Women’s Involvement in the Leftist Guerrilla Movements in Iran and Turkey during the 1960s and 1970s
This project compares and contrasts how and why several Turkish and Iranian women were compelled to participate in leftist guerilla movements in the 1960s and 1970s.
- Sevil Cakir Kilincoglu
The study focusses specifically on Iran and Turkey, as they are unique among the other Middle Eastern countries in several important regards. First of all, neither had ever been colonized by the European nations and this feature alone places them into a different category compared with other Middle Eastern and South Asian countries. As such, Turkey and Iran have developed a different kind of relationship with the West and the Western ideas. Also in both countries, nationalist modernization occurred simultaneously in the late 19th and early 20th century, much earlier than decolonization of most of the other countries in the region. Accordingly, the processes of modernization in Iran and Turkey have drawn a lot of attention due to similarities in their characters. However, the emphasis has usually been placed on the modernizing policies of authoritarian states, elites and intellectuals, while similarities and differences between the reactions of the subaltern groups in these processes, such as women, have been overlooked.
Women’s involvement in the leftist guerrilla movements in this period is significant for a number of reasons. First, the means they resorted to, such as guerilla war, was peculiar. Also, women’s activism in the ranks of guerrilla groups challenged the traditional understanding of the public-private dichotomy with regard to gender roles. Second, the 1960s and 1970s is crucial as a period because it was a successive phase of the process that had started in Iran and Turkey in the late 19th century: the process of the formation of central state and its integration into the world capitalist system. In short, the two countries were going through another phase of their capitalist transformation; and the reaction coming from below was a response to this transformation.
My questions can be listed roughly as follows:
Why did these women in Iran and Turkey choose to take part in the leftist guerrilla movements? What were their class backgrounds? What kind of duties and activities did they carry out? How did gender shape their experience? Did they have gender consciousness? What kind of strategies did they adopt?