Turkey presents sex, lies and Kabataş
A few days after the brutal murder of Özgecan Aslan, which put women’s murders under focus again and a few days before International Women’s Day, an incident that took place during the Gezi events came back to the agenda one more time.
What is known as the Kabataş event is based on the testimony of a mother who said she was harassed during the Gezi events by a gang of 70 people in Istanbul’s very centrally located Kabataş.
In her interviews (her face was never disclosed) she claimed that a group of 70 young men who were half-naked, but dressed in black leather pants, harassed her to the point of peeing on her and her child.
She was the daughter-in-law of a Justice and Development Party (AKP) mayor from an Istanbul municipality.
The story did not really sound plausible. You don’t get to see 70 people half-naked going around Istanbul. But these were the Gezi days when we came across a lot of things that had never taken place before. But Gezi at the beginning was the uprising of the “nice” guys. They were educated, white-collar people who had previously never gone onto the streets to demonstrate.
The story was quickly picked up by Erdoğan and used professionally to polarize society once more.
When a handful of journalists from the liberal camp, including a Hürriyet columnist, substantiated the story, saying they saw video footage of the event, the AKP camp felt vindicated. Officials promised the footage would be made public. But it was not made public until the story was forgotten. Then, when the video footage was leaked to the press, what we saw did not substantiate what the woman claimed. A group of half-a-dozen young men appear to be passing by the woman, and there was probably some verbal harassment.
Those journalists who backed up the story did not come out with a clear apology. Nowadays, when the story has emerged once more, there is an orchestrated action from pro-government papers to stand behind the story.
What is sad is that, unfortunately, the law in question did not do a favor to the improvement of the rights of women. It would be unjust for us to judge the reasoning behind her behavior. But the problem is that in general there is a tendency among the male mentality to argue that women’s testimony is exaggerated or made of lies. And women’s NGOs have been advocating that a woman’s statement should be considered as priority evidence.
The president has taken up this issue again and started to target AKP opponents and women’s NGOs saying, “You are the ones arguing that a woman’s statement must be taken into account.”
Again and again he is using his extraordinary ability to abuse an issue to polarize society by implying that liberal women’s NGOs are indifferent to the plight of conservative women. That might have been the case in the past, especially when there was insensitivity to the plight of the struggle by hearscarved women to enter universities. But this is no longer the case, and the president is doing a tremendous injustice in pursuing this polarizing attitude.
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is going to go down in history as a president that continuously harassed the other half of society that did not voted for him instead of being a supra political force to serve and unite the nation.