In response to years of oppression by the Turkish state, the death of two sons, and the shattering of her family, Müyesser Günes, a Kurd living in Turkey, founded Peace Mothers, an organization encouraging peace and equality between Turks and Kurds. It also provides an international voice for solidarity among women, specifically mothers, whose families have been the victims of oppression by political regimes. Müyesser is a tireless advocate for human rights and promotes the need for peace between Kurds and Turks to foreign governments and to other mothers’ groups throughout the world.
Until 1990, Müyesser Günes spent most of her life as a typical Kurdish village woman: early marriage, birth of her children, care for ailing parents, farming. But then, after suffering harassment, her oldest son left school to join the guerrilla forces, while her husband moved to Istanbul to find work. Müyesser was subject to nearly daily persecution in her home by the military special forces looking for her son. When her younger son was taken by the police and interrogated, something inside her changed. As a mother, she felt she had to act. She set about informing herself about the Kurdish issue in Turkey and started mobilizing and educating the older people in her village. After her husband and other sons were taken by police, she could no longer bear the uncertainty and abuse. She started Peace Mothers, a group of mothers to bring about peace for the sake of the children. The mothers met professors, journalists, authors, politicians, the press, and actors. They described their suffering from the loss of their children who had joined the guerrillas or were taken by police. They told them that Kurds and Turks are brothers and sisters; that they needed to help put an end to the struggle between them. They traveled with their message throughout the country, garnering the support of the German, French, Italian, Dutch, and Greek embassies. As Peace Mothers toured the country, thousands filled the narrow roads with flowers in their hands. They freed white pigeons, sang songs, and danced. They brought their message of peace to the Basque region in Spain, to the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo in Argentina, to the Kurdish Women’s Peace Office in Germany and to women in France, Ireland, and Palestine. Sadly, Müyesser’s two sons were killed in their struggle for Kurdish human rights, causing her tremendous pain. But today, she continues her work for the sake of peace.