The struggle for women’s shelters in Turkey was started towards the end of the 80s by women exposing the sheer prevalence of male violence. Bringing to attention the violence taking place inside the home designated a “private space”, the women’s movement created its own institutions to combat violence and demonstrated the value of women’s solidarity. The movement in Turkey garnered a great many experiences in terms of women and children transitioning to lives free of violence in shelters, just as in the rest of the world.
Women’s shelters are places where women facing male violence may stay with their children, and access the social, psychological, legal, etc. support they may need in order to build their own independent lives that are free of violence. In addition to being places where they may escape violence and receive the support they need, shelters are also sites of potential solidarity between women against the violence they have been subjected to on account of their gender.
What approach the management takes in running a shelter, however, has tremendous impact on women’s journeys away from violence and towards empowerment. The work carried out in shelters must encourage women to evaluate what they have experienced, recall their own strength, and regain control of their own lives.
Mor Çatı has operated 3 separate shelters up until today, and has provided shelter support to over 1000 women and children.
1995-1998 – The Mor Çatı shelter was opened in July 1995 as the first independent women’s shelter in Istanbul. The shelter provided 350 women and 250 children with the opportunity to start lives free of violence.
2005-2008 – In October 2005, the Beyoğlu District Governor’s Office suggested that Mor Çatı run the shelter it planned to start with a loan from the World Bank. This collaboration was exemplary as a good practice in that a public office was providing financial support for a shelter to be operated by a women’s organization. As such, it was also consistent with the Prime Minister’s Circular numbered 2006/17 on combating violence against women and children. This endeavour supported by Mor Çatı via its solidarity center and volunteers including social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists and lawyers lasted for 3 years. In December 2008, the Beyoğlu District Governor’s Office halted the operation citing a lack of resources. Women’s organizations went to Parliament, calling on MPs and ministers to act according to the law and fulfill their obligations to this end.
2009 to date – The 18-bed-capacity Mor Çatı shelter opened in 2009 has been in operation for the past decade with funding provided by the Şişli Municipality and friends of Mor Çatı. It is currently the only independent women’s shelter active in Turkey.