Monday, June 6, 2016
Turkey's president has shocked Germans with his recent remarks on the Armenian genocide and the role of women in society. But Turks, especially women, are no stranger to such outbursts.
If German parliamentarians thought that Turkish-German relations would continue smoothly, albeit with a few bumps along the way, the passing of the resolution on Armenian ‘genocide' has quickly disabused them of such notions. But probably no one anticipated that the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan would go as far as denying their Turkish roots and asking for a ‘blood-test' of parliamentarians who supported the resolution.
Even though the 1915 atrocities remain a very delicate issue in Turkey, Erdogan's remarks are unacceptable. At the same time these statements are not too surprising if one is familiar with his internal track record. Erdogan feels entitled to all his opinions. Anyone opposing these thoughts faces many consequences, including losing their jobs or even landing in prison. Now, Europe is getting a taste of what AKP-critics have been experiencing for more than a decade. Erdogan wants German parliamentarians with Turkish roots to see eye-to-eye with him. However, this never really will be the case.
It seems that Turkey's reaction-based foreign policy will lead to more tension between the two countries. What the Turkish government needs to ask itself is, how can it deal with issues that are controversial but need international recognition? Ultimately, using inflammatory language to try to coerce the international community to agree with it will not be enough.
Why offend 38 million people?
President Erdogan isn't only raising eyebrows internationally, his recent statements on women have cause domestic uproar. Why would anyone want to offend half of a nation? Almost fifty percent of the Turkish population is female. Nevertheless, Erdogan chose to offend some 38 million citizens by declaring that women who deny motherhood should be considered “incomplete.” What is even more shocking is that some women clapped in approval as he uttered these unfortunate words.
Even though it is well known that Erdogan promotes the three children formula for every Turkish woman, his last statement will carry the discussion about the role of women within society to a new level. It has already mobilized women's societies to protest. As valuable and necessary as these reactions are, they are insufficient. This archaic perception needs to be changed and doing so requires the support of women within the AKP.
Even though the party argues that it has passed necessary laws to improve women's rights and to protect them against violence, numbers reflect another reality. It seems impossible to implement these laws while this double-standard mindset is being pushed from the top on a daily basis. If the leader of the country is keen on defining women based on reproduction, by making a personal decision a public issue, how can women ever be perceived as equals within society?
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