April 11, 2024

I learned that my proposal was accepted in early March and immediately shared the good news with my local partners in Turkey, who welcomed the news with great excitement. We all believed in our project and that the Davis Projects for Peace could make a real difference.

This project, titled “Community Networks Against Gender Discrimination in Southeast Turkey” aims to alleviate the conditions of the LGBTQ+ individuals in Southeast Turkey, which have been precarious due to the Kurdish ethnic conflict and the institutionalized patriarchy in the region. The recent February 2023 earthquakes which devastated eleven cities and claimed 50,000 lives further exacerbated this condition. International humanitarian organizations document that the LGBT+ people in particular have been excluded from the disaster relief efforts, forced out of their homes by opportunistic landlords, and pressured to quit their jobs. Our project aims to create community networks to provide much needed legal and psychosocial assistance in this region, with the hope that our efforts will be replicated through the material infrastructure this Davis Grant provides, even after the end of the project period.

As a Graduate Fellow of International House and a PhD candidate in Political Science from Turkey, I have always been engaged with International House and the politics of the Turkish Republic. As many others of my generation, I grew up with the stories of the ethnic conflict in Turkey, and learned later that the official state narratives were quite one-sided. Hence, as an academic, I studied how the resurgene of violence and exclusion was justified in Turkey, and learned that the ongoing ethnic violence is only possible through a rhetoric of alienation and dehumanization.

With this insight in mind, my project aims to strengthen local LGBTQ+ community networks in the region and empower individuals to access legal and psychosocial guidance in a self-sustaining way. It does this by developing physical and human capacities in three phases. First, it creates a physical space to serve as an information repository and center for community training at BAKAD, a local NGO. Second, it establishes a hotline for the population, which will be a first in this region, so that marginalized people can reach the legal and psychosocial support resources. Third, it enlists professional help to develop a training and internship program in the region, so that the effects of the Davis Grant will spread in a self-sustaining way. The project maintains that a lasting peace can only be built by the locals invested in a peaceful future, and considers local capacity building central for increased sustainability and scalability.

Hence, I am incredibly indebted not only to the Davis Projects but also to BAKAD. This project was made possible through the invaluable help and guidance of BAKAD (Cultural Studies for Peace Association), which is a local NGO founded in 2021 in Diyarbakir. They have had their own vision of a participatory, inclusive, and lasting social peace in the region for years, and the necessary experience to navigate the challenges that surely await us. Their central location in Southeastern Turkey, their existing physical and human capacities, and their ties to both mental health workers and legal professionals in the region are of utmost importance for the success of this project. We all look forward to getting to work!


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