• "A woman without a veil (headscarf) is like a home without a curtain. A home without a curtain is either for sale or for rent." — Suleyman Demirci, head of the Promotion and Media Department of the AKP.

  • Women are oppressed at home and outside; continually insulted by state authorities or the clergy, and even beaten or murdered for not being "obedient" enough, or for wanting to get a divorce. Why would anyone hang around to get beaten? Worse, why would anyone be forced by law to hang around to get beaten?

  • Perhaps to many men, such a loss of control over another human being is to be dreaded, just as the slave-owner dreads how hugely inconvenient it would be to him if he were not to have his slaves.

  • Male domination and belittling women is so deeply rooted in the Islamic culture that most Muslim men do not even see that what they do to women is, in reality, merely a way to justify treating them badly -- and all under the mask of "honoring" them and "protecting" them, supposedly for their own good!

  • Sadly, locking up women in the nursery or the kitchen is not "protecting" or "honoring" anyone. It is merely imprisoning an unpaid servant. In this sense, it is a form of slavery. It is simply abuse trying to pass itself off as chivalry.

Last month, the brutal murder of the twenty-year-old university student Ozgecan Aslan, who tried to stop a man from raping her, sparked mass protests in across many cities in Turkey.

The burned body of Aslan, who had been missing for two days, was discovered on February 13 in a riverbed in the southern province of Mersin. A bus driver, Ahmet Suphi Altındoken, 26, confessed that he had tried to rape her after she had boarded the minibus he drove. He said he had stabbed her to death, then cut off her hands to avoid leaving his DNA under her nails, before burning the body.

Protestors in Turkey denounce the murder of Ozgecan Aslan, who tried to stop a man from raping her, February 2015. (Image source: BBC News video screenshot)

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan condemned the killing by saying, "Allah entrusted women to men, but there are feminists and such, and they come up and say, 'What does women being entrusted to men mean'? They say that 'this is an insult.'" Erdogan added: "You have nothing to do with our civilization, our faith, our religion."

This was not Erdogan's first public statement on women. Others include:

  • In 2009: "The mentality of 'let our children go wherever they want to' is wrong. Girls that are let go (left alone) will end up being with a drummer or a clarion player." (A Turkish saying meaning "lowlifes.") [1]
  • In 2010: "I don't actually believe in gender equality. That is why I prefer to say 'equality of opportunities.' Men and women are different; they are complementary to one another." [2]
  • In 2014: "You cannot put women and men on an equal footing. It is against nature. They were created differently. Their nature is different. Their constitution is different." He added: "Motherhood is the highest position … You cannot explain this to feminists. They do not accept motherhood. They have no such concern." [3]

Other state officials have also made public statements insulting to women or against gender equality, and including rape and abortion.[4]

"A woman without a veil (headscarf) is like a home without a curtain. A home without a curtain is either for sale or for rent," Suleyman Demirci, the head of the Promotion and Media Department of the AKP in the town of Unye, wrote on his Facebook account in March 2011. [5]

"Yes, our girls go to schools but then we cannot find girls that our boys can marry," said a member of the city council, Erhan Ekmekci, of the AKP in the province of Corum, in February 2012; he was reacting to the "Girls, Let's Go to School!" campaign at the municipal council.

And the Minister of Family and Social Policies Minister, Fatma Sahin, blamed "selective perception": "There is some selective perception. Instead of covering how we work on the issue, the media selects negative incidents to hit the headlines, creating a perception in the society as if incidents are increasing in large numbers."

Sadly, thanks to the many teachings of Islam, one can see how the not-very-egalitarian views of the AKP authorities do not come "out of thin air."

Islamic scriptures teach that women are of lesser value then men, and that men are to be in charge of women:

"Men are the maintainers of women because Allah has made some of them to excel others and because they spend out of their property; the good women are therefore obedient, guarding the unseen as Allah has guarded; and (as to) those on whose part you fear desertion, admonish them, and leave them alone in the sleeping-places and beat them; then if they obey you, do not seek a way against them; surely Allah is High, Great." (Qur'an 4:34)

The Qur'an (2:228) also openly states, "And the men are a degree above them [women]," and, from the rules of inheritance, "The male shall have the equal of the portion of two females" (Qur'an 4:11). It also includes unequal rules for court testimony, "And call to witness, from among your men, two witnesses. And if two men be not found then a man and two women" (Qur'an 2:282), and having multiple wives: "Marry women of your choice, Two or three or four" (Qur'an 4:3). And of beating them, Qur'an 4:34 and 38:44.

A Muslim man also has the "right" to divorce his wife simply by repeating "I divorce you" three times (based on the hadith: Muslim 9:3493); but a divorced woman is required to marry another man and get divorced by him if she wishes to be taken back by her former husband (Qur'an 2:230).

Islamic sharia law forbids a Muslim woman to marry a non-Muslim man. However, it permits men to take women as sex slaves outside of marriage ("those whom thy right hand possesses," Qur'an 4:24 and Qur'an 33:50). But "adulterers," who may actually be nothing but consenting adults, are to be put to death.

A Muslim woman is always to be under the "guardianship" of a man; Islamic sharia law forbids women from traveling alone or being alone with an unrelated male. And in Islam's male-dominated society, it is usually the rape victims who are punished if four male witnesses do not confirm the victim's testimony.

Clearly, the inequality of male dominance is baked into Islamic law.

When the culture, government and the laws are all male-dominated, as they are in Turkey and in the rest of the Muslim world, Muslim women living in these countries suffer huge wrongs and easily become the regular target of repression and discrimination. They are oppressed at home and outside; continually insulted by state authorities or the clergy, and even beaten or murdered for not being "obedient" enough or (unsurprisingly, in many instances) for wanting to get a divorce. Why would anyone hang around to get beaten? Worse, why should anyone be forced by law to hang around to get beaten?

Part of the problem is that the state authorities, who regularly make these insulting remarks about women, are perhaps not even aware that they are lowering and offending women. Or perhaps they do not even care if they are.

Male domination and belittling women is so deeply rooted in the Islamic culture that most Muslim men do not even see that what they do to women -- or what they say about women, -- is, in reality, merely a way to justify treating them badly, all under the mask of "honoring" and "protecting" them, supposedly for their own good!

In many minds, apparently this is how women are supposed to be: Women are to be tamed, disciplined, controlled and owned like property by their husbands, fathers and other male figures.

Respecting women as equal human beings, who can think for themselves and make their own decisions, seems to be foreign to Islamic culture. Perhaps, to many men, such a loss of control over another human being is to be dreaded, just as the slave-owner dreads how hugely inconvenient it would be to him if he were not to have his slaves.

Sadly, locking up women in the nursery or the kitchen is not "protecting" or "honoring" anyone. It is merely imprisoning an unpaid servant. In this sense, it is a form of slavery.

The way many men in the Arab and Muslim world treat women -- as disposable servants and concubines -- is simply abuse trying to pass itself off as "chivalry."

Uzay Bulut, raised as a Muslim, is a journalist based in Ankara.


[1] In 2009, Munevver Karabulut, 17, was found dead in a garbage bin in the central Istanbul neighborhood of Etiler. Her head had been cut off and put separately in a guitar case. The leading suspect in the murder was her boyfriend, Cem Garipoğlu, aged 17 at the time of the crime.

[2] In July 2010, during a meeting with women's rights associations, some representatives had criticized the fact that woman are associated "only with their quality of motherhood." That was Erdogan's response.

[3] In November 2014, addressing a meeting in Istanbul on women and justice.

[4] In May 2012, Recep Akdag, then Health Minister, commented on rape and abortion: "Sometimes they ask, 'What will happen if a bad thing has happened to the mother?' If necessary, the state will take care of such a baby," he added, implying that if a woman is raped, she should give birth and the state will, if necessary, take care of the child.

In May 2012, Ayhan Sefer Ustun, an MP of the AKP and also the head of the Human Rights Commission of the Turkish parliament, implied that the rapist is more innocent than the rape victim who undergoes an abortion: "Of course, the act of rape is a crime. But who should suffer the consequences? The rapist should in the harshest way. But you make the human who would emerge as a result of the rape suffer the consequences, not the rapist. Women in Bosnia, too, were raped but they gave birth. If all of those children had been killed in mother's womb, it would have been a much greater drama and crime than what the rapists had done. A part of those children is their mother, those children are innocent. We have a mentality that 'the crime of the father does not pass on to the child.' That is just what we can refer to in this subject. Of course, rape will have side effects such as the deterioration of mother's psychology and disturbances in the society etc. To overcome those things is the duty of the society."

In June 2012, when asked about pregnancy caused by "adultery," Melih Gokcek, the Mayor of Ankara from the AKP, responded: "If the mother engages in adultery, what is the child's crime? Why should the child be guilty of a crime committed by who happens to be his or her mother? Let the mother suffer the consequences, let the mother kill herself. If somebody is to die, why is she getting the child killed? That is murder. There might be grievances but grievances do not legitimize this act."

In July 2013, after the photos of Zeyid Aslan, an MP of the AKP from the province of Tokat, while sleeping on the seats in the garden of the parliament, were published in a national newspaper, Aslan said to female reporters in the parliament: "You should not be allowed to enter here. You did the same thing last year, as well. In the next season, no journalist will be allowed to enter here. I will do all I can not to allow any journalist in here. Do you think what you do is journalism? We are humans, too and we get tired. If I take a photo of between your legs and publish it, saying 'this is their natural state', that will make me immoral, right? But you think what you do is journalism."

And in January 2015, Health Minister Mehmet Muezzinoglu said that mothers should not put any career before motherhood: "Mothers have the career of motherhood, which cannot be possessed by anyone else in the world. Mothers should not put another career other than motherhood at the center of their lives. They should put raising good generations at the center of their attention," Muezzinoglu explained.

In 2011, Dilsat Aktas, a female political activist, climbed on a car during an anti-government rally in Ankara to protest the death of a retired teacher, Metin Lokumcu, killed in a protest due to police violence. She was beaten by police. After the attack, one leg was shorter than the other; she still has difficulty walking.

Erdogan said about it, at an election rally in the province of Konya: "Someone – I don't know if she is a girl or a woman – has got on a police panzer in Ankara."

[5] After getting harsh criticism and reaction from the public, Demirci apologized and resigned from his post, according to the AKP in a written statement.

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