Turkey, behind the veil

Turkey is a nation of Muslim people without being a Muslim nation; it is therefore the most gender-equality prone in the Arab world. In the most touristy, “Western” parts of Istanbul, I saw occasional headscarves at the most.

But the one day we ventured over to the Western district, the former Jewish and Christian ghetto and now a conservative and relatively poor area, I could only see Burkas. Women walked in the street only if clustered in groups or if going to the market. We also saw them standing outside a mosque while the men prayed inside, listening. The contrast between the two made an impression on me.

The Koran says women are worth half of a man. In many Muslim states that is, therefore, the law. We all know what comes with that: honor killings, forced marriages, weak “rape laws”… But Turkey is a state of secularism, and a state wishing with all its might to become part of the European Union. Many of us know the contributing factors that keep this from happening, but Turkey’s several human rights violations are the main obstacle impeding the country from gaining membership of the European Union.

According to an Economist article released earlier this year, Turkey ranks with Russia as the worst countries in Europe for violence against women.  A Human Rights Watch report states that

42 percent of women have experienced physical or sexual violence at the hands of their husband or partner, according to a study by a leading Turkish university. While the government can be credited with passing strong laws to protect women, these laws are rarely enforced, and additional protections are needed.

Apparently the country also ranks 126 among 134 countries in the 2010 Global Gender Gap Index; women also account for 80% of Turkey’s 5.7m illiterate people. (More…)


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