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Wise People Committee: A Gender-Focused Study

This blog entry is part of the series "Gendered Aspects of Peace and War in Turkey".

Published onSep 23, 2022
Wise People Committee: A Gender-Focused Study

Wise People Committee: A Gender-Focused Study

Cuma Çiçek

Translated by: Meral Camcı

It has been 22 years since the UN Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) “Women, Peace and Security”.[1] 43 years over the “Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)”, which laid the groundwork for this resolution. Resolution 1325 draws attention to the fact that women and girls are affected by conflicts differently than men, and calls on the relevant parties to adopt a gender perspective in preventing conflicts, resolving emerging conflicts and building peace. This call covers women's participation in conflict resolution and social peace building, their protection from and the prevention of gender-based violence, and a peacebuilding and recovery in which women will make their voices heard and directly identify their needs in the process of reconciliation. [2]

In the first of the blog series, [3] I discussed the contributions of gender-focused social mobilization to Kurdish peace in Turkey and its potential for the building of cross-border partnerships in a divided society. In the second, Nisan Alıcı[4]discussed the possible contributions of a transitional and transformative justice perspective to addressing the gendered aspects of the Kurdish conflict. In the third of the series, the experience of the Wise People Committee (WPC) during the 2013-2015 Resolution Process is evaluated through the lens of gender.

Wise People Committee

For the resolution of the Kurdish issue various initiatives emerged especially in the 1990s. Unlike past experiences, the 2013-2015 Resolution Process was carried out in a relatively open-to-public way and the participation of the community was regarded as one of the important components. [5]

Established within the scope of the socialization and localization of the process, the WPC is a unique experience in conflict resolution and peacebuilding studies. Although Kurdish peace cannot be achieved, examining this experience is important for the resolution of intra-state conflicts and peace building beyond Kurdish peace.

The WPC, which started its work on the grounds of seven geographical regions with a meeting held with Prime Minister R.T. Erdoğan on April 04, 2013, continued its work under the shades of the Gezi protests and completed it on June 26, 2013. Relatively representing different segments of the society, the WPC was composed of artists, writers, journalists and academicians, as well as representatives of the business world, worker/civil servant unions and NGOs. [6] Although the suggestions of A. Öcalan and the Peace and Democracy Party were partially taken into account in the determination of members with different political views, the Justice and Development Party government and its leader Erdoğan were decisive. [7]

The WPC did not have a clearly defined mandate. According to T. Erdem, the head of the Aegean Wise People Group, Erdoğan did not make a clear job description at the meeting. [8] In the words of the Black Sea Group Secretary F. Benli, “Each group created its own working system”. [9] As a matter of fact, the groups prepared their own plans and carried out their works implementing different methods. [10]

The WPC met with different actors such as citizens, opinion leaders, representatives from universities, local press, religious communities and NGO representatives from different provinces, districts and villages, answered their questions about the process, listened to their opinions, suggestions, concerns and expectations. As a result of interviews with more than sixty thousand people, the groups wrote regional reports and submitted them to the government. [11] The government did not share the group reports with the public. However, the reports were made accessed online by some civil initiatives. [12]

Although the WPC does not have a clearly defined mission, this experience contributed significantly to the socialization of the peace process, as underlined by one of the wise people C. Can:

“It cannot be denied that the Wise People Committee has a crucial role in the socialization of the resolution process. The Kurdish issue was discussed in 81 provinces and seven regions of the country for two and a half months, and it was put on the agenda of the society. The delegation acted as an intermediary between the society and the government. They reported the expectations, demands and concerns of the society and presented them to the government. They painted how society viewed the peace and resolution process under the circumstances of the period. They provided the government with multilateral data on the policy to be followed.” [13]

The WPC played a kind of bridging role in the internal relations of the society as well as the society-government relationship; it also provided contact and dialogue between local differences even relatively. In addition, these reports were influential in the Democratization Package announced by the government on 30 September 2013. [14]

In the following sections, the WPC experience is evaluated in terms of gender. The assessment is made using three lenses: (1) the components and representation of the WPC, (2) the actors it comes into contact with, and (3) the content of the group's reports.


Wise People Committee Components and Representation

The participation of women in peace processes in the world is mostly limited. According to UN Women's data, 9% of the negotiators, 4% of the signatories, 2.4% of the chief negotiators and 3.7% of the witnesses in the 31 peace processes that took place between 1990 and 2011 were women. These rates are even lower if we exclude the 2011 case of the Philippines, where 33% of the signatories and 35% of the delegation members were women. [15]

Compared to the global trend, it can be considered that the participation of women in the WPC is high. However, when posiitive examples such as the Philippines, El Salvador, South Africa and Northern Ireland, [16] and the fact that women constitute half of the society are taken into account, women's participation was limited and gender inequality continued within the WPC. Upon the reactions, the name of the WPC was changed from “Wise Men” to “Wise People”. However, only 12 women (19.35%) took part in the 62-member of the WPC. There was one woman each in the Southeast and Black Sea groups, and two women each in the other groups. Two of the 12 women are artists, four are journalists, three are academicians, one is a lawyer, one is an employer, and one is an NGO representative.

Although the members of the WPC stated that the positions were not of note, the groups included the head, deputy and secretary responsible for coordination/carrying out. Women took the position of the head in one group, deputy in four groups, and secretary in two groups.

Although there were 16 representatives of civil society within the WPC, they did not include representatives of NGOs working in the field of gender. However, there are many civil initiatives working for gender equality and a strong social movement in Turkey. There are initiatives that work directly in the field of gender and peacebuilding, such as the Women for Peace Initiative.

Besides, the number of women from the civil society field was also low. Except for the former president of TÜSİAD, A. D. Yalçındağ, only Z. Teker took part as the NGO representative. Despite the Prime Minister's words, “I believe that this delegation here has a reflection on Turkey with every color, every voice, every breath” [17], the WPC did not represent Turkey in terms of gender.

The fact that actors working in the field of gender equality are not included in the WPC limited both the contact groups of regional groups and the content of group reports.

Contact Groups

In addition to the low representation of women, there was no preparation for inclusion of a gender perspective in conflict resolution and peacebuilding. Despite the criticisms made by civil society actors, [18] no remarkable initiative was taken in this regard. At this point, the only exception is the Women for Peace Initiative meeting with the WPC member women. However, this meeting did not have a remarkable impact on the local work of women who are members of the WPC. [19]

The information in the sub-headings of the regional reports such as “method” and “interviewees/institutions”, and local meetings except for the limited initiatives of the Southeastern Anatolia and Marmara groups were organized with a gender-blind method. The Southeastern Anatolia Group, which came together with 11,533 people within the scope of 48 meetings in nine provinces, organized only one meeting focused on gender. 35 people attended the “meeting with women's organizations” held in Diyarbakır. [20]

The Marmara Region Group, on the other hand, classified the actors to be interviewed in six groups and defined one of them as “Women's organizations and LGBTI”. However, there is no assessment of the gender issue in the report of the Marmara Group. [21]

The Eastern Anatolia Group, which interviewed half of the 60 thousand people reached in total, constitutes the most significant example of the gender-blind approach that dominates the WPC. Reaching 29,546 people in 171 meetings, the group did not organize a single gender-focused meeting. [22] It can be said that the gender-blind classification of the people and institutions interviewed by the Central Anatolia Group is also valid for the remaining four groups:

“Besides the meetings held in every city center with the heads and representatives of non-governmental organizations, associations, unions, foundations, political parties, members of these institutions, universities, families of soldiers or children were killed in the mountains, or by extrajudicial executions and/or missings, meetings with the associations of martyrs' families, businessmen were held. Conditions have been created for Muslim conservatives and nationalists, Repuclican People’s Party and Nationalist Action Party ultra/nationalists, leftwings/socialists of all tendencies, people from all social strata such as Alevis, Kurds and Turks to participate in the meetings. [23]

As a matter of fact, according to B. Dedeoğlu, who is in the Central Anatolia Group, women could not be reached during the contacts. [24] As Z. Demir's interviews[25] with 10 women, two of whom are the WPC members, within the scope of her doctoral thesis, showed that the issue of gender equality was not a remarkable topic at local meetings.

A gender-blind approach is dominant in the texts written by the members of the WPC on the said experience. [26] Moreover, this also applies to texts written by female members themselves. [27] In this regard, the head of Marmara Group, D.Ü. Arıboğan takes a critical approach in her personal evaluation report and states that the social status of women should be considered in a peace project. Pointing out that Turkey lags behind many countries in terms of gender, Arıboğan says that increasing women's participation in decision-making processes will contribute to peace initiatives. On the other hand, Arıboğan does not provide any information on how the gender issue is handled in the WPC endeavors, apart from the issue of headscarved women’s not being able to be employed in public positions, which was raised at the meetings in Thrace. [28]

Regional Reports and Gender

When the regional reports are evaluated in terms of gender, it is seen that the gender issue is covered at a limited level in the Southeast, Eastern Anatolia, Black Sea and Central Anatolia reports, while it is completely ignored in the Marmara, Aegean and Mediterranean reports.

The issue of gender is under two headings in the Southeastern Anatolia Group report. Two of the 44 requests submitted to the WPC and compiled under the heading of “Administrative and Implementation Requests” are gender-related: “Taking social and cultural measures and developing projects for women” and “Taking necessary measures to end child marriages.” [29] On the other hand, there is no gender issues under the titles of “Constitutional Demands”, “Demands Regarding International Contracts” and “Requiring Legal Regulations”.

Among the suggestions for the Resolution Process, only one of the 26 items under the title of “Implementation Recommendations” is gender-related:

“Women who lost their relatives during the conflict period, whose houses were burned, who were forcibly displaced from their homes and villages, who were harassed and raped in custody, and subjected to all kinds of violence and inhuman treatment, are the biggest victims of this process. Considering the great victimization and trauma experienced by women, special rehabilitative policies should be developed for them. Comprehensive, applicable and sustainable projects should be implemented in order to ensure women's education and employment, to expand their participation in social and economic life, to prevent honor killings, forced and child marriages and domestic violence.” [30]

Transition to a new political system and the need for a new constitution are emphasized in three parts of the Eastern Anatolia Group report, and in this context, an inclusive approach that includes “gender groups” is suggested. Accordingly, “all religious, ethnic and linguistic identities, gender groups and all other social segments of Turkish society should be the equal rights holders, participants and controllers of the new political system.” [31]

The Black Sea Group report emphasizes that the number of women attending the meetings is low. The main reason for this is pointed out as “the low number of detectable female non-governmental organizations”. In addition, the report emphasizes the importance of women's equal and effective participation in peacebuilding, and includes criticism of the inadequacy of women's representation in the WPC. The report also states that women are more sensitive to the process in general and it is recommended that “women should be enabled to be effective in social life and women's non-governmental organizations should be especially supported”. [32]

The issue of gender is mentioned in one place in the Central Anatolia Group report. In the last section of the report, which subsequently consists of the titles of “Study Method”, “Observations and Findings” and “Recommendations”, it is stated that “women's view of the process is more positive, natural and authentic”. According to the Regional Committee, “special efforts are needed to involve women in the process.” [33]

Regarding the issue of gender, it can be said that LGBTI+s are generally excluded from the endeavors of the WPC. No one known to the public with his LGBTI+ identity was included in the committee. In the context of contact groups, the only exception is the Marmara Group, which defines one of the six main groups interviewed as “Women's organizations and LGBTI”. In the context of policy recommendations, the issue is only included in the Eastern Anatolia Group report. It is emphasized that “gender groups” should be included while proposing studies for a new constitution. Even in the report of the Marmara Group, which is the only delegation among the groups interviewed to make reference to LGBTI organizations, there is no “due determination” or “policy proposal” on this issue.

As a result, the WPC, which came to the agenda within the scope of the 2013-2015 Resolution Process, made an important contribution to the socialization and localization of peacebuilding. However, with one or two exceptions, generally a gender-blind experience emerged. Although the participation and representation of women was partially included in the quantitative, gender issue was generally not included in the organization of local gatherings. As a matter of fact, the unique place of the gender issue in the formation of conflicts and peacebuilding was ignored in regional reports. The main reason for this lack of experience in the WPC is the non-inclusive nature of the delegation. There has been a struggle for gender equality in Turkey for many years and there is a remarkable social mobilization in this regard. More importantly, gender has cross-border, bridging potential in civil society's peace work. However, the fact that the individual and collective actors, who are the carriers of the mentioned accumulation, are not sufficiently included in the works of the WPC constitutes the root cause of the exclusionary picture.


[1] The Turkish translation of the said decision is available on the internet. See: 1325 Nolu Karar (2000) (, erişim tarihi: 15.08.2022.

[2] Seher Selin Özkan, “Birleşmiş Milletler Güvenlik Konseyinin 1325 Sayılı Kararı ve Karar Kapsamında Ulusal Eylem Planı Hazırlanması”(“Preparation of a National Action Plan within the Scope of Resolution 1325 of the United Nations Security Council”) (Ankara University, 2019), 22–33,

[3] Cuma Çiçek, “Toplumsal Cinsiyet: Sivil Toplumun Barış Çalışmalarında Sınır-Aşan Ortaklıklar,(”Gender: Transboundary Partnerships in Civil Society's Peacebuilding Efforts") (Off University Blog Series: Gender, Conflict and Peace in Turkey, 2022,

[4] Nisan Alıcı, “Using the Transformative Justice Lens to Address the Gendered Aspects of the Kurdish Conflict,” Off University Blog Series: Gender, Conflict and Peace in Turkey, 2022,

[5] For a detailed analysis of the Resolution Process, see: Cuma Çiçek, Süreç: Kürt Çatışması ve Çözüm Arayışları (Process: The Kurdish Conflict and the Search for a Solution) (İstanbul: İletişim Publishing, 2018).

[6] For the full list of the delegation, see: Zuhal Demir, “Kamusal Alan ve Medya İlişkisi Üzerine Yeniden Düşünmek: ‘Akil İnsanlar Heyeti’ Örneği,”(“Rethinking the Relationship between the Public Space and the Media: The Case of the 'Wise People' Committee',”) Balkan and near East Social Sciences Journal 4, no. 3 (2018): 94–96.

[7] Öztürk Türkdoğan, “Wise People Committee Mediterranean Group,” Heinrich Böll Stiftung Association Turkey Representative, November 13, 2014,

[8] Tarhan Erdem, “Wise People Committee Aegean Region,” Heinrich Böll Stiftung Association Turkey Representative, November 13, 2014,

[9] Fatma Benli, “Wise People Committee Black Sea Group,” Heinrich Böll Stiftung Association Turkey Representative, November 13, 2014,

[10] T24, “İşte 305 Akademisyenden Akil İnsanlar Heyeti’ne Dair Rapor,” (“Here is the Report on the Wise People Committee from 305 Academicians,”) T24, May 31, 2013,, 230998; Mehmet Emin Ekmen, “Çözüm Sürecinin Serencamı-9 Akil İnsanlar Deneyimi,” (“The Consequence of the Resolution Process-9 Wise People Experience,”) Karar, October 21, 2015,

[11] Celalettin Can, “October 19 Dolmabahçe Meeting of Wise People Committee: 'Civil Will', State-Government 'Wiseness' and Beyond,” Heinrich Böll Stiftung Association Turkey Representative, November 27, 2014,

[12] Academics for Peace has made these reports available on their website ( In addition, the International Center for Cultural Studies compiled the reports into a single report and made them available on the internet.: (PDF) Akil İnsanlar Raporları | Ilhan Kaya and Uluslararası Kültürel Araştırmalar Merkezi (UKAM) -, Accessed Date 13.08.2022. 

[13] Can.

[14] Muvaffak Cemil Çıtak and Necati Alkan, “Terörden Kaynaklı Çatışmaların Çözümü ve Akil İnsanlar Heyeti Uygulamaları,” (“Resolution of Conflicts Caused by Terrorism and Wise People Committee Practices,”) Bilge Strateji 7, no. 12 (2015): 79–99; Mehmet Emin Ekmen, “Çözüm Sürecinin Serencamı-9 Akil İnsanlar Deneyimi,” (“The Consequence of the Resolution Process-9 Wise People Experience,”), Karar, October 21, 2015,

[15] UN Women, Women’s Participation in Peace Negotiations: Connections between Presence and Influence (New York: UN Women, 2012), 3.

[16] UN Women, 2–3.

[17] Erdem, “Akil İnsanlar Heyeti Ege Bölgesi.” (“Wise People Committee, Aegean Region”)

[18] T24, “İşte 305 Akademisyenden Akil İnsanlar Heyeti’ne Dair Rapor.” (“Here is the Report on the Wise People Committee from 305 Academicians,”)

[19] Women's Initiative for Peace, “Women's Initiative for Peace Resolution Process Report,” 2013, -report/.

[20] Wise People Committee Southeastern Group, “Wise People Committee Southeastern Anatolia Group Report,” 2013, 9,

[21] Wise People Marmara Group, “Wise People Committee Marmara Group Report,” 2013, 2,

[22] Wise people Committee Eastern Anatolia Group “Wise people Eastern Anatolia Group Report,” 2013, 12,

[23] Wise People Committee Central Anatolia Group “Wise People Central Anatolia Group Report,” 2013, 55,

[24] Zuhal Demir, “Demokratik Açılım ve Çözüm Sürecinde ‘Akil İnsanlar" (“Wise People in the Process of Democratic Opening and Resolution”) (Marmara University, 2018), 226.

[25] Demir, 220–87.

[26] Erdem, “Wise People Committee Aegean Region”; Beril Dedeoğlu, “Wise People Committee Central Anatolia Group,” Heinrich Böll Stiftung Association Turkey Representative, November 13, 2014, anatolian-group; Mehmet Uçum, “Wise People Committee Eastern Anatolia Group,” Heinrich Böll Stiftung Association Turkey Representative, November 13, 2014, anatolian-group; Türkdoğan, “Wise People Committee Mediterranean Group”; Fazıl Hüsnü Erdem, “Wise People Committee Southeastern Anatolia Group,” Heinrich Böll Stiftung Association Turkey Representative, November 13, 2014, -anatolian-group.

[27] Benli, “Wise People Committee Black Sea Group”; Dedeoğlu, “Wise People Committee Central Anatolia Group.”

[28] Deniz Ülke Arıboğan, “Report on the Works of the Marmara Region Wise People Committee,” Deniz Ülke Arıboğan Personal Website, June 26, 2013,

[29] Wise People Committee Southeast Group, “Southeast Report of Wise People Committee,” 27.

[30]Wise People Committee Southeast Group, 35-36.

[31] Wise People Committee Eastern Anatolia Group, “Wise People Committee Eastern Anatolia Group Report,” 16.

[32] Wise People Committee Black Sea Group, “Wise People Committee Black Sea Group Report,” 2013, 26–27,

[33] Wise People Committee Central Anatolia Group, “Wise People Committee Central Anatolia Group Report,” 63.

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