Erdogan the Misogynist - Turkish Prime Minister Assaults Women's Rights
By Daniel Steinvorth in Istanbul
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has never been much of a feminist, but women in Turkey are enraged by his latest comments on abortion. Critics say he is trying to distract attention from a scandal involving a massacre of Kurdish civilians last year.
Six letters, each a few centimeters tall, written onto her naked skin -- that was Madonna's contribution to Turkey's culture wars. Anyone who saw the words "No fear" written on her back during her June 7 concert in Istanbul understood her message, which was to encourage the Turkish people to have no fear of the enemies of freedom, and of patriarchs, philistines and the morality police. The singer also exposed one of her breasts on stage, apparently as a gesture of solidarity.
For weeks, thousands of women have been protesting against the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, 58, after he announced his intention to crack down on abortions and Caesarean section births. Since then, a debate on the role of women in Turkey has erupted -- but not for the first time.
'I Don't Believe in Equality'
It's hard to say when exactly Erdogan threw away his opportunity to gain the support of the women's movement.
In 2008, he gave a speech in the provincial city of Usak to commemorate International Women's Day, in which he advised his "dear sisters" to have at least three, preferably five, children. After the speech, a Turkish daily suggested that perhaps Erdogan would like to see International Women's Day renamed "International Childbirth Day."
In 2010, he invited representatives of women's organizations to the Dolmabahce Palace in Istanbul and confessed: "I don't believe in equality between men and women."
A year later, on International Women's Day in 2011, Erdogan talked about violence against women and statistics stating that so-called honor killings had increased 14-fold in Turkey from 2002 to 2009. But that, said the premier, was only because more murders were being reported, and that there are basically few acts of violence against women.
A member of the audience says that she was "incredulous." Erdogan's speech was "simply misogynistic" and "intolerable window dressing," she says.
There is no doubt that the Turkish premier is a deeply conservative man. His view of women is traditional and his notions about family policy are patriarchal. The employment rate among women in Turkey is currently at 29 percent, the lowest among all 34 member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
The Turks, who voted Erdogan into office for a third term last year, knew what they were letting themselves in for. Hadn't Erdogan, when he was mayor of Istanbul in 1994, told a female employee that women should never be allowed to enter the innermost circles of political leadership, because this was "against human nature?"
A politician who dismisses female self-determination as "feminist propaganda" is nothing special in Turkey, and enjoys support among broad segments of the voting public, not just among conservative Muslims. Nevertheless, Turkey is still the most modern country among majority Muslim nations. It's a country where GDP has increased by more than half, and per-capita income by more than a third, since Erdogan came into office. And it's a country that has become a motor for growth and a regional power -- and all of that since a supposedly reformed Islamist took power in March 2003.
At the time, many liberal Turks entered into a pact with Erdogan, because they had a common enemy: the fossilized establishment consisting of the military, the judiciary and the government bureaucracy. In return for their support, Erdogan promised to respect the liberals' lifestyle.http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/turkish-prime-minister-erdogan-targets-women-s-rights-a-839568.html