I flew out of Ataturk Airport a week before the recent bombing, after doing research for my book on global youth activism. Zakaria said that Erdogan is secular. One bit of evidence he gave was women aren’t allowed to wear headscarves in universities and public buildings. That’s no longer true, they can wear what they want. He didn’t mention Erdogan’s campaign to turn public schools into Islamic schools, which is a profound shift away from secularism. I watched CNN for hours yesterday and didn’t hear anyone mention the president’s extreme sexism. Women I talked with in Turkey are very angry that he said a woman who doesn’t give birth is half a woman, women should give birth to at least three children, women’s place is in the home because their main role is motherhood, they shouldn’t wear red lipstick, etc. His government is mainly male. Turks refer to him as the Sultan or Dictator.
Prime Minister Erdoğan told mothers to come and take their children home from Turkey’s Gezi Park, so some mothers formed a “chain of mothers” around young demonstrators to protect them from police. Speaking to a November 2014 conference on women and justice, Erdoğan said men and women’s nature are different and women’s role is to bear children so they can’t be put in “equal positions.”[i] He praised his mother who would “glance coyly and cry sometimes.” This speech of course was met with outrage by working women.
[i] Peter Scheer, “Turkey’s President Says Women Should Stick to Making Babies,” TruthDig, November 27, 2014.