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POLITICS >‘Let them cry out for miniskirts,’ Turkish President Erdoğan slams critics

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President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan delivers a speech during a ceremony in Ankara for the inauguration of dorms owned by the Service for Youth and Education Foundation of Turkey (TÜRGEV). AA Photo

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan delivers a speech during a ceremony in Ankara for the inauguration of dorms owned by the Service for Youth and Education Foundation of Turkey (TÜRGEV). AA Photo

Miniskirts have once again become cannon fodder in Turkey’s culture war, with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan personally diving into the issue during a speech on Feb. 25.

“Let them cry out for low-cut [tops] and miniskirts,” Erdoğan said during a ceremony in Ankara for the inauguration of dormitories owned by the Service for Youth and Education Foundation of Turkey (TÜRGEV), vowing to “raise generations loyal to their beliefs and history.”

The president’s son, Bilal Erdoğan, is among the board members of TÜRGEV, a charity nongovernmental organization.

On Feb. 21, a group of men organized a protest in Istanbul, wearing miniskirts, to demonstrate against patriarchy and in memory of slain 20-year-old student Özgecan Aslan.

The burned body of Aslan was discovered on Feb. 13 in a riverbed in the southern Turkish province of Mersin, triggering a public debate in which a women’s supposedly “provocative” attire has been cited as a reason for sexual assault and harassment by some conservative voices.

On Feb. 25, Erdoğan continued slamming "skirt-wearing men" while hosting an umbrella group of small- and medium-sized businesses at the presidential palace.

"They call themselves 'men.' What men? Men wear trousers, but they wear skirts. They hide themselves," he said, drawing a parallel between skirts and masks. "Why do you wear a mask, if you are not a terrorist?" he asked.

While repeating that the murder of Aslan was “total savagery," Erdoğan kept up with his uncompromising tone, criticizing not only the secular opposition, but also the followers of the U.S.-based Islamic cleric Fethullah Gülen, his ally-turned-nemesis.

Slamming the whole opposition

Erdoğan, who as head of state is supposed to be non-partisan and above politics, has once again slammed “the opposition” for cooperating with the “parallel state” ahead of the June parliamentary elections.

If supporters of U.S.-based Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen within the state bureaucracy had succeeded in their “coup attempt” against the government, then all opposition parties would have been hostage to it “through blackmail, cassettes and montage” Erdoğan said on Feb. 25, referring to the corruption investigations launched by Gülen-linked prosecutors and police officials in December 2013.

“We saved all [parties] from this danger, but they eventually surrendered and the parallel structure is using them,” he added.

The president was speaking during a ceremony in Ankara for the inauguration of dormitories owned by the Service for Youth and Education Foundation of Turkey (TÜRGEV), a charity nongovernmental organization.

The president’s son, Bilal Erdoğan, is among the board members of TÜRGEV, which was among the main targets of the widespread graft probe in December 2013. 

Celal Kara, the prosecutor in charge of the initial investigation, recently admitted that he was planning to name Erdoğan as the prime suspect of the alleged graft scheme. Another Turkish prosecutor then summoned daily Cumhuriyet’s editor-in-chief, Can Dündar, over his remarks in the interview conducted with Kara that allegedly “insulted” Erdoğan.

Davutoğlu slams Gülen and opposition parties

Meanwhile, also speaking on Feb. 25, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu claimed that Gülen and all three opposition parties at parliament are working together, making moves against the government that he said were launched “simultaneously” and aimed to “create chaos” in Turkey ahead of the June 7 parliamentary elections.

Davutoğlu again sought to justify the controversial government-led homeland security bill with reference to the Oct. 6-7, 2014 street protests staged by Kurdish citizens against Ankara’s perceived inaction toward Syrian Kurds besieged by jihadists in the Syrian border town of Kobane.

“The state’s morality and responsibility required these measures,” Davutoğlu told a parliamentary group meeting of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

“Despite all verbal abuse, you have maintained your solemnity, you have made history,” he said, praising AKP deputies for their behavior during heated ongoing debates on the security bill.

While the government is trying to keep “freedom and security in balance in the name of serenity, liberty and perpetuity of the nation … It is almost as if a button has been pushed to trigger reactions against the bill.”

“The person in Pennsylvania writes an article for The New York Times; [main opposition Republican People’s Party/CHP leader Kemal] Kılıçdaroğlu delivers a call for resistance from the sacred rostrum of the the Grand National Assembly; the HDP [Peoples’ Democratic Party] trashes the dignity of parliament with its slogans; and the MHP [the Nationalist Movement Party] lends support to all this,” Davutoğlu said, referring to The New York Times’ publishing of an editorial penned by Gülen on Feb. 3 that was full of criticism against the government, including on the issue of minorities’ rights.

In recent months, the government has reshuffled hundreds of public servants in a bid to curb Gülenists’ influence in the bureaucracy, while launching espionage and illegal wiretapping probes into several high-ranking officials. Gülen himself is being sought with two arrest warrants, with the latest one issued on Feb. 24.

February/25/2015

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