Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the leader of the Turkish center-left main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), posted a home-made video on the evening of 7 November. It was to announce what they will do for women’s rights if they remove President Tayyip Erdoğan from power. In the 6-minutes video, Kılıçdaroğlu listed what the gains of women in their term would be, under the heading “6 conveniences in 6 months”. This video was posted after participating in the traditional Istanbul Marathon the same day and taken the photo above.
The promises of Kılıçdaroğlu for women consist of points that are likely to be studied well and probably through consultations with women organizations. We will come there in a minute. But first, let’s take a look at this photo taken in the morning hours of 7 November as the traditional İstanbul Marathon was about to start. There has been much speculation about the bib numbers that the politicians choose.
A bit of Kremlinology
The number of Ekrem İmamoğlu, the CHP member Metropolitan Mayor of İstanbul was 34, which was the plate number of the city. Does that mean that İmamoğlu would not be a candidate for the presidency but stay as Mayor? The number of Kılıçdaroğlu was 1923, the date of the foundation of the Turkish Republic representing the past. Did the number of Meral Akşener, the leader of the center-right Good Party (İYİ) founding of the Republic, symbolize the future as the centennial of the Republic?
The number of Canan Kaftancıoğlu, whom the CHP had entrusted the provincial organization of the country-size city of Istanbul was 1919, the beginning of the War of Independence. Dilek İmamoğlu, the spouse of the mayor had the bib number 1934; that was when Mustafa Kemal Atatürk lead the right to vote and be elected to women. Aylin Nazlıaka, Deputy Chairman of the CHP’s Women’s Branch, is also there in the front row.
Women’s prominence in the opposition showcase
Let us get straight to the point without slipping into the Kremlinology of the Turkish opposition.
There are more women politicians than men in this photo.
The prominence of women in the opposition showcase draws attention.
Akşener’s defense of women’s rights has the first place to explain why her IYI Party is the only party having a significant rise in its public support in recent surveys. As the latest example, she fired one of his deputies in the party, Lütfü Türkkan, because of his macho, masculine gesture and insult to a voter who protested her during a rally. When Akşener had immediately and bitterly responded to the belittling words of President Erdoğan and his ally Devlet Behçeli, the leader of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), she won the sympathy of women from all walks of life and all wings of the political spectrum. I observe this also in my social circle.
Return to Istanbul Convention in the first week
The first promise of the CHP leader is to return to the Istanbul Convention to fight violence against women within the first week if his Nation Alliance with Akşener takes power in the next elections scheduled for 2023.
Erdoğan, who was the first leader to sign the Convention, withdrew Turkey from it in the face of pressure from some Islamic sects and orders that amounted to vote blackmail.
Kılıçdaroğlu also promised the establishment of special courts to deal with cases of violence against women, the establishment of a department in the Supreme Court to deal with these cases, the training of prosecutors, judges, and police on domestic violence envisage regulations in the judiciary. The promise that the sentence will not be reduced when violence against women is involved can also deter male violence. Intimidation, harassment, discrimination, and similar pressure on women in workplaces will be considered psychological violence. Those promises require several legal adjustments.
“Women will not have to seek justice on social media” is a good goal, I think.
At least 35% of women in managerial posts
There are also topics that women’s organizations have been campaigning for a long time.
The promise of at least 35 percent of women in management positions is also an important step in terms of state administration. Feminist organizations may say why 50 percent, as in the Scandinavian countries. But we live in a country where more than half of teachers are women, but nearly all administrative positions of the Education Ministry are male. He also vowed for training and employment opportunities in municipalities for women who have divorced to “start a new life without needing anyone else” through the Family Insurance system.
Kılıçdaroğlu also made a series of promises to increase preventive measures for women’s health. He said preventive health services, including cervical cancer tests, would be free. He said that the state will be the greatest assurance in the protection of women’s health, care and hygiene.
What the government block is doing?
Lastly, President Erdoğan spoke about the status of women and the importance of women’s education in Afghanistan.
Regarding the situation of women in Turkey, the government front came to the fore recently with two pieces of news.
One of them is the debate over the fatwa of the Diyanet, the Directorate of Religious Affairs, “Adultery with a sister-in-law does not violate the marriage”. The other is another fatwa by Hayrettin Karaman, who is considered one of the prominent theologs of the AK Party period about “Girls cannot get married to Alawites”, which he had to erase after reactions.
What kind of steps will the government take to counter the acts of the opposition to win the hearts and minds of women? Let’s see whether the understanding of “house is the place for women, she should listen to her husband, take care of children and the elderly, and we will give her pocket money for that” will bring more votes to the AKP-MHP “People Alliance”.