There is no women problem; there is a men problem
I want to introduce you to a Turkish cabinet minister today. Ms. Fatma Şahin is in charge of Family and Social Policies. The title’s undertaking covers public protection of women and children from violence and abuse.
This is a tough job in Turkey. In a conference in Istanbul on Nov. 25 titled “No to domestic violence!” Ms. Vuslat Doğan Sabancı, as a co-sponsor on behalf of daily Hürriyet together with United Nations Population Fund (UNPFA), made a strong remark to underline the difficulty.
Pointing out that in this year of 2011, the number of women killed in domestic violence in Turkey exceeded the number of those killed in the recent earthquakes in Van and those killed in the fight against the terror attacks of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) put together, she said this was the number one problem of the country. The Kurdish problem is the biggest political problem in the country; but in the social dimension, she might be right.
Praising Parliament for being the first country to approve a Council of Europe convention for protection of women against violence, Ms. Sabancı asked the government to push Parliament more to bring heavier penalties for those committing violence and abuse against women.
Erdoğan’s cabinet was represented by two ministers in the conference at Bahçeşehir University by the Bosporus: Şahin and Egemen Bağış, European Union minister.
Şahin was working as a chemical engineer in her hometown, the southeastern industrial city of Gaziantep, when she decided to get into politics some 10 years ago in the ranks of the then newly founded Justice and Development Party (AKP).
As soon as she got the job after the 2011 elections she proved she knew the problems and psyche of Anatolian women under the pressure of their fathers, brothers, mothers and their husbands. Anatolian women considered her as an educated sister, as being one of them, and the words and targets she spoke, which might have sparked reaction if used by someone else, smoothly found approval.
“I had a rather comfortable sleep last night,” she said, referring to the parliamentary approval, which can be regarded by her as a success by all means; Şahin’s moderate style helped a lot.
She gave another example of her moderation in the conference Nov. 25. As she was delivering her speech, two young women in the audience stood up with placards in their hands and started to protest the government, accusing it of being hypocritical on the violence against women problem. The bodyguards of the ministers attempted to stop the protesters and tried to remove them by force. It was Şahin who stopped them twice by saying she wanted to listen to them.
I learned later from police sources they were trying to give her a report of women and children who were continually assaulted.
She is good news for Turkish politics, at least for the time being, and she is a proof that the problem is not with women, but with the men who do not give women a chance.