Hundreds of women's nongovernmental organizations yesterday issued a declaration against what they say is a malicious campaign targeting religion over women's rights that made the headlines in the past few weeks. The declaration by some 300 nongovernmental organizations led by the Women and Democracy Association (KADEM) and Turkish Youth and Education Service Foundation (TÜRGEV) voiced support to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for what they called "his steps to maintain unity" and assurance of women's rights.
It comes a few weeks after a string of controversial remarks by Nurettin Yıldız, a theology writer accused of justifying domestic violence with religion. Erdoğan lashed out at "false clerics" interpreting Islam for justification of violence and assured the public that women's rights are protected both by Islam and secular laws.
"A campaign aiming to sow the seeds of discord in society, to undermine trust between men and women is deliberately being escalated in the past weeks. It seeks to show the country as a place where women and children are facing unprecedented attacks. It accuses the society and politicians of endorsing it and it tries to depict Islam as a religion favoring these acts of evil," the declaration entitled "This Is Our Voice" says. "We witness a tremendous efforts to portray Islam equivalent with such evil attitude. It is obviously aims to hurt our unity. President Erdoğan took a historic step to preserve both Islam's reputation and maintaining national unity. Under his tenure, Turkey has seen a significant progress for freedoms and improvements of rights for women and children. We thank the president and we call upon opinion leaders, intellectuals and clerics to become aware of the malicious campaign," the declaration further added.
President Erdoğan was the first to openly criticize controversial remarks by several writers with theology backgrounds who seemed to justify violence with references to the Quran. Erdoğan has denounced the "false clerics who are unaware that Islam adapts to circumstances." In a speech last week, President Erdoğan said "no one" had a right "to impose something on our religion." "The public is certainly confused on who to believe amid such bigotry. We can't tolerate it. The Presidency of Religious Affairs (DİB) should not allow such people to speak on behalf of religion," he said.
Turkey saw an improvement in women's rights over the past decade under the ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party, namely, removal of ban for public sector employees wearing headscarf and incentives for more inclusion in women in workforce. The country also stepped up efforts for access to education for girls and to prevent underage marriages under the AK Party governments.