When women in Turkey rise up

“I don’t care about being alone in the eyes of the world,” Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told a group of stenographs who call themselves “journalists” whom he regularly travels abroad with.

“What matters is how people view me,” he continued. “I saw during the presidential election that people side with me. There’s no isolation [of me] either when you consider people in other countries too. Maybe there is an isolation on the level of leaders, but it’s nothing other than envy.”

“I had very good relations with [Barack] Obama when he first came to power. We were even hosted at the White House as a family. We had one-on-one meetings. After all these talks, I saw that things started to develop in a different way, which I have a hard time understanding.”

Such statements are worrisome, true, but puzzling? No longer. The “me against the whole world” has become, to emphasize what one of his chief advisors had called, “precious solitude.”

The methodology to analyze this can no longer be reason-based because his outbursts and statements do not seem to stem from a rational, prudent mindset.

What it frames is a “worldview” based on delusions of grandeur pumped up by an inner circle whose unconditioned loyalty has driven the entire country, its well-established foreign policy staff, its diplomatic memory and experience to the brink.

The apparent isolation of Ankara is now at such a level that a president driving an erratic policy coupled with an antagonizing discourse not only lures the diplomatic corps of Turkey to the opposite corner but also leaves the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government in disarray.

The domestic scene resembles, day by day, a pressure cooker that is coming closer to the point of explosion. Social fault lines are growing as disheartened social groups are now seeking every gap, as it were, to show their emotions. The divisions are threatening whatever has remained of the stitches that keep society together and people in the opposing camps have also, day by day, become fearless, vocal.

This is the reason why the brutal killing of a young girl, Özgecan Aslan, led to a national outcry and relentless action by women. As if to say, enough is enough, they took to the streets, defied the imam’s pleas to remain back during her funeral prayers and are now taking the lead to show Erdoğan that his policies are threatening to ruin this country.

It is one thing to see Kurds, Alevis or Gezi youngsters venting their rage on the streets, it is another if women feel as though they have to do it. They are the ones in the opposition camp who feel, much more profoundly than men, that this vast mismanagement of society is pushing Turkey into large-scale domestic enmity and a violent confrontation.

Their actions result from a basic statistic: The number of women killed by men in Turkey have constantly been on the rise. It was 90 in 2009, 180 in 2010, 210 in 2012 and 294 in 2013.

If you recall Erdoğan’s recent statement that men and women are “not equals” you may not be surprised by the horror.

Yet it is now a new breakthrough moment that women are rising up.

Keep in mind that in Tunisia it was women’s unity, courage and resolve to take to the streets that was a key element in pushing back political Islam, forcing a compromise and a new constitution.

But in an internationally isolated, domestically torn Turkey, it is more difficult to predict what is next because the AK Party builds tension by employing official brutality, using the security apparatus in order to gain absolute power in the end.

“The rise in the murder of women is not a coincidence,” a colleague Mehmet Altan wrote yesterday.

“We might see a complete increase in state brutality and if the AK Party wins the elections, it will reach horrific levels. They are preparing fully for that. Their rhetoric, the draft laws they are preparing and their breaches of the Constitution are the harbingers of calamity we may all face,” he warned.

I hope he is wrong, but am afraid that he is not.

About yavuzbaydar

Yavuz Baydar has been an award-winning Turkish journalist, whose professional activity spans nearly four decades. In December 2013, Baydar co-founded the independent media platform, P24, Punto24, to monitor the media sector of Turkey, as well as organizing surveys, and training workshops. Baydar wrote opinion columns, in Turkish, liberal daily Ozgur Dusunce and news site Haberdar, and in English, daily Today's Zaman, on domestic and foreign policy issues related to Turkey, and media matters, until all had to cease publications due to growing political oppression. Currently, he writes regular chronicles for Die Süddeutsche Zeitung, and opinion columns for the Arab Weekly, as well as analysis for Index on Censorship. Baydar blogs with the Huffington Post, sharing his his analysis and views on Turkish politics, the Middle East, Balkans, Europe, U.S-Turkish relations, human rights, free speech, press freedom, history, etc. His opinion articles appeared at the New York Times, the Guardian, El Pais, Svenska Dagbladet, and Al Jazeera English online. Turkey’s first news ombudsman, beginning at Milliyet daily in 1999, Baydar worked in the same role as reader representative until 2014. His work included reader complaints with content, and commentary on media ethics. Working in a tough professional climate had its costs: he was twice forced to leave his job, after his self-critical columns on journalistic flaws and fabricated news stories. Baydar worked as producer and news presenter in Swedish Radio &TV Corp. (SR) Stockholm, Sweden between 1979-1991; as correspondent for Scandinavia and Baltics for Turkish daily Cumhuriyet between 1980-1992, and the BBC World Service, in early 1990's. Returning to Turkey in 1994, he worked as reporter and ediytor for various outlets in print, as well as hosting debate porogrammes in public and private TV channels. Baydar studied informatics, cybernetics and, later, had his journalism ediucatiob in the University of Stockholm. Baydar served as president of the U.S. based International Organizaton of News Ombudsmen (ONO) in 2003. He was a Knight-Wallace Fellow at University of Michigan in 2004. Baydar was given the Special Award of the European Press Prize (EPP), for 'excellence in journalism', along with the Guardian and Der Spiegel in 2014. He won the Umbria Journalism Award in March 2014 and Caravella/Mare Nostrum Prize in 2015; both in Italy. Baydar completed an extensive research on self-censorship, corruption in media, and growing threats over journalism in Turkey as a Shorenstein Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.
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