The 9th Assembly on Women’s Shelters and Counselling/Solidarity Centres was held between November 24-26 in Izmir. The assembly was attended by 134 women working in women’s organisations or wishing to work in the field. The funding for the 9th Assembly on Women’s Shelters and Solidarity Centres was provided by the Heinrich Böll Foundation as in the previous years.

The Assembly on Women’s Shelters and Counselling/Solidarity Centres was held for the first time in 1998 with the Mor Çatı Foundation’s initiative. During this process, many women’s organisations working to end violence against women came together in a feminist platform. There were extensive debates during the 7th and 8th assemblies as to the self-definition of the assembly, and in the intermediate meeting held in Bartın, the components of the assembly resolved these debates and reached a conclusion. The framework of the assembly was decided to be domestic violence against women, and other forms of violence directed at women would be examined in the assembly via a workshop.

The 9th assembly was hosted by EKDAV, and it began with a talk from Birsen Atakan of the Communication Centre, summarising the process. Then, the participating women and new women’s organisations introduced themselves. There was also a female police officer amongst the participants. She stated that she wasn’t on duty and was also in attendance in the Local Agenda 21 activities in İzmir, and it was agreed that she could participate in the first day of the assembly.

Presentations followed. Hicran Karabudak spoke about the importance of volunteering and volunteering in women’s organisations. Amargi gave a presentation on their assessments of “Awareness and Diversity”. KADAV gave a presentation on female employment, which highlighted the importance of the issue of employment for women, and they called for women’s organisations to take the questionnaire they had prepared on the issue. Pakize from İzmir evaluated laws and regulations on the subject. Ferihan from İzmir spoke in Kurdish and brought attention to the different forms of repression Kurdish women experience. Foundation for Women’s Solidarity stated that the 8th Assembly was not sufficiently utilised and it was significant that KAMER chose not to participate in this assembly. Gönül, another participant from İzmir, stated that a women’s shelter model should be decided on by the assembly.

At the end of the day, participants agreed to meet at the workshops the following day. However, some participants wanted to debate whether the workshop on “Multifaceted violence against Kurdish women, and its domestic and social reflections” should be held. Participants who had been in attendance in the previous assembly and intermediate meeting stated that the issue was discussed in the assembly in Diyarbakır, as well as the intermediate meeting, and a final decision was made. It was said that participating in the workshop was not mandatory, but preventing women from participating in the workshop did not align with a feminist perspective. Workshops began the next day. The topics of the workshops were as follows, as decided during the intermediate meeting:

  1. Life in shelters, applications due to reasons other than domestic violence, supporting women in their lives after leaving the shelter. (Open to women working in the field.)
  2. What can counselling centres do when faced with instances of incest? How can incest be uncovered? (Open to women working in the field.)
  3. Multifaceted violence against Kurdish women, and its domestic and social reflections (Open to all women.)
  4. Women’s movement for political developments regarding shelters and counselling centres (Open to independent women’s organisations.)
  5. Counselling centres and their practices (Open to women working in the field.)

When the workshops began, some participants were of the view that the 3rd workshop had gone ahead despite themselves and opted to not join in. Police officers came to the assembly venue and said that they had “received a tip”, after which it became clear that the assembly had been targeted maliciously. All participants protested against this and their behaviour united the assembly. Police were unanimously debarred from the assembly venue.

After the police left, workshops continued. Some women who had been against the running of the 3rd workshop decided to express their views in the workshop. Their participation made worship 3 more productive.

It had been decided beforehand that on the final day of the assembly, first the workshops would be concluded and then the concluding manifesto prepared. But it was noticed that the police came to the venue again and pressured the organisation who had lent us the venue to conclude the proceedings. Because of this, and the effect of the heated debates over the past three days, only 4 of the workshops’ conclusions could be discussed, and the drawing up of the concluding manifesto left until later.

The assembly participants highlighted the following points moving forward and decided to form a coalition in this regard:

  1. The regulation concerning the “Prevention of Violence Against Women and Children and Honour Killings”, issued July 4, 2006, should be immediately implemented. This regulation is an achievement of the women’s movement who has been working to realise it for around 20 years, and caters to a large extent to the demands of these assemblies which have been held over the past 9 years. However, it is seen that the necessary steps for its implementation still haven’t been taken.
    • The public must be made aware of how much of their duties public institutions have fulfilled as described in this regulation, and those who have not followed the regulations should face sanctions. It must be shared with the public how much of their duties these institutions have fulfilled up to the present day.
    • The budget mentioned in the regulation should be announced.
    • Is there a women’s support fund? How many women have benefited from this fund?
    • At what stage of completion are the processes set out in the regulation at a local level, including councils, law enforcement, universities, religious offices and civil society organisations?
    • The KSGM should be ensuring that the precautions stated in the regulation are taken efficiently, it should audit related institutions, and precautions to ease the problems faced by female victims of domestic violence should be taken immediately.
    • The assembly participants formed a monitoring group to monitor the regulation’s implementation. It was decided that this group would work alongside the CEDAW monitoring group. Evre from Women for Women’s Human Rights – New Ways, Canan from Amargi, Ebru from Foundation for Women’s Solidarity, and Sema from Çanakkale ELDER agreed to run this task
  2. Local authorities should fulfil their obligation to open women’s shelters. A great majority of local councils have not fulfilled this obligation bestowed upon them by law. The number of shelters should be increased without delay, and councils who do not follow the law should be made known to the public. The regulation concerning this law should be issued without delay.
  3. Shelters and counselling centres should be opened side by side. The majority of existing shelters run without a counselling centre. This creates difficulties both in terms of applications and the monitoring of women’s progress after they leave the shelter. Shelters should work together with counselling centres.
  4. Existing adverse conditions in shelters should be remedied. Women staying in shelters should be given the right to lead a life that respects their human rights. New shelters should be designed not as prisons but as life homes. Staff should have a feminist perspective and receive the necessary training and support. Women staying in shelters should be empowered particularly in the following areas.
    • Accommodation support. Accommodation should be provided to women by local or national authorities after they leave the shelter, for a set time period and either free of charge or with low rent.
    • Employment Support. Public institutions, local authorities, and the trade organisations in the city should provide employment opportunities to women who have been subjected to violence.
    • Nursery/school support. Children who have had to move successive times with their mother should be provided with the necessary support by a psychologist or guidance counsellor, and their records should be kept confidential so that they don’t encounter problems when enrolling in a new school. If the child is preschool age, a nursery place should be provided.
  5. “Counselling centres” should be made into “solidarity centres”. The state expects women’s organisations to fulfil certain duties on its behalf. Rather than getting swept up in this tide, we should rekindle the spirit of solidarity, and give priority to raising awareness and organising. We should define our aims in the framework of political goals to eradicate violence against women.
    • A hierarchical structure is not suitable for counselling/solidarity centres. The relationship established during the application process should be non hierarchical and unbiased.
  6. The national violence helpline should stop being only for show. There is no specific time or place for violence. The violence helpline should be open 24 hours a day, and the regulation clearly states this. Progress in this subject should be made known to the public. Crisis centres and intermediate stations should be opened. These stations should be open to non-domestic violence related applications and homeless women. They should be coordinated during their working hours with counselling centres.
  7. SHÇEKs should be remodelled in a way that they can meet the accommodation, employment, childcare, and other needs of women who have suffered from violence, and experiences of counselling/solidarity centres run by the women’s movement should be taken account in the process.
    • The number of Social Services and Child Protection Agency (SHÇEK) counselling centres should be increased, and female staff should cooperate with women’s organisations in the area when providing services. The physical attributes of the centres should suit the needs of the region, in-work training should be made more widely available, the amount of qualified staff should be increased, and these institutions practices should be standardised.
    • Women who have suffered domestic violence and who apply to counselling/solidarity centres encounter bureaucratic obstacles and have to face many different institutions one after the other. These processes should be sped up, made easier, coordinated, and provided free of charge by the SHÇEK.
    • The shortcomings of Law 4320 should be remedied and implemented.
  8. An emergency helpline for incest should be established. Incest is a subject that counselling centres do not focus on, but it is rather prevalent, which is why awareness needs to be raised. For this process to be healthy, experiences of women’s organisations should be shared through a network. It would be pertinent to form a working group on this issue at once. This group should cooperate with experts in the field.