By Bülent Keneş, Today's Zaman
It has been a week since Abdullah Gül was elected president and the things that have happened this past week more or less signal a normalization process.
However a forgotten and concealed reality, also made to be forgotten, is blighting this normalization. It is not difficult to guess -- I'm talking about First Lady Hayrünnisa Gül's situation, which has become hurtful, heartbreaking and makes one ashamed of one's humanity.
Is it really so difficult to come to terms with a human reality and respect differences through a democratic reflex? Is the mechanism we call regime so fragile that it is scared of a woman's headscarf? Now that 60 percent of the women in this nation wear it, (please refer to the research by TESEV on the issue) and over 75 percent of this nation doesn't view its use as a problem, where does this intense incomprehension, this blind bigotry, this confounding extremism and this deep-rooted disrespect toward the general preference of people stem from? Now that there is no public support or preference behind it, where does this sick mindset get this repressive power which it so ruthlessly exercises?
If women in a country claiming to be a secular democracy are still subjected to the most primitive type of discrimination, if they are deprived of their right to education, are not employed in public services and are even prevented from benefiting from some public institutions, it naturally becomes legitimate to ask these painful questions. Even enumerating the things that befell Hayrünnisa Gül simply because she is a headscarf-wearing woman proves that this problem no longer has any tolerable side in terms of the freedom of wearing any kind of dress one likes, nor in terms of universal human rights and religious liberties.
Imagine a woman who's every effort to receive a better education was frustrated by the current system. Although she is the wife of a deputy, she was "cast away" from university. As all her chances of appealing to local judicial institutions were taken away, her appeal to the European Court of Human Rights was also turned into a problem and she was nearly accused of treason. Since her husband served as the prime minister for a short time and then as foreign minister, she was forced to withdraw her case.
Also think about the degree of anxiety she, not only a wife and a student but also a mother, is likely to feel upon pondering the possibility that her daughter might have to go through the same ordeal. Maybe for years she suffered from the fear of parting with her daughter one day as her right to education would be seized from her hands as well and she, in turn, would have to study abroad. And when she found a way to study in her homeland, she would be lynched by the ferocious media. You will also remember how the Gül family, when they attended the graduation ceremony of their daughter at Bilkent University, was subjected to a media attack and was exposed to the primitive reactions of the ideological senates of universities, the so-called home of sciences.
Hayrünnisa Gül is a woman whose situation became even more tragic and dramatic as her husband rose in politics. She is someone who endured all the problems, troubles and discriminations women who lead similar lives suffer. On top of that, she has to shoulder the great pressure and burden of being at the heart of the debates stemming from her husband's position. In fact, this is such pressure that it pushes the boundaries of one's patience and endurance.
Abdullah Gül was nominated for the presidency and Mrs. Gül was placed at the center of the debates because of her headscarf. While they tried to wear out Mr. Gül, the person who is actually worn out and whose human and female dignity is trampled on is Mrs. Gül. Moreover, when Abdullah Gül was elected president, his wife couldn't even share his happiness fully. Instead of celebrating her husband's historic success, in which she also has a great part, before the public, she was again forced to repress her joy.
She was able to attend neither the oath-taking ceremony of her husband in Parliament nor the celebratory reception he gave. She is forced to leave her husband alone at every occasion to which the president is invited. She pays great attention to not being visible in Çankaya Palace and anywhere Gül goes as president. It's as if she disappears into thin air.
Strangely enough, not one single national or international women's organization raises its voice against this humiliating situation. None of the female organizations see, hear or know about this. Despite this very well-known "three monkeys" game, all the real democrats of my country are hopefully waiting for the day when this headscarf ban -- which is a burden of shame for Turkey, which humiliates and scorns millions of women and which doesn't comply with democracy and secularism at all -- will be eradicated.
Last Mod: 05 Eylül 2007, 11:10