Hate Speech of the Politicians against Women in Turkey

"There is no such thing as being non-political. Just by making a decision to stay out of politics you are making the decision to allow others to shape politics and exert power over you. And if you are alienated from the current political system, then just by staying out of it you do nothing to change it, you simply entrench it." (Joan Kirner at Women Into Power Conference, Adelaide, October 1994)


Rally of women in Turkey. The banner say “Stop Violence agaınst women” “Male Violence”


Turkey has been encountering an ever-increasing violence and indignation against women since 12 years ever more than before and while under governance of a so called Islamic Party AKP. In the last seven years, the violence against women has increased %1400[1]. According to Bianet[2]’s data on male violence against women, between 2010 and 2014, 1134 women were killed.[3] However, it was 2012 when the state was passed a law against domestic violence, promising the police protection for female victims when they were faced domestic violence.[4]


REUTERS/Murad Sezer

An activist for women's rights argues with riot police during a protest in Istanbul, Jan. 5, 2014.

Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/02/turkey-laws-fail-stop-violence-women.html#ixzz4sGwwP7ux


Unfortunately, this law has been stayed on the pages of constitution as many laws do, and has not been practiced as it was supposed to be. %9 of the murdered women were killed while they were under police protection and they declared before that they were under threat. On the other hand, %4 of these murders were carried out by killers who were judged of other domestic violence cases but they had just released from prison on probation with permission, acquittal, or amnesty. Bianet claims that in the first eleven month of 2016, at least 241 women were murdered, 72 women were raped, 111 women were harassed, 387 girl were sexually harassed and 314 women were exposed to violence by men.[5] It is brutally clear from these statistics that the violence against women has become a very common case and it was inured by the system.

What is expected from the politics, from those in power, are to promote a strict and clear discourse against domestic violence and to exactly practice the law that is in force and to prepare new set of laws to protect women in a proper way. However, these expectations have not been fulfilled by the politics, even worse happened; they have been undervalued these violence cases against women, they weakened, humiliated women by accusing the victim and justifying the perpetrator through their discourses on women. This paper aims to demonstrate how women have been gradually humiliated in the discourses and actions of the politicians in power, and to evaluate how they influenced the society and institution indirectly via these discourses. The paper will first present some specific speeches of the politicians on women and will make a discourse analysis on them. Then the probable effects of these speeches and how they would reflected in the society and institutions will be argued.

Turkish women have almost equal rights in the codes as European women have. Turkish women have right to vote, to be elected, to get divorce, equal right of inheritance. The all kinds of violence (domestic, psychological, physical and emotional) are forbidden against women, they cannot be forced to marry, and the ones who commit honor killings against women should be punished to life imprisonment according to legal codes. However, all these laws have not been enough to protect neither from honor killings nor from rapes, domestic violence and from forced arranged marriages. Then what can protect women from all these? The only thing that can ensure the empowerment of women is the collaboration of government with NGOs that are founded to support women and all together they should show their commitment to empower women and protect them against discrimination. Therefore, the legal codes should be applied in practice and the government should strictly watch and care the situation of their women citizen. [6]

            The current government has been mostly under the rule of AKP and they have been in power since 2002. They came power as the 58th government of Turkish Republic and they promised that they will have done whatever required to empower women citizen. The party program of AKP has still been promising to support and protect women both physically and economically. The party program is really promising to women empowerment. These are promises but the statistics given above demonstrate that these promises are not realized in practice. AKP has gained even the votes of the leftist and the republican citizens thanks to its uniting and women supporting party program in their first years. The background of AKP deputies is mostly traditional, conservative and Islamist that is not something negative or bad if they could embrace the whole Turkey and treat all according to the rule not according to their own parameters and world view. However, they promised equality and democracy for everyone under the rule of the secular Turkish Republic.  Unfortunately, the increase in violence against women has not stopped and the gender discrimination has been conducted even by the politicians themselves via their patriarchal discourses. The government demonstrated how much they really care about women by abolishing the Ministry of Women and Family and establishing in place of it, the Ministry of Family and Social Services. Then-prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated that “We are a conservative, democrat party so we concern about family” to the opponents of the replacement of Ministry of Women and Family with Ministry of Family and Social Services.[7] It has been clear from this discourse that women has a secondary importance for the government. In this part of the paper I will categorize the hate and discriminative discourses of politicians against women under these categories: statements on women and male equality, and statements on rape and abortion cases.

            The government that gained the power with the help of its uniting and women supporting discourses replaced their attitude with an Islamist[8], patriarchal and traditionalist ones. One of the examples to this kind of discourses was realized by President Erdogan. He stated in his speech that “You cannot put women and men on an equal footing … it's against nature. They were created differently”.[9]


Turkey's opposition parties must play a bigger role in tackling sexism of this magnitude, experts say [EPA]



He repeated the same speech several times and once he added one more discrimination related to work force “You can't get a woman to work in every job that a man does, like they did in communist regimes in the past… You can't put a pickaxe and a shovel in their hand and get them to work”[10]. In the first statement, he made use of a very religious term fitrat (nature) and it is clear that the religious Turkish people think twice when someone refers to religion before criticize them even just because he used references to religion, they do not oppose to them. However, there are many reformist Muslim feminists who believe that these terms should be reevaluated and interpreted especially by the female experts because till today the male scholars have hold the religion and religious rules in their power, they have been always male who interpreted holy Quran mostly from a patriarchal perspective. Fatima Mernissi is one of these innovative Muslim feminists and she states that

The wealth of historical evidence favorable to women with the discrimination presently experienced by women under fundamentalist movements, in which injustice against women attains the status of a sanctified act. She argues that women’s passivity, seclusion and marginal place in such Muslim societies has nothing to do with Muslim tradition and is, on the contrary, ‘a contemporary ideological production[11]

Therefore, what Erdogan referred is not a religious rule that cannot be reevaluated and reinterpreted. However, it is not the case what he said, is a religious rule or not because he was a Prime Minister of Turkish Republic and his duty was to keep secure constitutional rights. The equality between man and women is a constitutional right. Therefore, his statement was not only discriminative against women but also a constitutional crime.

            If a Prime Minister can jauntily speak against gender equality and commits constitutional crime, his deputies and candidates would compete with each other to do the same to earn credit of his leader. Ugur Isilak, a strong supporter of Erdogan, a candidate deputy of Istanbul, commented in a very outrages way against women as

I strongly believe that those feminists, all of them, have a secret desire in their heart to be enchanted to a man, to her husband, to be a slave of him, a subject of him, to belong to him. These feelings are in the nature (fitrat) of women, and behaving as if these feelings do not exist is against nature. Therefore, these feminists are not happy at all. The nature of women wants to be depended. However, the nature of man is not like that. Man possess woman but woman belongs to men.[12]

As it is mentioned above, the women have equality with men in front of the law. However, even the Prime Minister himself can speak against the constitutions so do his followers. It could easily been observed that, the candidate Ugur Isilak was paraphrasing the nature (fitrat) concept of Prime Minister. He was simply targeting women, especially those who are present actively in life, working, taking education and do not need a man to survive. These outrages statements have been normalized with the support of media that broadcast these discourses repeatedly without critical approach.

  • Abortion and rape

As it is widely known, abortion is one of the most discussed topics in women’s fight for their rights and there have been still countries in which the abortion is illegal and the feminist groups have been fighting to earn the right of abortion that is absolutely related to the life and body of the women.

Abortion in Turkey actually is not illegal but there are limitations such as the pregnancy should not be more than 10 weeks, if you are married, your husband should consent to abortion and if you are underage, younger than 18, your family should be with you. However, abortion discussion has a long history in Turkey. The women were conducting abortion even when it was illegal and even under risky and unhealthy conditions. The discussions to make abortion legal and even to provide free abortion service at the state hospitals has started around 1970.[13]  A concrete result was obtained at 80s but the hospital services were still insufficient. However, it has been legal since then. In 2012, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, then a prime minister made a speech in the opening ceremony of a private hospital and he mentioned that his party was preparing a new abortion legacy. He said that it should be allowed only when there is a risk to mother’s life. He clearly stated that “I consider abortion to be murder. No-one should have the right to allow this to happen… there is no difference between killing a baby in its mother's womb and killing a baby after birth”[14] .

The AKP party was really proposed this law that was limiting abortion only to rare risky cases. However, they needed to withdraw the law due to the objections of opposition parties and protests of the feminist groups. A woman deputy of main opposition party CHP, Aylin Nazliaka made a speech against proposed abortion law and stated that “The Prime Minister should stop behaving like the guardian of the vagina”.[15] In return to her speech, she was being accused of speaking inappropriately as a woman by then AKP deputy and vice Prime Minister Bulent Arinc and he stated that “ As a man, I was ashamed and my face flushed while a woman deputy who is married and a mother, was speaking about her genital organ (vagina)”.[16]

On the other side the discussion of abortion was related to rape victims who got pregnant and naturally wanted to have abortion. Several AKP deputies, mayors and officials have stated their ideas in line with Prime Minister. Here the most sensational ones will be elected and presented. The most outrageous hate speech was promoted by Ankara City Mayor Melih Gokcek and he stated that “a mother who considered abortion should "kill herself instead and not let the child bear the brunt of her mistake”[17]. This was a really offensive and targeting to make women worthless, insignificant and unimportant. He was not accusing the one who raped the women and did not try to understand the physical and psychological suffer that victim was going through but he was standing against the victim.  Another deputy took the outrageous statement of the Ankara Mayor a step further and he clearly stated that he counted the rapist more innocent than the victim who considered abortion after being raped and got pregnant. This speech has been stated in one of the newspaper as “AKP lawmaker Ayhan Sefer Üstün, the head of Parliament’s Human Rights Commission (this is quite ironic), upped the ante in supporting the minister, arguing in remarks to daily Akşam that killing the baby in the mother’s womb is a greater crime than the deeds of the rapist.”[18]

All these political hate speech, anti-feminist discourses of politician have been reflected to both local and international media mostly as Islamic rooted approach of AKP to the issues related to women. Even Turkish public, the ones who support AKP and Erdogan, were mostly considering that this is how it should be according to Islam. On the other side as we mentioned before, many issues related to women in Islamic culture were mostly not laws in Islam or they have been interpreted by male scholars. In Islam, abortion is not forbidden totally but there are limitations. The early abortion have been mostly permitted by Islamic scholars but still has been considered as wrong but not a sanctioned wrong. The Quran does not propose an exact law against abortion but there are some references that could be interpreted in relation to abortion. Some scholars even consider abortion as permissible if the mother is a victim of rape and incest. In the case of late abortion, after 120 days, Islam still gives priority to the mother’s life and sees permissible the abortion if her life is in danger.[19] As it is clear from Islamic perspective, the jargons and discourses used by Erdogan and his deputies are not Islamic but twisted religious perspective shaped by a patriarchal culture that puts women always in the background. However, it does not matter how much his discourses are religiously correct or not, nobody even Prime Minister should not be over the law itself. The laws are clear and theoretically they are standing with women but the political hate speech and discourses manipulate the people who are in charge of applying these laws.

These hate speeches and discourses are not for nothing but they all prepare the desired atmosphere both among public and institutions and they have become more and more conservative, anti-democratic and blinded to women and women rights. They have a kind of subconscious influence over the society who are somehow hypnotized by the media via these discourses without proposing a critical view. The people have started to use these jargons among themselves by feeling the power and support of the Prime minister and the leading party behind themselves. The institutions have started to act in line with these jargons and discourses and acting against the law itself. Just to give a clear example, I will focus on abortion and the increasing rape cases. 12 women shelters and support centers in Turkey carried out a research. They called the hospitals in their cities and ask whether their hospitals are providing abortion service. The result was quite disappointing because many hospitals were violating the law that allows abortion and did not provide abortion service at all.

Activists from the Purple Roof women’s shelter in Istanbul found that only three out of 37 state hospitals agreed to provide non-emergency terminations, of which only one offered abortions between the eighth and 10th week of gestation, when surgery becomes necessary. Under Turkish law, hospitals are authorized to terminate pregnancies up until the 10th week.[20]


“In 2015, Turkey witnessed a very frightening woman murder case named Ozgecan. She was a university student and murdered by a minibus driver because she resisted to a rape attempt.”


Apart from abortion cases, there have been a dramatic increase in rape and harassment against women. In many cases the perpetrators were not punished as they should have been according to law. In 2015, Turkey witnessed a very frightening woman murder case named Ozgecan. She was a university student and murdered by a minibus driver because she resisted to a rape attempt. She stabbed to death and her body burned. Since this horrific case, violent men have killed 350 women because they wanted to divorce or refused to marry. 15 women were raped, 29 women were injured and 6 women and children were harassed.[21] In most cases the perpetrator asked for remission and they claimed that were under aggravated provocation or the victim gave wrong signal as if she consented to be with them in rape cases or they were seducing them sexually. In some cases, these men really got remissions. However, there happened women perpertrators who killed their husbands or rapers because of the severe harrasments they went through like the cases of Cilem Dogan and Havva C. They both killed their abusers to save themselves because they lost their hope from laws after they continued to be abused even when they asked for police protection and not provided a proper one. However, the same legal system that proposed violent men remission, did not behave equally to the women even if they commited the crime to protect themselves.


This is a rally of women against the law that provides remission to male violent perpetrators

‘In most cases the perpetrator asked for remission and they claimed that were under aggravated provocation or the victim gave wrong signal as if she consented to be with them in rape cases or they were seducing them sexually. In some cases, these men really got remissions.’


In countries that do not have a settled egalitarian and democratic tradition in political and public life like Turkey, the discourses of leading politicians can be ahead of the legacy and the constitution in some cases as it is discussed in this paper. They can form a kind of indirect control over the public and institution and could cause them to act against law. Therefore, it has a vital importance that the politicians should have discourses in line with the legal system and they first themselves should not break the laws with their jargons and discourses. If they do, they will cause victims to suffer as it is happening in Turkey in the women rights cases.


Esra Aytar

PhD Student in Sociology

University of ELTE




Madigan, Patricia. Women Negotiating Modernity: A Gender Perspective on Fundamentalisms in        Catholicism and Islam”. Islam and Christian–Muslim Relations, Vol. 20, No. 1, 1–20, January 2009

http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/02/turkey-laws-fail-stop-violence-women.html  last     access 28 March 2017

http://bianet.org/bianet/erkek-siddeti/161582-erkek-siddetinin-2016-grafigi last access 28 March 2017

https://www.akparti.org.tr/english/akparti/parti-programme#bolum_ last access 28 March 2017

http://www.atam.gov.tr/dergi/sayi-14/anayasalarimizda-kadin-haklari last access 28 March 2017

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2014/11/women-blast-erdogan-over-hate-crime                               20141126104444682533.html last access 28 March 2017

http://www.cumhuriyet.com.tr/video/video/248019/AKP_nin_adayi_Ugur_Isilak__Kadinin_fitratinda_kole_olmak_var.html#  last access 28 March 2017

http://ilga.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Turkey-Report-for-the-64th-Pre-Sessional-Working Group-of-CEDAW-.pdf last access 28 March 2017

http://researchturkey.org/violence-against-women-in-turkey-reflections-of-the-increasing          conservative-political-climate/ last access 28 March 2017

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/jun/03/turkish-women-rally-abortion-ban, last      access  28 March 2017

http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/turkish-prime-minister-erdogan-targets-women-s-rights-a                839568.html, last access 28 March 2017

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-18297760, last access 28 March 2017








[1] Diren Deniz Sarı, Akp zihniyetinin kadina bakisi, http://www.birgun.net/haber-detay/akp-zihniyetinin-kadina-bakisi-12-yilda-kim-ne-dedi-83051.html

[2] A famous independent communication network

[3] http://bianet.org/bianet/erkek-siddeti/161582-erkek-siddetinin-2014-grafigi

[4] http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/02/turkey-laws-fail-stop-violence-women.html

[5] http://bianet.org/bianet/kadin/181357-erkek-siddeti-kasim-2016

[6] http://www.atam.gov.tr/dergi/sayi-14/anayasalarimizda-kadin-haklari

[7] http://bianet.org/bianet/kadin/130585-kadin-bakanligi-kaldirildi-kadin-orgutleri-ofkeli

[8] I used the Islamist term as its relation to politic. It is not related to the faith itself however it is a political strategy used to gain power by using religion.

[9] http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2014/11/women-blast-erdogan-over-hate-crime-20141126104444682533.html

[10] ibid

[11] Madigan, Patricia. “Women Negotiating Modernity: A Gender Perspective on Fundamentalisms in Catholicism and Islam”. Islam and Christian–Muslim Relations, Vol. 20, No. 1, 1–20, January 2009


[13] http://bianet.org/bianet/bianet/139903-turkiye-de-kurtajin-kisa-tarihi

[14] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1T-ANhlXbFM, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-18297760

[15] http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/turkish-prime-minister-erdogan-targets-women-s-rights-a-839568.html

[16] ibid

[17] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/jun/03/turkish-women-rally-abortion-ban

[18] http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/akps-support-for-babies-born-of-rape-fuels-uproar.aspx?pageID=238&nID=22089&NewsCatID=338

[19] http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/islam/islamethics/abortion_1.shtml

[20] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/feb/04/istanbul-hospitals-refuse-abortions-government-attitude

[21] https://zete.com/ankara-barosu-erkek-siddetine-haksiz-tahrik-ve-iyi-hal-indirimi-yapilmasin/

Címkék: Turkey sexism hate speech Male violence Womens right 2017.09.10. 22:14