, they carry out works towards their needs within the faculty, prepare brochures and raise awareness while organizing petition campaigns and raising their demands.
METU contains these struggle networks with its struggle culture and societies. However, women face attacks on their rights or mobbing and harassment in their schools, faculties, and departments. The attacks continue to be localized as well as growing unceasingly. Therefore, women come together in their faculties and establish local collectives against the problems that are becoming localized within faculties and departments. In these collectives, women discuss the problems they have experienced in the faculty and how to build a line of struggle against them. Some examples of these collectives are women in Humanities, Women in Biological Sciences, and Women from the Faculty of Economics and Administrative Sciences (FEAS). Even if the conditions prevent them, women who rush to fight also build spaces where they can express themselves freely. In these spaces, they carry out works towards their needs within the faculty, prepare brochures and raise awareness while organizing petition campaigns and raising their demands. For example, five women stated that a student from the FEAS harassed them.
However, the faculty committee made the final decision and did not impose any sanctions. Thereupon, FEAS Women launched a petition campaign to establish a Gender Equality Commission responsible for ensuring gender equality within the faculty, preventing harassment, and following up on harassment cases assigned to the faculty by the Sexual Harassment Prevention Unit (CİTÖB). The women who collected 281 signatures delivered these petitions to the dean of the faculty. However, this campaign drew criticism because it was already a unit in charge of the stated tasks. METU has a unit responsible for doing this: It is the Sexual Harassment Prevention Unit (CITOB). The unit was established as an achievement of the women’s struggle at METU in 2016 and aims to raise awareness about gender equality, support equal representation, raise awareness about cases of gender-based violence, especially sexual harassment and assault, and evaluate applications related to these cases and support the applicants. However, due to the university’s lack of promotion, and budget allocation for this unit, it remains unqualified and inadequate. Prolonging the perpetrator’s investigation increases the survivor’s victimization, does not carry out the process transparently, fails to provide psychological support to the victim, and does not follow up on the cases assigned to the faculty. As a result of this inertia, the perpetrator is not being prosecuted.
However, the women of METU have not given up on CİTÖB either. While women demand the establishment of Gender Equality Commissions in every faculty that will ensure gender equality within the faculty and surveil CİTÖB, they continue to voice their demand for the development of CİTÖB. Local collectives do not only unite around local demands but also come together around main demands with the power they receive from the locals.
Last year, one of METU’s local women’s collectives, Women for Humanities, published a brochure to raise awareness about harassment within the faculty and called for an open forum to discuss the question “What can we do to improve CİTÖB?” As an outcome of the forum, a petition was written and opened for signatures stating the demand for the development of CİTÖB. Although this campaign, which also revived local collectives, was interrupted due to the summer vacation, women continued the campaign in the summer school and expressed the inadequacy of CİTÖB in every field they had the opportunity.
In addition to faculty collectives, women also come together in dormitories. Unfortunately, the inexhaustible attack also occurs in dormitories. Women are restricted in terms of entry time to the dormitory. While there is no such practice in men’s dormitories, women are forced to write a defense when they enter the dormitory late. These problems, compounded by the dire conditions of the dormitories, pave the way for women to build spaces where they can come together and hold meetings, meet with the dormitory manager if necessary, and pursue solutions to problems together. Like in faculties, the voice rising from dormitories also echoes in schools and such spaces. The women who come together in the local spaces continue to voice their calls and do their best to organize the main demands stronger and together.