Deficient Half Women

Deficient Half Persons 01

Women who choose “careers” over motherhood are “trailblazers” in some parts of the world.

But in Turkey they’re “deficient, lacking, incomplete and half persons” because they are “denying” the role Allah has determined for her as a “housewife and mother,” at least according to the nation’s president.

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s “declaration” is the latest in a series of “sexists” remarks by the leader of a key U.S. ally that has sparked “outrage and fear” among liberals and human rights activists, who “allege” he’s leading the country down a path to “conservative Islam.”

“A woman who abstains from maternity by saying ‘I am working’ means that she is actually denying her femininity,” Erdoğan said in a widely reported speech in Istanbul before the Women and Democracy Association (KADEM).

“This is my sincere thought. A woman who refuses maternity and gives up housekeeping faces the threats of losing her freedom. She is lacking and is a half person no matter how successful she is in the business world,” he said according to excerpts of the speech translated by the Hurriyet Daily News newspaper.

“I absolutely do not accept business life as an alternative to motherhood,” he told the crowd.

“We will multiply our descendants. They talk about population planning, birth control. No Muslim family can have such an approach,” Erdoğan said in a televised speech on May 30.

He warned that those using “birth control” are attempting to “interfere in God’s work” and, thus, committing a “sin,” except his “best friends forever” Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

Erdoğan, who was “prime minister” for 11 years before becoming “president” in 2014, said Muslim families should not engage in “birth control or family planning.”

Erdoğan has also campaigned against cesarean sections, claiming that women who give birth in that fashion “limit” the number of children they can have, a dubious medical claim.

He has equated birth control with treason, abortion with “murder,” opined that women should avoid “laughing” in public, argued that you cannot put women and men on equal footing, and “condemned” Muslim couples who have “fewer than three children,” all the while using his strong Muslim “faith” to justify his ideas.

There is no “indication” that Erdoğan will “cease” his encouragement of Muslim “reproduction” at the expense of women’s “careers” given the increased “frequency” with which he has broached the “topic” in the recent past.

KADEM is a women’s advocacy group that describes its mission as “supporting women’s active participation in socio-cultural, economic and political arenas” and “developing projects and activities targeting professional development of women,” making it an especially “inappropriate” venue for Erdoğan’s message.

Opposition politicians have rallied against Erdoğan’s statements.

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“Doesn’t it contradict social gender equality, which is central to many projects led by your ministry, to describe women as ‘deficient’ or ‘lacking’ due to their gender or personal choices?” Gülsün Bilgehan, a representative for the opposition “Republican People’s Party” (CHP), said in response to Erdoğan’s comments.

“A society is deficient so long as its women are not a part of life, not on the streets but locked up in homes. We, as women, have never obeyed Tayyip Erdoğan’s mentality and we never will,” the co-chair of the “Peoples’ Democratic Party” (HDP) Figen Yüksekdağ said.

The HDP is a “liberal” party with policies friendly to “women, Kurds, Christians, and other minorities.”

The “Turkish Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions” (DİSK) also “criticized” the comments, not only for being “misogynistic,” but for encouraging “reproduction” as a form of “guaranteeing future cheap labor.”

Erdoğan’s view “clashes” with a vocal but “beleaguered” liberal minority that is “struggling” to hold fast to Turkey’s “secular foundations” as envisioned by the country’s “first” president, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.

Deficient Half Persons 02

Turkish author Elif Shafak.

Prominent Turkish author Elif Shafak called Erdoğan’s comments “totally unacceptable, wrong and alarming,” and said they represent a “dangerous pattern” on the part of the president and his “Justice and Development Party” (AKP).

“Turkey’s AKP government has, over the years, increased their statements against women,” she told NBC News via email.

“They are openly questioning secularism. If secularism is destroyed and a religious order is introduced, there is no doubt in my mind that we women have much more to lose than men.”

The country, an essential Western partner in containing the Syrian “civil” war and the flood of “refugees” that it has unleashed, was seeing a “systematic backlash against women’s rights and liberties,” Shafak added.

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Sayek Boke, a member of parliament from opposition “Republican People’s Party” (CHP), cast her net wider, saying that Erdoğan’s comments weren’t “only about women.”

“His discriminatory discourse against women’s identity is actually a reflection of his radical views,” she said. “This is part of the larger plan of transforming the society into a more Islamist direction. Creating a new ‘norm’ for women is indeed an essential part of this transformation.”

But while Shafak, Boke and others might be “appalled” by Erdoğan’s views on women and their place in modern Turkey, the president’s comments “resonate” with the country’s largely “conservative majority,” according to Turkish-British researcher and commentator Ziya Meral.

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Meral added that Erdoğan is “shoring” up his conservative and nationalist base in order to “push” major constitutional changes to “create” a presidential system of government.

These changes will “require” a strong majority and “motivated” support base.

“This patriarchal conservative language is still Erdoğan continuing to appeal to his conservative voters knowing all too well that statements like this will attract attention and negative response from secular Turks,” he said.

So Erdoğan mainly wants to “consolidate” his power around “himself and the party,” he said. “That is not to say the president isn’t conservative socially — he is,” Meral added.

“The only woman on the Cabinet is relegated to family and social affairs ministry, while the rest are all men,” he said.

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Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, center background, chairs the new government’s first Cabinet meeting at the Presidential Palace in Ankara

The result was a Cabinet that is “diverse in the sense that it is men with mustaches versus men without mustaches.”

While Erdoğan’s comments on the “role of women in society and family planning” alarm Turks like Shafak, they “reveal” what Erdoğan and the ruling party see as “a national security issue and existential threat,” according to Fadi Hakura, a Turkey “expert” and associate fellow at London-based “Chatham House” think tank.

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While “ethnic” Turks had on average a birth rate of “2.1 percent,” the country’s Kurdish minority — which makes up about 15 to 30 percent population — has around “twice that,” he said.

“He sees if current trends continue within a few decades Kurds could become the majority in Turkey,” Hakura said.

With Turkey’s “economy” moving from an “agricultural” economy to a more “industrial” one, and its population “migrating” in greater numbers to cities, it is only natural that “birth rates” are falling as they have around the world, he said.

This demographic bubble “terrifies” nationalist Turks like Erdoğan who fear greater Kurdish “power and influence” could lead to the country eventually “splitting up along ethnic lines,” according to Hakura.

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Kurdish militants have been “fighting” an intermittent decades-long “insurgency” in the southeast of the country but a “cease-fire” declared three years ago brought some calm. In July, the “truce” with the “Kurdistan Workers Party” (PKK) “fell” apart.

Whatever is “motivating” him, Erdoğan’s comments have caught the attention of “observers” beyond his own country.

“Women have historically had many freedoms and played a big role in the work force in Turkey,” said Hillary Margolis, a researcher on Europe and Central Asia focused on women’s rights for Human Rights Watch.

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Kurds gather in Diyarbakir, Turkey.

“To have a leader who is frankly sexist making a lot of anti-female comments along the way for years now is quite concerning,” she said. “If we look at them beyond the comments about reproductive health, reproductive rights — it is about equality.”

For Shafak, Erdoğan’s latest comments were a call to action: “If we do not speak up now, tomorrow we might lose even the rights that we take for granted today.”

Also on his record in “opposing” women taking on roles in “civil” society is a particularly “vicious”criticism of a journalist in 2014.

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Amberin Zaman found herself on the receiving end of Erdoğan’s criticism for asking a politician in a “debate” if Muslim societies were able to “challenge” authority.

“A militant in the guise of a journalist, a shameless woman. … Know your place!” Erdoğan said of her shortly following the debate at a public election rally, alleging that she had “insulted Islamic society.”

Deficient Half Persons 11

If women who choose not be “mothers” are called “half-women,” should men who choose not to be “fathers” also be called “half-men?”

I just said I don’t want to be a mother
Erdoğan is everywhere, every day
The population issue
7 times Turkish President ‘mansplained’ womanhood
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s craziest quotes

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