By Jane Stoever

A gathering of about 60 persons highlighted violence in Turkey against women as well as domestic violence internationally and locally. The local chapter of Advocates of Silenced Turkey organized the rally March 6 at the horse fountain at 47th Street and Mill Creek Parkway in Kansas City, Mo.

The international Advocates of Silenced Turkey, in its news release for International Women’s Day, March 8, notes, “The current administration (of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan) uses arbitrary arrests and lengthy and prolonged pretrial detentions to imprison courageous women who have opposed oppression. Today, the number of women arbitrarily incarcerated as political prisoners stands at more than 5,000, with a staggering increase in the number of new victims. Among those persecuted are more than 700 mothers who have been imprisoned with their infants and numerous others who have been violently separated from their children. … In 2020, 300 women were killed.”

“We’re recognizing the thousands of women imprisoned or killed in Turkey for their community service and support of democracy, human rights action,” says Eyyup Esen, Ph.D., representative of the local Dialogue Institute of Kansas City and an organizer of the rally. “We are calling for freedom for the women and their children who are victims of discrimination, violence, and persecution.”

One of the speakers at the KC rally said many women in Turkey had been arrested simply for working outside the home.

Speaker Itto Outini, an immigrant from Morocco who has a master’s degree in journalism and is in Kansas City to further her studies, said she suffered domestic violence at age 17 when a relative blinded her. Now a Fulbright scholar, Outini quoted an author as saying, “Saving one person is like saving the whole world.” Outini added, “Hurting one person is like hurting the whole world.” She said of herself and other immigrants, “We come here to live, to breathe. If you say you are against something in Turkey, you get punished. We all should stand up and speak for each other!” Then she added, “I chose journalism so I could be a voice for the voiceless.”

Representatives of two local domestic violence shelters spoke during the rally. Carlen Davis, a community outreach educator for Friends of Yates in Kansas City, Kan., said their shelter opened in 1980 and within 24 hours was filled to capacity, so great was the need for it. Currently, about 75 percent of the women and families who come for help to Friends of Yates are persons of color, she said.

Karena Jemsen from Newhouse in the northeast of Kansas City, Mo., said that 88-bed emergency shelter welcomes women, men, and children who are victims of domestic violence. She gave statistics: 4 million women across the world are victims of domestic violence, and in 2019 in Missouri, domestic violence programs served more than 36,300 clients. Domestic violence “disproportionately affects women of color and immigrants,” she said.

In other stories on this website, read these two stories from the rally: “The Power of Love,” a talk by Ann Suellentrop, and “Hope and Promise,” the poem written and read by Eyyup Esen.

—Jane Stoever leads the PeaceWorks-KC Communications Team.