Women's issues in Turkey

The situation has also revealed how some circles are acting with hypocrisy in attacking Mrs. Gül on the one hand and defending women's rights on the other.

Women's issues in Turkey
By Fatma Dişli, Today's Zaman

It has been more than 10 days since Abdullah Gül moved to Çankaya (the presidential palace), sparking an uproar in Turkey due in particular to suspicion among some circles about his secular credentials and his wife's headscarf, which is banned in public places in Turkey. Since Gül's election, it has been possible to talk about the start of a normalization process in Turkey, as he held two receptions in the presidential palace and gathered with different societal groups and where warm exchanges took place. Mrs. Gül did not attend any of the receptions at Çankaya largely due to the sensitivities of some circles in society about her headgear; however, her absence did not escape the attention of some women's organizations, which termed it an injustice to her. The situation has also revealed how some circles are acting with hypocrisy in attacking Mrs. Gül on the one hand and defending women's rights on the other.

Zaman columnist Mustafa Ünal discusses the process beginning with Gül's election and examining the developments so far, contending that a process of normalization has finally started in Turkey. Taking a look at the diversity of the guests at Çankaya, Ünal says the guests did not represent only a single group from society and that Çankaya's doors were wide open to everybody, including media representatives, civilian organizations and the business world. "Was not this the thing that should have happened? Can a president discriminate in terms of political thought and opinion among the public of which he is a representative?" he asks.

Considering Gül's messages, Ünal notes that the kind of mission Gül will take on as president is becoming clearer. His emphasis on the presidency not being a post of execution but of representation gives Ünal some clues about the manner in which Gül will act in the coming days. He explains that the problems that have emerged between the government and the president have so far resulted from the system's structure rather than the people occupying those posts. Hence, he thinks that Gül's indication that he will welcome legal changes restricting the president's authority should be seen as a sign that he does not want to let tension arise between the government and himself in the next term. He further clarifies that this does not mean Gül being a low-profile president. "The presidents coming from within the political realm have always taken a more active role as president due to their constitutional authority, and Gül will be no different," he argues. Ünal depicts Gül's last 10 days' performance as "promising."

Star columnist Mustafa Karaalioğlu flashes back to developments surrounding Gül's election, particularly the fuss that was made over Mrs. Gül's headscarf and the argument that the representation of a headscarf-wearing woman as Turkey's first lady is not appropriate for a Turkey that is part of the modern world. Karaalioğlu argues that while Turkey was discussing the likelihood of a man as president, it committed an injustice to that man's wife and hence all headscarf-wearing women. He severely criticizes some newspapers publishing insulting news about Mrs. Gül, disregarding her identity as a human being, woman, mother and wife, pointing to the strangeness that emerges with the same newspapers' heading up campaigns against violence and discrimination against women and campaigns for women's rights and education and the increased role of women in politics.

Considering this, he concludes that a certain segment of society is concerned about the rights and education of women who are dressed in the way they approve. "What is this but discrimination against women? The story of the 11th presidency in Turkey is, beyond all its political consequences, the story of an unfavorable misogyny. Some failed not only the democracy test, but also in the women's rights test," he asserts.
Last Mod: 10 Eylül 2007, 10:36
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