[The following is a recent interview Abolition Journal conducted with a reporter from Gazete Şûjin, an all female news agency based in Diyarbakır (Amed), Turkey.]
Abolition Journal: As I understand, Gazete Şûjin was started after the Turkish government shut down the former Kurdish women’s news organization, JINHA. Can you elaborate on why the Turkish government did this and the kinds of oppression you face as Kurdish women journalists? What specific challenges have you faced?
Gazete Şûjin Reporter: Gazete Şûjin was started after the Turkish government shut down the press outlets, JINHA, DİHA, İMC TV and others, by use of Statutory Decrees (KHK decrees), in order to support the female journalists who became unemployed after the closure of their press outlets. Gazete Şûjin provides a platform for these women to continue to write about the women who have faced violence, rape and sexual assault and to promote the right to demand information and the right to an independent press.
The reason for the closure is to silence the alternative media outlets. More than 100 media outlets have been shut down by KHK decrees issued under OHAL (State of Emergency) declared in Turkey following the attempted coup on July 15, 2016. The situation of the independent media in Turkey, which is in the process of democratic transition, is becoming worse by the day. The female journalists working for Gazete Şûjin are the women who worked in these different media outlets. All female journalists of Gazete Şûjin are volunteers.
What is the relationship between the former JINHA and Gazete Şûjin? What do you see as the purpose of all female news outlets like these?
GŞ: JINHA Women’s News Agency was Turkey’s First Women’s News Agency and it was founded on March 8, 2012, on International Women’s Day. JINHA consisted of women only – from the news director to the reporter, from the camerawomen to the photographer. Gazete Şûjin is a women’s online newspaper and it consists of women only, too.
Our motto is “To be a needle in the language of media” and our purpose is to change the sexist language used in press outlets and society. This masculine and sexist language re-victimizes victims of violence. It also reinforces the patriarchal system and allows it to continue. In the dominant media, women and many other social groups have been ignored or harmed. Women, children, LGBTIQ+ people, animals, and nature have been written about in a masculine way or ignored by the media. We think that creating a language far from sexism and masculinity is important for changing minds.
What significance does the name ‘Şûjin’ have to the mission of the project?
GŞ: Şûjin means “packing needle” in Kurdish. It refers to two important meanings of the word “jin” in Kurdish: women and life. Şûjin, or the packing needle, was invented by women. A needle created by women is, of course, a part of their own life. And we began our journey by saying “As we dig the needle into ourselves, we also dig the packing needle into the patriarchal media, in order to shake up and break down its masculine structure and language, and to promote women’s consciousness and feminist discourse. In a world of those who say “shut up as a woman,” we will raise women’s voices and words in the media with our female-oriented journalism.”
We aim to make visible women’s ideas, stories and lives. We have sections on our website like: the woman’s pen section, the file section, the portraits section and the jineoloji[*] and feminism section.
How did you get involved with Gazete Şûjin? What role does your work for the organization play in your life?
GŞ: I was already involved in the Kurdish press that produced an alternative to the mainstream media. I met JINHA during that period. The women created a literary and vital world and that world was enormous for me. Thus, I started to work for JINHA, which challenged masculine language and perspectives and the patriarchal system. After the closure of JINHA, I have begun to work for Gazete Şûjin, which challenges the same things. This practice, which turns the cameras to the women and puts women’s perspective into media identified with the control of men, is an ‘identity’ beyond the existence for me. It is an identity in which I express myself; I sometimes describe it as an armor I carry and wear proudly.
Why are the perspectives of women particularly important in alternative media for the region? What differences do you see between the way Gazete Şûjin reports the news, and the way western, mainstream or male-dominated news outlets report it?
GŞ: Following the declaration of the State of Emergency, the crimes against women and violence against women have been increasing day by day. As female journalists, we didn’t want to stay without doing anything. Gazete Şûjin doesn’t only report from Turkey but also from the whole world on women. We focus on women’s thoughts, perspectives and stories without using sexist language. One example is the reporting on the murder of women; mainstream or male-dominated media outlets mostly write “because the woman was wearing shorts; the woman was out at night or the woman wanted to divorce.” They give reasons for murder but there isn’t any reason to kill the women or inflict violence against the women.
In its female-oriented journalism, Şûjin does not recognize the boundaries of “good womanhood” drawn for women by the state media. “The personal is political” and Şûjin will continue to turn to self-defense to expose the masculine press that attacks women’s bodies and lives and discriminates against women.
We describe persons by their proper names without using a surname, against the patrilineal descent system.
What has Gazete Şûjin accomplished?
GŞ: Now more than 40 women are working with Gazete Şûjin and we have reported about the women in Kurdistan, Turkey, the Middle East, Europe and the USA. We broadcast our news in Kurdish, Turkish, English, and Arabic and in the Kurdish dialects of Sorani and Zazaki.
How can women and allies in other countries and communities support the work of Gazete Şûjin?
GŞ: We would like be voice of all women in the world; however, we have difficulty to find out what the women face in the other countries, so if the women in other countries send us their stories or what kind of difficulties they face, we can be their voice too. To put it simply, we need the solidarity of the women around the world. And we call on all women to found all-women’s news agencies, newspapers or magazines in order to empower the women in their countries.
What does the future look like for the project?
GŞ: We have just started to report as Gazete Şûjin and we will continue to write in order to change the masculine, sexist, militarist patriarchal media.
[*] Jineoloji is a ‘science of women’, a form of gender equality developed and advocated by Abdullah Öcalan, the leader of the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK). The development of Jineology is one of five pillars in the Kurdish women’s movement in Rojava and is etymologically derived from the Kurdish word jin, meaning ‘woman’, and jiyan, meaning ‘life’. For more see: http://kurdishquestion.com/oldarticle.php?aid=why-jineology and https://muse.jhu.edu/article/625064