Ankara, April 27, 2015/ Independent Balkan News Agency
Which women fear him and which love him
By Manolis Kostidis
President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan divides the women in the country with his views and policies. The modern secular Turkish women consider him a threat to their freedom, on the other hand, however, those wearing a headkerchief consider him their savior as he has granted them rights they were deprive of by the Kemalist Turkish state.
According to a survey of the newspaper Sözcü, published in October 2014, 65% of the women in Turkey wear a headkerchief, while only 35% prefer a more European way of clothing. In large cities this statistic is 50%, but outside the big cites the headkerchief dominates. This is perhaps the reason why the Turkish president prefers to express his most conservative positions, which until a few years ago refrained from disclosing. Yhis is because he considers that the majority of women are with him. According to the same survey, the lifestyle of Erdogan’s wife is a model for many women, with 46% wanting to wear the headkerchief in the style of Emine Erdoğan.
“One can’t argue that men and women are equal, as their natures are different … Our religion has defined a place for women: motherhood”. These views have repeatedly been expressed by Recep Tayyip Erdogan, eliciting a variety of reactions from women’s organizations, which argue that the Turkish President can’t help the equality of women, as well as combating violence against women, which has reached nightmarish levels in the country, since he does not believe in gender equality.
Many women fear they will be forced to wear a headkerchief
Such views enrage many women who assert their equality in society and fear that in the future they will be forced to wear a headkerchief or to live in a more conservative manner, not due to legal sanctions, but because of social pressure. These are the women who consider themselves “heirs of Kemal”, since the founder of the Turkish Republic is the one who banned the Islamic headkerchief and granted women all the rights they now enjoy.
The turn towards conservatism perhaps is the reason that has causes the increase in domestic violence in Turkey. Only in 2014, 281 women were murdered because of domestic violence while, violence against women has doubled in the last 10 years!
According to a report by the UN, non-sexual physical violence perpetrated by male partners is 10 times more likely in Turkey, compared to some European countries.
The women’s rights organisations argue that Erdogan, as a conservative Muslim, rejects the idea of the West on gender equality, given that he has condemned abortion, calles birth control “treason” and dictates to women how many children they should have. There are many in the AKP who argue that the conservative positions of the government discourage men from oppressing women. The numbers, however, are against the positions of the AKP.
They accuse the ruling AKP for refusing to cooperate with existing traditional women welfare organizations (Mor Çatı Türk Kadınlar Birliği, Türk Anneler Derneği, ÇağdaşEğitim Vakfı, AÇEV, Çağdaş Yaşamı Destekleme Derneği, Kadın Emeğini Değerlendirme Vakfı, Türkiye Aile Sağlığı ve Planlama Vakfı) and that there is lack of the necessary state funding.
In December 2014, the Turkish government had organized a meeting to elect three non-governmental organisations to help address violence against women.
The majority of organisations withdrew from the talks and tens of organisations issued a Communication expressing their complaints that their contribution was ignored.
One of the organisations that were selected and immediately received the government grant was KADEM, vice president of which is Sümeyye Erdoğan, daughter of the Turkish President.
She appears to be share the views of her father and her speech in February stated that “it is normal for women to inherit less than men because men are the ‘providers’ of the family”. Sümeyye Erdoğan stressed that there is the need to discuss the term “equality of women”, which according to her “is a term that has been imposed by the West and should be discussed further”.
A big portion of the Turkish society, however, remains conservative, and Erdogan’s views have great appeal to Muslims voters who have supported him in successive elections.
The increase in violence against women is of great concern and the AKP has created a dedicated ministry responsible for “family and social policy” and have opened dozens of sites to protect women from their husbands violence.
The headkerchief bearers adore the Turkish President
However women who were headkerchiefs are grateful the Turkish president. A few years back, the Turkish state forbade their entry to universities and throughout the public administration as there was a ban on Islamic headkerchiefs. The AKP in 2013 changed the old laws and now women wearing headkerchief and can study and work.
“Our laws are better than those of dozens other countries”, said Ayman Zelal, coordinator of the organisation Women for Women’s Human Rights, an organisation against discrimination, which is active since the early 1990s.
“The problem is, however, their implementation and the spirit of the law”.
Erdogan accuses modern women for not defending the rights of all women
Erdogan disagrees and has accused women’s organisations that they do not represent all women.
“No organization had claimed the rights of women wearing headkerchiefs. They could not study, could not work. What were they saying then? Did anybody fight for the rights of these women”, he says.
Professor of the University Bahçeşehir Yilmaz Esmer states that “Turkey is becoming more conservative rather thatn more secular. Instead it moves away from enlightenment and secular values”. This change seems to cause the skepticism of modern women in Turkey, who want to approach the values of the West.