By Ann Suellentrop

For the second year, Advocates of Silenced Turkey celebrated International Women’s Day with a rally—this year held March 12 at the Penn Valley Friends Meeting House in KC MO. People shared information about the terrible brutality in Turkey, with the imprisonment of women and children. Dozens of people attended the rally, all committed to speaking up for women’s safety and hope in Turkey and throughout the world.

Uma tells of a woman with cancer imprisoned in Turkey without adequate medical care.

The pictures and videos I took help tell the story of our meeting, of our yearning for freedom for all women. For example, Uma shared the heartbreaking story of Ayse, a woman with cancer imprisoned in Turkey and not receiving adequate medical care. “Speaking up for voices of the voiceless will matter!” Uma told us.

Janice Witt, who ran recently for mayor of Kansas City, KS, reflected on the rapes and murders of women in NE Kansas City, Kan., and the police corruption related to the abuse. Janice urged us, “The evil in the world tries to make us invisible, because if we become invisible, we become silent. … Do not be sorry. They need to be sorry for their behavior. It is in strength and unity that we stand here together. My sister has pain and I cannot reach her.” These two videos give Janice’s message.

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Yasmin Bruno Valdez, of Advocates for Immigrant Rights and Reconciliation (AIRR), talked about coming to the US when she was 3 and, throughout her childhood, witnessing her father’s abuse of her mother. Being undocumented, Yasmin’s mother did not feel free to report the abuse, and Yasmin said that situation occurs in many families today. Also, Yasmin addressed the importance of Wyandotte County’s new Safe & Welcoming Ordinance, now opposed by the state legislature. Yasmin said her social justice work may be her life’s work. “The liberation of my community, my peers, is important to me,” said Yasmin. See her in these two videos—the first with her personal story, the second concerning the Safe & Welcoming Ordinance.

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Nur holds her beautiful baby boy.

Among participants at the event were Nur and her baby boy. Indeed, all of our group yearn for safety for women. We stand against the imprisonment of women and babies in Turkey and seek freedom for all, everywhere.

Emcee Kelly Isola said, “When you ask, ‘What part of the sunflower follows the sun?’ the answer is YES. It takes the whole system of the sunflower to follow the sun. We are like that, too.” Enjoy this video of her.

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Margot Patterson, a KC-area leader of CODEPINK, speaks of that organization and thanks PeaceWorks for doing an amazing job—see these two videos.

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Taylor Qualls, a young adult pastor and therapist, played his guitar and sang. “Love is building up bridges between all,” and “Love is turning over tables, tearing down walls,” he sang in these two videos.

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Here is what I myself shared at the rally: “I’m from PeaceWorks, which has been around KC for 40 years. We work to abolish all nuclear weapons, and we do peace witnesses at the nuclear-weapon parts plant here in Kansas City, Mo. We are acutely aware of the dangers of nuclear war and nuclear accidents like those at Chernobyl and Fukushima: dangers that threaten all of us. But we are active in many social justice causes because they are all intertwined: racism, poverty, militarism and destruction of Mother Earth.

“After the upheaval, exhaustion and grief of the pandemic, we are now faced with an extremely dangerous situation in Ukraine. As we grieve the horrendous loss of life and witness the millions who have had to flee for safety, let us pause for a moment of silence and send our loving thoughts and prayers for anywhere there is suffering and war.”

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After our moment of silence, I added, “This is a time for us to come together in solidarity, to comfort and encourage one another. As women leaders in our communities, we are well aware of the suffering and evil that is out there. Let us gain strength by listening to one another with respect and lend our support to each other. When we can understand and appreciate other cultures, we gain more friends and we automatically work against prejudice, fear, and ignorance, and we promote human rights and peace. I’m taking classes in Deaf Culture and Advanced Spanish at JCCC this semester for that reason.

“Today, we celebrate the courage and the heart of women and women leaders, to encourage each other and hold each other close in solidarity. When women join together, we are powerful, and we can speak out for human rights and peace.”

Ann Suellentrop, a PeaceWorks Kansas City Board member, was assisted by ghost writer Jane Stoever in writing this story. © 2022, Ann Suellentrop, Jane Stoever, Margot Patterson, Kelly Isola, Taylor Qualls, Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 4.0 International License.