Joint call from the '100 reasons' campaign panel: “Erdogan should be put on trial”

"We want Turkey and Erdogan to be punished for the atrocities," stated a woman from Afrin during a panel held as part of the "100 Reasons" campaign launched by the Kurdish women's movement in Europe to put President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on trial.

A panel and press conference about the ‘100 Reasons’ campaign launched by the Kurdish women's movement for the prosecution of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was held at the 48th UN session on Human Rights in Geneva on 23 September.

The panel held at the Swiss Press Club supported the main demand for "the international recognition of femicides as genocide" and was organized by the European Kurdish Women's Movement (TJK-E) and the non-governmental organization MAAT for Peace.

Dr. Manuela Honegger moderated the panel, which included human rights and gender expert Marion Böker, Fight For Humanity Co-Director and Founder Ann-Kristin Sjöberg, North-East Syrian Women's Council Coordination Member Asya Abdullah, and TJK-E International Relations Spokesperson Melike Yaşar.

The panel began with screening of photographs from Syria's war, as well as testimonials of women describing rape they had experienced and atrocities committed in the region. The demographic change and Turkification in the region where Turkey penetrated through cross-border operations were also featured in the video which focused on the demographic change and Turkification in the region.

TJK-E International Relations Spokesperson Melike Yaşar, who spoke first, began her address by remembering the late women who had participated in the campaign.

Noting that the Kurdish women's movement has participated in numerous campaigns and actions against women's atrocities, Yaşar said, "The goal of our “100 reasons” campaign is to bring the dictator Erdogan on trial. I will also inform you about Erdogan's crimes.”


Yaşar stated that while the campaign's goal was to collect 100,000 signatures, they have already collected more than 235,000 signatures. “We want to start the second stage of our campaign in this panel. During Erdogan's 18-year reign, he did not commit merely 100 offences. Thousands of crimes are known to have been perpetrated. Without Erdogan's trial, humanity's conscience will remain unsatisfied. That is why we would like to share the names of the women who have died as a result of Erdogan's military policies. Sakine Cansız, Fidan Doğan, Leyla Şaylemez, Taybet İnan were murdered and İnan’s body remained on the street for 7 days. Hevrin Xelef, Ceylan Önkol were murdered. Kader Ortakkaya was murdered in Kobanê. Dilek Doğan was murdered in Istanbul. Dozens of similar massacres have taken place."

“As part of our program, women who escaped gangs will share their experiences,” Yaşar remarked, noting that hundreds of harassment and rape had been experienced at the hands of gang organizations supported by Turkey in Afrin. "Sakine Cansız, Fidan Doğan, and Leyla Şaylemez were assassinated in Paris by members of Turkey’s intelligence service MIT. Three Kurdish women were murdered on the orders of the Turkish authorities,” she remarked.


Referring to the attacks on Shengal, Yaşar stated, “The Erdoğan regime continues its preparations to exploit that place and commit a new massacre. In Shengal, it is attempting to implement the same concept by shielding ISIS gangs. I call it Erdogan regime because it is a one-man tyranny. There is no parliament or law in that place. Erdogan has also committed crimes against nature ever since he came to power. Those crimes have been witnessed by all of us. Mothers of peace, co-mayors, and lawmakers who received millions of votes were all imprisoned. We share the anguish of the mother who was given her child's bones by post. The Erdoğan regime delivers the bodies of people’s children back to their families by post after a few years.”

“Children are run over and killed by armored vehicles in front of the eyes of the world and the public because they are Kurds,” Yaşar stated, emphasizing that people go on hunger strike for a fair trial. "The list of crimes committed by the Erdogan dictatorship is extensive. We may deduce a crime from every day of Erdogan's government if we count these crimes one by one. I have a question. Is Erdogan viewed as a tyrant or not when all of this is considered?” she added.


Noting that women were subjected to heightened pressure and massacres during the AKP regime, Yaşar said, “We're recounting the story of fascism through two persons. Men perpetrate violence because they are given confidence by the state. Women are being slaughtered methodically. For their own reasons, international institutions and Europe are closing their eyes. Erdogan is continuing his blackmail and using them. He trains gangs in the camps and dispatches them to Syria. That's why we said "A Hundred Reasons". Erdogan is attempting to conceal the truth. Even 100 crimes, rather than thousands, are sufficient grounds for prosecuting the tyrant. With this in mind, we have gathered 100 offences with proofs and papers as part of the campaign. We have real evidence and concrete demands. We call out to international institutions and urge them to fulfil their responsibilities. He should be punished for his actions. You are responsible for this political and ethnic genocide. According to international conventions, you must recognize Erdogan as a tyrant and ensure his prosecution. You must take action before the list grows further.”

Yaşar noted that Kurdish women resisted all of these attacks and fought against femicide, saying, "We have the evidence of the crimes. We want to organize a struggle to ensure that Erdogan is prosecuted before international institutions. We want to show how he used chemical weapons and committed atrocities against the resisting Kurdish women.”


During the panel, human rights defender Mennatalla Abdelraouf remarked that they came together to put an end to the crimes committed by AKP President Tayyip Erdogan in the Middle East. Abdelraouf stated that they could not achieve as women unless they worked together, saying, "We suffer because we are women.  When I began researching the Turkish women in Turkey and the Kurdish women in Syria, I recognized that the primary targets were women. We know that Erdogan is so hostile to Kurdish women because of ISIS. As the March for Peace, we collaborate with a number of institutions to combat Turkey's crimes. I call on the High Commission to take responsibility and stop Turkey's occupation.”


One of the panel's witnesses from Afrin described their experiences as follows: "When Turkey invaded Afrin, we couldn't even leave the house. We were required to veil ourselves. We were continually harassed. When we arrived at the hospital, they referred to us as ‘infidels.’ 'You are Kurds, you are infidels,' they said. The Turks attacked our house one night and abducted my daughter while she was sleeping in her pyjamas. Then they brought me my daughter's daughter one day. We were incarcerated at the police station for 20 days. Every day, they humiliated us and cursed us. My daughter was severely beaten. They also kidnapped her daughter. They stripped her naked and locked her up. In that police station, three officers tormented us. They were both cops and tormentors at the same time. My daughter had recently given birth and was unable to feed. They drugged my daughter, causing her to stiffen, and then took her to the doctor. There were far too many girls under the age of 18 under detention. They were systematically raped, and some had a miscarriage. Their primary targets were women. Because of this, women were the most humiliated and abused. The prison housed approximately 25 children from the age of six months to seven years. My daughter was unable to feed her infant. We urge the United Nations to help those women incarcerated there. The number of these women is growing by the day. I have no other request except to return to my home in Afrin."


The second witness, who also attended the panel, stated that she had to evacuate Afrin following Turkey's onslaught. The witness went on to say that she was forced to leave Afrin on foot with her children and that "no one hears the words of us Kurds." She continued, “God made us Kurds and gave us our language. Dozens of youngsters were dispersed, hurt, or murdered. There were also men among them. One child's leg was lost. That tragedy resulted in the death of one of my children and the injury of another. My children are still terrified and startled by even the slightest noise. We want the Turkish state to face justice for the massacres. We want Erdogan brought to trial," she stated.


Ann-Kristin Sjöberg, co-director and founder of Fight For Humanity, said that she had a hard time speaking as both a woman and a mother after hearing what had happened there. Sjöberg stated that she has been in many combat zones and continued, "Women and girls endure tremendous injustices in these situations. This is incorrect, and we are working to change it. All laws ban sexual violence and the threat of sexual violence. Any law prohibits attacking a hospital, whether in war or peace. It is a responsibility of international organizations to speak out against these crimes. We must do all in our power to put a stop to this."


Asya Abdullah, who took the floor afterwards, began by underlining that their lands were heavily occupied. "We, as institutions and women in North and East Syria, are defending and will continue to defend ourselves against the occupation in all areas of life," Abdullah added, noting that they are under military, economic, and political occupation. Stating that they are fighting against the occupation policies, Abdullah continued as follows: “We have made it a priority to organize first in order to safeguard both ourselves and our territory. Against the occupation, we formed the North East Syria Women's Council comprising Kurdish, Arab, Chechen, and Circassian women.”

“We are fighting the occupation in the fields of politics and economics. Occupation policies are felt in more than just military terms. There are special occupation policies in place. In Afrin, women are kidnapped. Between 2020 and 2021, 105 women were murdered, 189 were kidnapped, and 197 were killed in bombardments. 182 children lost their lives. Today, our most urgent battle must be fought against and prevention of femicide. The revolution in North-East Syria and Rojava has established significant values not just for our country but also for humanity. The YPJ’s fight against ISIS was for all women. The Turkish state is striking the SDF and the YPJ leaders are murdered in full view of the world.”


“Kurdish women in North and East Syria are pioneering a democratic system for all women. Men and women are equally represented in the co-chairmanship structure. This is also significant for the rest of the world. Fort his very reason, the Turkish state's gangs are targeting our democratic system. Women who have fought against ISIS are being targeted. Following the occupation of our territories, the democratic system was abolished and a massacre began. Under what legal authority did they take our territories and are they changing the demographic structure? Thousands of our people were forced to flee. Which international law grants Turkey this authority? The change in our country's demographic makeup is a crime against humanity. The murder of women and children by the Turkish state's heavy weaponry is a crime against humanity.”


“We believe in human values and the right of every people to live by their own culture. The Turkish state, on the other hand, is continuing its attacks to prevent this from happening. Turkey must be stopped in order to put an end to the occupation and mass killing. Our lands must be protected against aerial attacks. Our people are being slaughtered every day. They attack with their fighter jets whenever they want. The Turkish state will utilize its heavier weapons if there is no prohibition. The gangs on our lands are employing ISIS methods. Thousands of our people are unable to return to their homes. An international guarantee for the return of our people to their homelands is required.”


“We invite international institutions, those who fight for human rights, and those who oppose the killing of women and children, to visit Syria. They can come and see the facts for themselves. You are invited to witness this reality. A border has been established in our territory occupied by the Turkish state. More than what we tell here is experienced there. We've been through a lot more than that. As women, we will host panels to discuss the events in North-East Syria and their implications for the future of the occupied regions and Syria. As women, we will struggle on this subject to compensate for our shortcomings. As women, we will continue to fight for all Syrians against Turkey's continued occupation of our territories until the end. We urge international organizations to safeguard the human principles they have established and to promote a democratic system that includes women.”


Finally, Marion Böker, a human rights and gender expert, explained that she was a Jew born in Germany 60 years after WWII and that she lost a major part of her family in the Holocaust. Böker stated that she understands what genocide is and added, "We need to find clearer and faster responses. We have time to linger. Writing a letter of reprimand will not fix the problem. We already have a lot of mechanisms in place for this. We must go into action.”

The panel concluded with a question-and-answer session following the speakers.