From the country of Turkey, the Kampus Cadilari or “Campus Witches”, as they call themselves, is an independent student feminist group that was founded in 2013. They fight social injustices; rape, violence against women, harassment, male dominance, and are focused on gender based issues. Though they have been around for three years, their actions as of late have caught more of the public eye.
They’re not afraid to use violence against men. Although they always claim that they use violence only in “self-defense”, their recent endeavors in Anarka included ambushing and assaulting a man who was harassing his ex-girlfriend on Twitter online. A video of the attack was posted on YouTube. (A still being posted in the slideshow, above.) It quickly went viral and has now garnered international attention.
In the video, the seven Campus Witches attack the man as he is hanging out with some friends. Chanting “Long Live women’s solidarity!” as they assaulted him. While his friends scatter. Eventually, the Witches ran away before security could stop them.
“THEY’RE RIGHT TO BE AFRAID: THIS IS ONLY THE BEGINNING!”
There is a justified reason the Campus Witches are enraged. Violence against women, and harassment, has increased exponentially in Turkey over the last few years. Unlit subway stations for example, are a prime place where harassment against women takes place and is gotten away with.
The Campus Witches have detailed many experiences in which women have their importance diminished, or are harassed, assaulted, murdered, and abused within Turkish culture. Meral Cinar, the founder of Kampus Cailari, has spoken of her own experiences as being one of the only females in a class of engineering with eighty males. “The professors would address the males as they lectured. Then, there would be off-color jokes and obscenities,” she has been quoted as stating.
They call themselves “Campus Witches” after the idea that women of medieval Europe who fought the patriarchy, and its scientific discourse that rejected the legitimacy of nature, were burned as witches by the Church. They believe they are in a similar situation in Turkey with the patriarchy and their rebellion of it, as well as forsaking traditional “values” such as capitalism and marriage. They consider themselves descendants of such witches.
We, the granddaughters of the witches burned … by the same empires of fear many centuries ago will continue our witchcraft with stubbornness and audacity despite all obstacles and pressure.
The Campus Witches and their romantic notions of witchcraft fused with feminism is not all that different from many Neo-Wiccan and Neopagan witchcraft traditions. Feminist pagan witchcraft religion has merged with the Goddess movement and the theory of Matriarchal religion. Such traditions are about “reclaiming” being a witch and practicing witchcraft, along with fighting the patriarchy and other gender-based issues.
In fact the quote CW uses about being the granddaughters of the witches burned is used both politically and religiously, mostly as a mix of the two by either groups leaning politically or religiously. The quote is of unknown origins. But it has shown up around the world, in many different languages. It is now a popular feminist and feminist Wiccan slogan.
The irony is the quote is a very loose interpretation of the actual witch hunts. While women were the primary targets of witch hunts, men were commonly executed for being witches, too. (Sometimes even children were.) A lot of these hunts were never officiated by the church. Secular governments often times hunted witches for very non-religious reasons. Furthermore, most executed “witches” did not die by burning. This is a popular misconception.
It is unclear just how affiliated with the Goddess movement and pagan feminist witchcraft the Campus Witches are. It is clear though, that they take much inspiration from it. Often times finding empowerment and benefiting from such reclaiming traditions which their movement seems based around.
Campus Witches is not without critics. Gaye Usluer, a lawmaker representative for the Republican People’s Party, does not believe they should use violence to counter violence. He believes they should re-evaluate their methods. “In the face of inhumane behavior, they project an image ‘We are not afraid, we are here and strong together.’ which is good. But they have to say ‘We are not using the language you do.‘”
CW believes in giving women the ability to defend themselves and is pro-learning about self-defense. However, some of their antics do not appear to be in “self-defense”. Especially, when gangs of women attack men for reports of harassment or because he said something they did not agree with, as in the case of the recent video.
In November of 2015, further controversy ensued over something that almost turned tragic. A female student at Akdeniz University’s Fine Arts Faculty called Campus Witches after claiming a man harassed her. About 30 women confronted the young man, who denied accusations. He became so distressed that he attempted suicide over the matter. He was rescued by emergency services.
The group heavily utilizes social media. They mainly communicate through their Facebook. But they have also been known to be fairly active on Twitter.