The recent brutal murder of a women in Turkey brought thousands of protesters to the streets. Ozgecan Aslan, 20, was attacked and murdered by the driver of the minibus she boarded. In the streets and on social media the people of Turkey and women’s rights activists are rightly outraged by the government’s inaction in protecting women.
Sexual assault, rape and murder of women in the streets of Turkey has Islam written all over it. The patriarchal ideology of Islam (though not exclusive to) promotes and propagates gross gender inequality in society which in turn creates a breeding ground for misogynistic views and attacks. The government of Turkey, the ruling Justice and Development Party, is itself one of the biggest advocates for Islamic law in Turkey. The party president, Erdogan, has himself publicly said that he does not believe in gender equality because it contradicts the laws of nature. Before the AKP rise to power Turkey was by no means a feminist utopia, however, with over a decade of AKP in power in Turkey, secularism and women’s right have regressed significantly in Turkey.
Turkey is now one of the worst countries in terms of violence against women. The civil rights group “We Will Stop Murder of Women” reported that over 300 women were murdered by men in Turkey in 2014 alone, with over 100 more rapes. The independent Turkish News Agency “Bianet” has reported that 27 women were murdered by men in the last month (January 2015). Economically the gender gap has also widened with Turkey ranked 120 out of 136 in terms of women’s participation in the labour force, education, politics, and health (World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Index, 2013). Whereas other countries, such as Greece, have doubled the participation of women in economic activities, Turkey continues its downward spiral. Turkey has also increased its number of child brides (ages 13-17) to nearly 7000 in the last decade alone.
The Erdogan government wants nothing less than to eliminate all secularist elements of the Turkish state and replace it with Islamic law. The Erdogan government’s inaction in relation to women’s rights and freedoms is in line with the AKP’s politics. One of Islam’s foundational characteristics is subjugating women and marginalizing them in all important social and economic activities. This is why the first step for any struggle for women’s rights and freedom starts with the total removal of all Islamic and religious elements from public institutions.