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Kurdish Human Rights Project: This is the legacy website of the Kurdish Human Rights Project, containing reports and news pertaining to human rights issues in the Kurdish Regions for 20 years.

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Turkey's Shame: Sexual Violence Without Redress: The plight of Kurdish women

A new report published by the Kurdish Human Rights Project [1], shows how Kurdish women in Turkey have increasingly become the target of State suppression of the Kurdish community and face a continuing and growing risk of sexual violence by state actors.

The magnitude of the problem of sexual violence against Kurdish women is widely unappreciated as even most recent statistics concerning incidents of sexual violence are only indicative of number of women affected. Many of the victims of sexual torture dare not speak of their experiences, because of the dishonour associated with rape and sexual violation in traditional communities.

KHRP's report is based on the findings of a November 2003 delegation to Mardin in Southeast Turkey to observe the trials of state officials for the rape and sexual torture of Kurdish women.

The first trial observed concerns the case of Sukran Esen, a Kurdish woman who was sexually tortured during three detentions which took place during 1993 and 1994. During these detentions Ms Esen was stripped, subjected to falaka, electric shocks, placed in a car tyre and rolled around, blindfolded and repeatedly raped by several men. All of those indicted for the crime worked at paramilitary police stations; 64 were senior officers. [2]

The second trial concerned the sexual torture and rape of another Kurdish woman on 5 March 2002 by five members of the Anti-Terror branch of the Mardin police. The victim HHamidiye Aslan, a Kurdish mother was detained for 48 hours in the police station where she was blindfolded, subjected to pressurised cold water, verbally abused and anally raped with sticks.

In addition, the KHRP delegation also conducted interviews with various State officials, NGOs and women victims of torture. During one such interview with by the Assistant Case Prosecutor in Mardin, the Delegation was told that Kurdish women had "ample opportunity" to use the existing domestic remedies in Turkey. "Every problem, however small, can be brought to a court in Turkey. She should not be afraid as the alleged perpetrator is a State official."

In its report, 'Turkey's shame: sexual violence without redress - the plight of Kurdish women,' KHRP condemns the continuation of state violence against Kurdish women and the lack of redress available to them. The report makes recommendations to the Turkish government and the international community about protecting women from sexual violence and ensuring that state actors may not act with impunity.

Kerim Yildiz of the Kurdish Human Rights Project commented, "The report highlights that the incidences of rape and sexual violence against Kurdish women in Turkey are not only "isolated incidents". Kurdish women are vulnerable both due to their gender and to their ethnicity. The Turkish Government and international community must take positive measures to safeguard Kurdish women from sexual violence from state actors."


[1] KHRP, 'Turkey's shame: Sexual violence without redress - the plight of Kurdish women' (December 2003) is available from KHRP.

Free copies of the report may be accessed and downloaded on KHRP’s website HERE. Printed copies are available for £10.00 + P&P through our online shop.

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[2] A further forty gendarmerie were subsequently indicted, bringing the total number of defendants to 445.