Hakkari's first women's football team shatters taboos
The unique team's success demonstrates hard-won social progress by Kurdish women in a conservative province.
By Toprak Ekinci for SES Türkiye in Hakkari -- 05/12/12
As a 55-year-old woman from Hakkari, Gullu Ozdemir has just about seen it all. But for her, the province's first women's football team is in a league of its own. "In the old days, it was considered shameful for a girl to chase after a ball or play a sport," she told SES Türkiye.
The Hakkari Power football team is the first of its kind in the region, providing organised sports for women. [Toprak Ekinci/ SES Türkiye]
It wasn't that long ago that female athletes would have faced violence for trying to play an organised sport, Ozdemir said, adding, "times have changed."
"We never would've been brave enough to do anything like this in our times," she said. "It makes me happy that girls are now asserting their existence, even if some people may still be opposed to women playing sports or developing themselves in other areas.''
Hakkari Power Women's Football Team, the first and only of its kind in the region, is another indicator of the rising social status of Kurdish women. Local residents see the team as revolutionary, considering that Hakkari is an especially conservative province where the continuous pressure against women is well known.
Nevertheless, as Ozdemir's statement shows, girls here do things their mothers never had the chance to. Many cite the Kurdish political movement's call for women to play an equal role in social affairs.
''It's a nice feeling to be part of society instead of bowing to pressure to get out of it," Fadile Olmez, who plays for Hakkari Power, told SES Türkiye. ''As a woman who grew up in a feudal place like Hakkari, I believe that taboos need to be broken. All women must struggle to break feudalism and whatever else the social structure imposes on us.''
She added: "Around here, women have one choice: sit at home and make food, or get married. Women want to break out of this fate now, to pursue their dreams.''
The team was established within the provincial Youth and Sports Directorate in 2008 with the financial support of a company. Its 18 players compete in the 2nd Women's League's Eastern Group of the Turkey Football Federation. The women made their presence known last season when they defeated their rivals by varying margins and became a finalist.
So far this season, they have shown few signs of letting up. In a recent match, Hakkari Power crushed the Siirt Family Social Politics Women's Team by a score of 10-0. That came on the heels of a 4-0 victory over Mus.
Zuleyha Dayan, 17, attributed her team's success to the realisation that the players seek more than football trophies.
"This started off as a dream, and now we've achieved great things. As a result, we now understand that we deserve rights in all parts of life," she told SES Türkiye. "We do this work trusting our will and power as women. We'll do everything necessary to succeed."
She added: "The work of everyone on this team bound to love and passion. We work out hard every day."
Omer Aslan, a local resident who tries to watch as many Hakkari Power matches as possible, told SES Türkiye the squad has made history here.
''I never would've expected that a women's football team would be established and achieve so much success in a place like Hakkari," he said.
"The fact that they're working consistently despite the ongoing clashes and feudal repression leaves you with no choice but to admire them."