Thank you all for your comments on my @Newlinesmag piece. I want to respond to criticism that I focused on Muslim feminists to the exclusion of Armenian (and other) feminists, b/c the topic is near & dear to me and very important. So here goes.
Discovering the hist. of Armenian feminists fascinated me as much as reading about the Muslim feminists of the Ottoman Empire. The reason I chose to focus on the latter was for the sake of the particular argument I was making.
The piece counters the conventional wisdom that Atatürk gave Turkish women their rights on a silver platter, prior to any demands from women themselves - a false narrative that has been debunked by feminist academics since the 1990s.
As I explain in the piece, Ottoman Muslim women had started campaigning for civil and political rights decades earlier. And yes! Of course Armenian women started a similarly inspiring journey even before; opening schools, writing novels & publishing newspapers to achieve equality
However, when considering how the women’s movement was treated under the new Republic, it’s almost impossible to disregard what the sad relationship between Turks and Armenians has become over the past decades.
Excerpts from the leading Armenian feminist newspaper, Hay Gin, demonstrate that Armenian women considered their interests to be distinct from those of Turkish women (& quite understandably so)
Politically, for instance, their focus was on taking part in the admin. branches of the Armenian community, as opposed to gaining pol. rights as citizens of the new republic.
For ex., in a 1931 piece, Hay Gin’s owner Hayganuş Mark praises the Turkish state for extending women the right to vote (in local elections) ‘before Turkish women were ready for it.’
In the same piece, she criticizes the Armenian community for being close-minded about recognizing the rights of Armenian women ‘who have long proved (we are) ready for it,’ making a distinction between the feminist struggles of Turkish and Armenian women.
The political reasons behind these require an entirely different and equally long discussion. I believe the political journeys of Armenian and Turkish women had diverged to an extent that their stories in the 1910s and 20s could not be told in unity.
I decided to focus on the movement that made demands from the Turkish state and was crushed by it. (Hay Gin was also crushed by the state, but for different reasons.)
Thanks to everyone who brought this up and engaged in a civil discourse about it. This is how we all learn and grow.
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