2021 ATAA UN Related Announcement #7

Humankind is made up of two sexes, women and men. Is it possible for humankind to grow by the improvement of only one part while the other part is ignored? Is it possible that if half of a mass is tied to earth with chains and that the other half can soar into skies?”― Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, First President and Founder of the Turkish Republic

ATAA Webinar Summary:

“Violence Against Women: Fund, Prevent, Respond!”

On Sunday,  November 21, 2021, the Assembly of Turkish American Associations (ATAA) and the ATAA Committee on UN Relations successfully hosted a webinar titled, “Violence Against Women: Fund, Prevent, Respond”, in support of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and the Sustainable Development Goal 5: Gender Equality.

International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women is the United Nations’ principal vehicle to prevent one of the most widespread, persistent and devastating human rights violations: violence against women and girls. According to UN Women, knowledge may save lives. Know the definition of violence, the institutions that help women in legal procedures and the local organizations that may help victims to return to daily life.

ATAA and the UN Committee brought together Alia El Yassir, UN Women Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia and Representative to Turkey; Maryam Kamal Eldin, Executive Director, Asians Against Domestic Abuse (AADA), Houston, US; Empowering Asian and Middle East & North Africa (MENA) Region Women; Ayda Kazak, Advocate & Outreach Coordinator, AADA; Yasuko Tanaka, Advocate & Outreach Coordinator, AADA; Fatma Aytaç, Chairwoman, Red Pepper Association (Kırmızı Biber Derneği); and Deniz Sıdalı, Ph.D., Clinical Psychologist.


The virtual event opened with remarks from Tufan Erdinç, ATAA Northwest Region Vice President, who emphasized the importance of the day designated by the United Nations as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (November 25). “Although there are UN resolutions and policies in place for violence against women, the everyday reality of an average women, especially in the underdeveloped societies and developing nations is not very bright. According to UN statistics only two out of three countries have outlawed domestic violence, and there are still 49 countries in the world with no laws protecting women from domestic violence,” he stated.

The last couple of years have not made the situation any better as COVID-19 hit the communities hard and the women -especially the women in the underprivileged societies- harder. Again, quoting from the UN website “As countries implemented lock down measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus, violence against women, especially domestic violence had intensified”, he continued.


The Keynote Speaker of the virtual event, Alia El-Yassir, UN Women Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia and Representative to Turkey provided wide-spectrum information on the works and campaigns of the UN-Women both on the global and regional level including Turkey. El-Yassir, in a nutshell, conveyed the following: “The United Nations promotes sixteen days of activism on gender-based violence to raise efforts and awareness to eradicate violence against women which is a violation of human rights. It has been 25 years since the UN Beijing declaration that put forward a comprehensive plan to achieve legal equality on a global scale, and thanks to this global effort, “violence against women is no longer considered as a private matter”. Those efforts are successfully translated to laws and legislations of the countries in the UN. When it comes to Turkey, the law 6284 to Protect Family and Prevent Violence against Woman was accepted in 2012 which was followed by consecutive national action plans to implement the law.

While El-Yassir emphasizes that there is a reliable commitment to end violence against women in Turkey, she also pointed out that “… there still are gaps both in the scope of existing legal and policy framework and the way they have been implemented”, in particular, on the ground of withdrawn of İstanbul Convention”, which caused a huge back step in Turkey. Therefore, campaigns in these 16 days are important to form solidarity around this topic and demand improvements. For example, the symbol of Firefly in the campaign has been used to convey the idea of bright future for past three years. “We encourage you all to join the campaign by using #raiseyourvoice starting on 25th of November”. Finally, generation equality initiative held in Paris this summer by the UN launched six action coalitions to accelerate action and investment by 2026. [For more information: https://www.unwomen.org/en/news/in-focus/end-violence-against-women]


Following the keynote speech, Maryam Kamal Eldin, Executive Director, Asians Against Domestic Abuse (AADA) began the presentation by explaining the cultural norms that cause Asian women to keep silent against violence. She stated that the AADA works to break cultural barriers so that women may raise voice. Refugees are more vulnerable because they often bear the fear of deportation, have language barriers, and feel more dependent. For example, immigrant women from the Middle East, most of the time, must trust their husbands due to cultural norms and language barriers and husbands control crucial information like bank account, social security number, etc. When it comes to East Asian cultural barriers, norms such as self-sacrifice and self-criticism of women in the event of violence could exacerbate the situation. Finally, Hague Convention is an international agreement assisting execution of national court judgements on international level. It assists in child’s return, collection of child support and recognition of divorce decree.


Ayda Kazak, Advocate & Outreach Lead, AADA presented “Perl’s Story”, which featured a Middle Eastern-American woman named “Perl” with 4 kids. Pearl’s husband took her to the airport at gunpoint and forced her to get on a plane to leave the country without her kids. In her home country, she contacted the American Embassy and the Embassy helped her to get back to the US. Perl stayed in one of the AADA’s transitional home. With AADA’s legal aid, she gained the custody of her kids. Currently, she is getting benefit from AADA’s Thrive program. Once she completes the program she will be a nurse aid and start working and living independently.


Yasuko Tanaka, Advocate & Outreach Coordinator, AADA, presented “Survival Story”, which featured a Japanese-American divorced woman who struggled with a child and was provided with legal support by AADA. The mother lived in the U.S with her abusive American husband and her child. Her husband moved to Europe and expected his wife and his child would also move to Europe, but they moved to Japan to escape from his violence. Husband tried to file the Hague Convention procedure, and tried to require them to live in Europe. The Hague Convention required the child to return to the US not Europe. With AADA’s legal help and expertise the case solved on behalf of Japanese woman who still lives along with her child in Japan peacefully and enjoys her own life.


Fatma Aytaç, Chairwoman, Red Pepper Association (Kırmızı Biber Derneği) and UN-ECOSOC Focal Point person for her association, made a presentation on “Women’s Solidarity beyond Borders”. She pointed out that women are subjected to violence, harassment, rape, and even murder just because they are women; that is why it is called “gender-based violence.” She drew attention to the figures of violence against women from intimate partner through the graph of OECD countries, and said that the world is not safe and secure for women. Aytaç stated that it is vitally important to fight on this issue. Since the Istanbul Convention is a landmark treaty that focuses on this issue, it is a gold standard to combat violence against women and domestic violence. Aytaç underlined that Istanbul Convention with its full name, the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence was signed in Istanbul in May 2011. Turkey is the first country who signed, ratified, and put into force the Istanbul Convention. Further, she pointed out the significance of the Convention based on prevention, protection, and support of victims, prosecution of perpetrators, and integrated policies. She explained the struggle in solidarity among women organizations for the Istanbul Convention on a national and international basis, chronologically with examples. She said that the government had withdrawn from the Convention, but the women organizations owned the Treaty and they would protect their rights that had come with the Istanbul Convention and would fight to get the Convention signed again. Aytaç finished by saying that they believed the Women’s Movement of Turkey at large could achieve that with national and international women’s solidarity.


Deniz Sıdalı, Ph.D., Clinical Psychologist, focused on the detrimental effects of being a victim of violence. The rate of trauma depends on type and duration of an incident, such as one-time, or recurrent systemic. When a victim experiences a one-time incident, trauma will lead to psychological disturbance almost a year after. A school of psychology relates the fact that most of the domestic violence perpetrators are men to the ability of empathy. Suppressed emotions towards empathy could lead to systemic domestic violence. Therefore, she pointed out that “in order to bring an attitude change, we have to bring about behavioral change”. That`s why, Law is instrumental in decreasing violence through generations when it comes to the psychological effects of domestic violence on victims. Trauma could manifest itself as somatic disturbances, fear responses, anxiety, anger, shame, aggression (hypervigilance), self-isolation which will end up as depression. Those symptoms could be suppressed or explained naively by the victims to the doctors. Therefore, it is important to be aware of those symptoms to help victims around us. She concludes by “The first step to change is having awareness”.


Alev Wieland, ATAA Southwest Region Vice President and member of the ATAA UN Committee, shared her story of an abusive marriage ending in divorce, her struggles to acquire an electrical engineering degree in order to stand on her feet and take care of her two kids, and the multiple challenges in various work places in the corporate world she had to face as an immigrant woman engineer. Wieland’s story presented an intimate first account from a divorced woman in the U.S., who educated and improved herself, which led her to become a successful business woman and entrepreneur.


Bircan Ünver, Chair of the ATAA Committee UN Relations and Founder-President of The Light Millennium and Head Representative to the UN Department of Global Communications, started off her closing remarks with a quote from the First President and Founder of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk: “Humankind is made up of two sexes, women and men. Is it possible for humankind to grow by the improvement of only one part while the other part is ignored? Is it possible that if half of a mass is tied to earth with chains and that the other half can soar into skies?” She then recaptured some key points based on delivered speeches and reiterated Alia El-Yassir’s remarks that, “only 48 countries (out of 193 member states of the UN adopted the “generation equality initiative” launched by the UN with “six action coalitions to accelerate action and investment by 2026.” Ünver also touched on the withdrawn of the Istanbul Convention by saying that 19 European Countries signed it, UN Women supports it, and as it was previously indicated, “it is a wrong signal to the world”.

She presented some sections from her Open Letter to the President of Turkey (April 2021), which was supported by the Board of Directors of The Light Millennium Organization. The Open Letter requested that the Istanbul Convention be reinstated (it is available through www.turkishlibrary.us). “I am raising my voice…We won’t give up on the Istanbul Convention although I am not certain that how it can be reinstated since its deadline 1st of July 2021 has been already passed”, she continued.

As part of her closing remarks, Ünver thanked to the Keynote Speaker Ms. El-Yassir and all the esteemed speakers along with the moderator and coordinator of the session Saime Atakan and co-moderator Mert Arıkan. She thanked to Fazilet Serdar, UN-Women for her assistance, to Patrick Sciaratta, Global NGO Executive Committee and John German, UNDGC NGO Representative for their support for dissemination of the announcements and to Hakan Dakın, ATAA Art, Media and Communications Director for his ongoing support and technical assistance of the session.

Over 100 people from United States, Turkey, Germany and India watched the virtual event.

The live video recording of the webinar is available online at https://youtu.be/ptmtkhj5FJ8 . The edited video recording of the virtual event will be available at a later date.


UN Women: In Focus: Violence Against Women

News Release:

Contributors of this summary: Ali Alp Gürer, Member, ATAA Committee on UN Relations; Bircan Ünver and Hakan Dakin

Website: www.ataa.org

For further inquiries, please feel free to contact us at uncommittee@ataa.org and/or newyorkvp@ataa.org.

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