A People's History of the European Court of Human Rights

By Michael D. Goldhaber | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER 13
Two Faces of
Kurdish Feminism

The Kurdish cases gave the mature European Court of Human Rights its first extended chance to grapple with political violence in all its forms. Among them were rape, as in the case of Sukran Aydin, and sexual harassment, as in the case of Nebahat Akkoc. Although Aydin and Akkoc will forever be linked in the histories of European human rights and of Turkish feminism, they came from opposite ends of the Kurdish social spectrum. “Rape” was not part of Sukran's mental or verbal vocabulary. Nebahat not only knew the word, she could write a dissertation on it. In every way possible, she would use her pain to educate the men of Turkey and Europe.


A Baby Named “Torture”

A month after Zeki Aksoy first applied to Strasbourg, Sukran Aydin still lived a simple life. She had never used electricity, for she had never ventured outside her mountain village of Tasit. She was a seventeen-year-old in a tribal, Muslim world. At dawn on June 29, 1993, while her father was tending to his animals, ten or fifteen Village Guards burst into her home and abducted her. The Village Guards were state-supported paramilitaries, recruited from the local population, waging a war in Turkey's southeast against the Kurdish separatist guerillas, known as the PKK. Sukran and her family were paraded through the village square as the Guards shouted: “PKK supporters have been to these people's house, helping the PKK; see how we'll show them.” No charges, however, were ever brought against the Aydins. The trauma that followed is documented in the opinions of the European Court of Human Rights and Commission on Human Rights.

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