Susan Benson-Sokmen

PRESENTER: Susan Benson-Sokmen, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of History

TITLE: Feminism, Nationalism and Armed Struggle in Kurdistan

ABSTRACT: While waiting to offer condolences to the mother and father of Ezda Ararat, a Kurdish female guerrilla fighter with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an older woman complains that the tent set up for the female mourners is missing a portrait of the female ?ehit (martyr). Within minutes a second photo of Ezda is hung in the women’s tent. However, unlike the “official” party portrait of the men’s tent, the second snapshot shows a smiling Ezda, her curly hair loose around her shoulders, clutching a large automatic weapon across her chest. This paper examines the uses of Ezda’s photographic portraits to illuminate how female participation in armed revolutionary struggle has profoundly impacted gender roles and relations in Kurdish society. While Rita Manchanda argues that “the possibility of emancipatory politics” in a culture of militarized violence is a problematic narrative for feminists, it shall be argued here that the failure of feminist curiosity to engage with the legacies of anti-colonial struggle diminishes feminist possibilities and obscures a diverse history of feminist struggle.