by Abigail R. Esman:
Over dinner at the newest hot restaurant in Istanbul, my friend exhales his fury. “This is democracy?” he snaps. “What kind of democracy?”
It has been barely a month since Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan reversed a precedent established 90 years ago by the founder of the republic, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, and lifted a ban on headscarves in government buildings, including the parliament. On Oct. 31, the day the new law went into effect; four female parliamentarians arrived wearing the hijab. This was not so much for religious reasons – they’d never worn them there before – but in a gesture, as it were, of conquest: the Islamists had won.
Not that they expressed it this way: rather, they and the ruling Islamist AKP (Freedom and Justice) Party heralded the event as a welcome, democratizing act. What is astonishing is that many in the West did, too. In America, the New York Timeschirped, “The lifting of the head scarf ban was part of a package of democratic changes Mr. Erdogan unveiled in September.”
It is this news that I have just informed my friend, which elicited his retort. Only an hour earlier, his wife and I had walked past a university student’s home recently raided by police. The reason: boys and girls were suspected of living there, two sexes under one roof – and this behavior, Erdogan had declared only weeks after his “democratizing” reversal of the headscarf ban, would not be tolerated.
He wasn’t kidding. According to a report in the Turkish Radikal newspaper, six police officers also raided an apartment in Manisa, where three female students lived. Male guests had been seen there, the authorities said, and the women were subsequently fined 100 lira (about $45) each.
But that’s not all, my friend tells me. Just days after passing the law to permit hijabs in parliament, AKP Vice President Hüseyin Çelik publicly condemned a popular TV presenter, Gözde Kansu, for appearing on air in a revealing dress, her cleavage clearly visible through a keyhole neckline. Kansu was fired the next morning, an indication of just how intimidated the media is by their government these days. This is the country the Committee to Protect Journalists has named ”the world’s worst jailer of the press,” a nation where, while police bombarded peaceful anti-AKP protesters with water cannons and tear gas last summer, CNN’s local bureau ran a documentary on penguins.
“This,” says my friend, “is why it’s not democracy. It would be, if women could wear hijabs or a miniskirt. But they can’t.”
Read more at IPT