She is one of the 1000 women proposed for the Nobel Peace Price 2005.
She says: “All guerrillas, soldiers, and prisoners are my children. I shall be there for all of them. I will continue to struggle for peace so that they do not die”.
She explained: “I was no longer a mother in fear. That person had vanished and was replaced by a strong and knowledgeable mother. I began to follow the news. I read newspapers and books, which helped alleviate my pain. As soon as I put the kids to sleep I would turn on the television and watch programs such as Siyaset Meydani (Political Arena) and Teke Tek (One to One). I could no longer sleep at night. I began to understand that there was a Kurdish question in Turkey. I wanted to do something to overcome our problems, and so that I would never be faced with the news of Mehmet’s death. Whenever I traveled or met new people, I was compelled to befriend them and explain the real situation in Turkey. I was no longer an ordinary housewife. I would talk about the situation and I tried to organize the older women to take a stance. I told them, ‘Mothers need to do something. Today I am living through all this but tomorrow it may be your turn’. I knew the pain all too well and I knew that it would grasp us all, all over Turkey. Without knowing it, I was becoming a peace militant and a peace mother”.
Müyesser Günes – Turkey
She works for the Peace Mothers (there exist worldwide many local groups named ‘Mothers for Peace’).
Muyesser Gunes has spent most of her life as a typical Kurdish village woman. She was born in Bitlis/Ahlat to a family with seven siblings. Her mother died at age 29, during the birth of her last child, because there was no village doctor to assist her. After losing their mother, the girls were forced to stop attending school to look after the younger children; Muyesser left school when she was five. At age 14, she was married off to a 12-year-old cousin and her responsibilities increased tremendously. She had to care for her sick mother-in-law and young husband. At age 17, she had her first child and for the next ten years, she lived in the village, milking the animals, baking bread, cutting and harvesting the fields, and producing yogurt and cheese.
The Kurds were completely self-sufficient since the Turkish state did not supplement their living in any way. Eventually, her village’s name, Mezik, was banned, along with thousands of others, and changed to the Turkish, Burcu Kaya. Her eldest son, Mehmet, was subjected to harassment by Turkish students and state forces and was kicked out of school for being a Kurd. Their house was regularly raided and at one point, Mehmet was taken into police custody and tortured.
In 1990, Mehmet joined the guerrillas. Muyesser came home and saw that the house was surrounded by members of Turkey’s special forces. They attacked the house and jumped on the beds and the carpet with their muddy boots. They sifted through their belongings and broke their furniture. They told Muyesser, “Your son has become a terrorist and you are now in a lot of trouble.”
The house was regularly raided and her children were harassed by schoolmates, teachers, friends, and neighbors, in addition to further aggression by special forces. One day there was a powerful knock on the door. “Open the door, police,” they shouted. As the door flew open, Muyesser was shocked to see a masked team of armed special forces lying on the floor outside the door. She correctly assumed that they were expecting to find Mehmet and his friends in her house. But she was surprised to learn that they were also looking for her young son, Fuat, who they said had participated in a protest in Ahlat. They were coming to take him away; he was nine years old. The child trembled as she tried to convince the police to take her instead, but they would not listen and took the scared child to the police station where they interrogated him until morning.
This experience completely transformed Muyesser’s life.
“The suppression continued. The police imposed a 5:00 p.m. curfew and confined the villagers to their homes. On 23 April 1993, we received the news of Mehmet’s death. I knew that he had not been anxious or scared of his death. Nonetheless, it felt as if humanity had vanished and a new era was starting. The news spread quickly and people poured into our house. Those who visited were put under police surveillance, taken into custody and tortured by the Turkish state. People still came for the next two months to give their condolences. Police found their names and addresses and burned their homes down; others were exiled from the region. As I watched all this happen, I realized once more the depth of the injustice.”
At her insistence, Muyesser`s husband, Attila, fled to Istanbul to escape being killed. She stayed in the village with the children and her father-in-law. She struggled on her own. Her friends advised her to leave as well, but she refused, saying, “I will die here.” She did everything possible to save her children. The police arrived at her doorstep again to search the house. When they finished, they asked for her husband and his father. Police refused to believe her when she told them the two men had gone to Istanbul for work. Instead, police insisted they had gone into the mountains to seek revenge for their son’s death. They gave Muyesser one week to tell the truth, threatening to return to set the house on fire with them inside. She could not sleep that night, worrying that they were about to be killed. In the morning, she received a telephone call from her husband, insisting she join him in city. Muyesser was out of options as time was running out before the police would return to burn their house in Newroz.
The next day they left for Istanbul to escape state oppression, leaving everything behind, expect for a few clothes. The family lived under difficult conditions in the city. Eventually, they found a house and work. They felt a bit more comfortable, but state oppression also continued in Istanbul. One day a crowd of police poured into the house. The chief screamed, “Look how they sit around watching Med-TV [Kurdish TV broadcast from Europe]. Who do you think you are?” He would not leave them in peace. The family was forced to lie on the floor with their hands behind their backs and the men were handcuffed. The police continued to scream and swear; Muyesser and her family felt completely degraded as they dragged her husband and two sons, her son-in-law, and two young guests into the police car. They were taken to a center for combating terror. The raids continued and eventually, her son Fuat joined the guerrillas.
Muyesser explains her situation: “I became a member of HADEP [a pro-Kurd Turkish opposition party] and would go in the hope of hearing news to alleviate my suffering. There were thousands of Kurdish, Turkish, and Cercassian mothers; we were all in the same situation. All mothers’ hearts ache because their children are the most precious thing. There was nothing more difficult than the pain felt for our children. I could not sleep at night. Fuat left in 1995 and I still cannot sleep. I followed the television programs continuously, hoping to hear good news. Then one day I said to myself, ‘I can no longer bear it this way. We must bring peace for the sake of our children if for nothing else.’”
In 1996, Muyesser met with other mothers to unofficially begin their peace work. They called themselves Peace Mothers. They initially began their work by visiting intellectuals in Istanbul. They met professors, journalists from newspapers, TV and radio, authors, actors, politicians and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). They told them of the mothers’ pain and suffering. They explained the need to carry out their peace work and their message that Kurds and Turks were brothers and sisters. The group wanted them to listen and help put an end to the pain. The women wanted them to know that the Kurds should have the same human rights as the Turks. They began to get the support they were looking for.
In a very short time, the group had visited the entire country. They went to the German, French, Italian, Dutch and Greek embassies. They were invited to Spain’s Basque region to participate in the opening of Senidak, an organization to commemorate the loss of their loved ones. The group also met with the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo in Argentina, the Kurdish Women’s Peace Office in Germany, and with women’s groups in France, Ireland and Palestine to promote solidarity with one another.
Muyesser says, “Never in my wildest dreams did I expect to become a mother for peace. But I had no choice when I was confronted with our conditions and with my pain. I was a village woman and I was lucky to have strong support. Thousands of mothers joined me and I got strength from them. We all shared a mother’s pain and suffering. As Peace Mothers toured the country, thousands of mothers and sisters threw themselves in front of our vehicle. They touched the buses, as if in worship, as if the bus were going to bring peace. The women wore their colorful, traditional clothes and filled the narrow roads with flowers in their hands. They freed white pigeons, sang songs and danced. And, there were thousands of soldiers there to prevent the people from gathering.”
The group has been particularly active since 1999, working tirelessly to promote their cause, especially among women. They have built strong alliances with other women’s groups, because they believe women’s suffering is a result of male dominance.
In May 2001, Muyesser was shattered by the news of Fuat’s death. It turned her life upside down. But she has never given up and continues her work. She describes her feelings: “The mountains were luckier than me because they saw Fuat more than I did; he walked their tracks and drank their waters. I could not understand why I had been so unlucky. After all, I had waited so long to see him again, to caress him, to get mad at him, but most of all, to watch him smile. This pitiless world took my two sons from me. Losing a child is the most difficult thing. When the children were younger, they were with me all the time as I cooked their dinner and stroked their hair. What did I do to deserve losing my two sons? I cannot imagine the conditions they were subjected to by the police, those savages. I wish I were a bird, so that I could go see my boys and put them on my chest. I would take care of their wounds. But now my brave ones are free, even though I am left with a tattered body, full of pain, whose heart aches more and more each day.” (1000peacewomen).
Today August 9, (2005) we received this letter from Muyesser Gunes:
KURDISTAN/TURKEY – THE TRIAL BEGAN TO MUYESSER GUNES, member of Mother of Peace in Istabul, speaker of the “Human Shields for Peace”, peace ambassador in Europe, and lately candidate with other 999 women for the Nobel Price for peace within the action ‘1000 women for peace’.
In April 2005 Muyesser Günes was in prison for a month in Turkey after she was arrested from the local police in the Turkish Kurdistan during a peaceful protest against Turkish army’s repression towards Kurdish people. After a month of prison and vexations Muyesser was released but charged with the violation of the law regulating assembly and of offering passive resistance.
On July 11th in the Gebze Court was the first hearing of her trial. Muyesser Gunes relatives and members of DEHAP -Kurdish representation party- weren’t allowed to be in the courtroom. Muyesser Günes said to the magistrate she was involved in the Human shields’ protest as a representative of the Mothers of Peace and that the Police attacked the human shields with clubs, then she rejected each charges against her, saying she’s will firmly struggle until the peace. Her aim is no more deaths, neither among soldiers nor among fighters, and she calls for anyone works to this. The demand to acquit her made from the counsel for her defence was rejected and the Magistrate ordered to transfer the trial at the Mardin Court, in the Turkish Kurdistan too … (full text).
Muyesser Gunes, a member of the Kurdish organisation Mothers for Peace, who has been the European Parliament’s guest on several occasions, was arrested on 5 April this year together with 26 other people. She is an authoritative spokesperson for the peace movement and has been involved in important non-violent demonstrations in Turkey in a quest for dialogue and democratic debate, with a view to solving the problem of the Kurdish people’s civil rights. The arrest took place at Derik, in Turkish Kurdistan, whilst Muyesser Gunes and other members of the Peace Caravan – a movement for non-violent action – were taking part in a peaceful demonstration calling for an end to the military operations by the Turkish government, which is in effect occupying the cities of Kurdistan. (full text).
Mothers for Peace (concerning nuklear powers);
Codepink (women for peace);