ANFEM was founded in the end of 1990s and the beginning of 2000 by five women who were all artists and activists in Turkey, which has a strong culture of militarism where everyone born as a 'soldier'.
Three of ANFEM members were working in İzmir War Resister's Association which was a mixed group of 10 people. The association's vision was: the creation of an antimilitarist, nonviolent culture in Turkey. Our group was unique in those times. We all were learning, too. Nonviolence was new to all of us and to Turkey; there was no practice of it in the history. During our learning about nonviolent tools and theories we were practicing them on ourselves.
As women, we were facing problems within the mixed groups but we insisted on staying because the association's principles were giving us the platform to talk about these problems although we weren't successful always. Then the gender problems started to find their names. As women, we weren't aware that our discomforts, low self-esteems, and fears had common reasons. Our male friends were the ones who were saying the last words mostly even we were using consensus decision making. They were the ones who were carrying “important” tasks. It was difficult to see them in the kitchen washing a mug.
During that time we had a women's project within the association, an international seminar with our German women friends. During the preparations we had started to have women-only meetings, which made us feel confident working together. We realised that the discomforts we had in our mixed group weren't personal problems. We started to see these things from a different perspective when two other feminist friends arrived. We didn't accuse our male friends of course because they didn't do anything on purpose, we are all living in the same patriarchal society. They were learning, too.
The first time we brought the our gender issue to the mixed group meeting, they didn't know how to handle it. Some reacted like we were accusing them. But after some discussions they were at least ready to listen more and they were more careful. In our women only meetings the first thing we discussed was how to make us comfortable and more active in our mixed group meetings. For example, if a press released needed to be prepared, instead of letting the usual male friend do it, one of us took the responsibility and other women supported her.
We decided to carry on to meet as women-only even when the international women seminar was postponed. We were discovering. That was very satisfying for all of us because, at first, we didn't recognise that feminism is a fundamental part of an antimilitarist-nonviolent culture. We had discussions for a long time about who we are, what we are going to do, our vision, our principles, if it would be 'antimilitarist-feminism' or 'feminist-antimiliarism'. We were activists in the antimilitarist movement but the problems we were facing as women weren't different then any other part of the life.
We all were facing 'hidden' gender discrimination in our political movements. We wanted to create a new way of political struggle which doesn't limit us as women. This search led us to militarism. Militarism is based on violence and power, and it uses patriarchy to control. As women or any other minority group such as LGBTI people we are being discriminated by this system. Feminism was helping us to name the issues. We tried to change those situations when we had an action, meeting etc. As ANFEM one of our aim was to reach feminist or other political groups whose working style was dominated by power as a consequence of our militarist culture. We invited other feminist groups to our nonviolence trainings. After one of our trainings a new, independent women group was founded (Independent Women's Initiative – BKI). They named themselves feminists later and this group is still actively working. This group was a result of a process that ANFEM had started. With this new link, women who were activists in antimilitarist and conscientious objection movements brought new discussions into our movements. We werent just supporters, wives or girlfriends or feminists whose only activism area is women issues. A new concept of women conscientious objectors were a product of this journey, too.
For us it is clear that feminism gives a critical perspective on gender problems that are part of our movements and our society. If we are fighting for an antimilitarist, nonviolent world we cant reach our goal without help of feminism.
ANFEM decided to stop working after burn-outs although we are still in contact with each other. My personal thought when I (Hilal) look back after many years to our ANFEM experience, it is not surprising that it didn't last for long, because it was narrowly defined. Yet the link between antimilitarism and feminism brought feminist awareness into Turkish antimilitarist and conscientious objection movements even. After ANFEM, three of us also were part of founding first nonviolent trainer collective in Turkey.