This article focuses on the political activism of the Peace Mothers in Turkey, a group of Kurdish mothers whose children were either Partiya Karkerên Kurdistan
(PKK) guerrillas or political dissidents during the conflict between the Turkish state and the PKK. The peace activism of the Mothers is a distinctive case that speaks to the tension between the domains of the familial and the political—a tension that appears in everyday discussions as well as in feminist literature. In this article, I suggest that the Peace Mothers’ struggle to bridge national and local peace-making ideals is a subtle effort to resolve that tension and to transform the realms of family and politics. The mobilization around “motherhood” aims at peace on the national scale, but has led to an unexpected form of activism in the Kurdish community, where the Mothers now mediate local family conflicts in the wake of war. While the Mothers’ activism has not been successful in achieving its main goal of securing a national peace settlement, I argue that it transforms both the political and the familial spheres to a significant extent. The Mothers conceive of motherhood broadly: as the state of being an agent with the capacity to connect to the All via a sense of loss and care. In engaging with feminist debates on motherhood, activism, and care, this article presents a novel framework for understanding the persistent boundary between the political and the familial and calls attention to the role of gendered politics and maternal activism in understudied local settings.
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