Turkey: Men wear skirts in İstanbul march to protest violence against women

Today's Zaman

Men at a protest condemning violence against women marched down İstiklal Avenue sporting skirts in a demonstration of solidarity for women's rights on Saturday in İstanbul.

“I wore a skirt today because we all see the violence that is taking place against women lately. In addition to this, we see the even more monstrous side of the issue, [when people say] things such as ‘Women who wear miniskirts deserve to be raped,' or ‘then they shouldn't have been wearing a miniskirt [if they didn't want to be raped]',” protestor Bulut Arslan told Today's Zaman, while wearing a wrinkled beige skirt that reached just above his knees.

Arslan also held a sign that read, “Not fooled by your patriarchy, I'm a human!” and said: “The important thing we need to address is the issue that the oppressive, anti-women's-rights and patriarchal people are not just a problem for women, but for all of society. Just as one doesn't have to be an Alevi or a Kurd to support Alevi and Kurdish rights, just as we don't have to be an animal to take up animal rights, in the same sense we do not have to be a woman to support women's rights. We all know that liberation can only be achieved in a joint effort. We all need to act together; we all need to stand against [violence against women] together.”

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A group of Turkish men walked on İstiklal Street of İstanbul on Saturday to protest the killing of Özgecan Aslan.

(Photo: Today’s Zaman, Mehmet Yaman)

Famed Turkish actor Ali Erkazan also participated in the march and expressed his concern about how Turkish political leaders have voiced their views concerning the role of women. Erkazan stated: “We do not want leaders who think this way; we do not want officials who believe these things. This is the Turkish Republic, it is a secular government. Men and women are equal here and no one can get in the way of this equality, we won't allow it."

In November, during the Women and Justice Summit organized by the Women and Democracy Association (KADEM), President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said: “You cannot bring women and men to an equal position; this is against nature. You cannot subject a pregnant woman to the same working conditions as a man.” Additionally, several other ministers of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) have made controversial remarks on gender roles, such as Health Minister Mehmet Müezzinoğlu, who said in early January: “Mothers should not prioritize any career other than that of motherhood. They should focus on raising good [future] generations.”

Today's Zaman also spoke with expatriate Sean Cox, who has been living in Turkey for eight years and participated in Saturday's protest. He stated, “There's obviously a serious problem with violence against women in this country. It's the only demonstration that I found that seemed like it was going to be primarily men. A lot of the demonstrations that I had seen, they seemed like there was a lot of tension with men being there -- so I thought,” he continued.

When asked what wearing a skirt represents, Cox responded, “I think it just represents solidarity.”

Several other protests were also held on Saturday to condemn violence against women, which has been in the headlines since the brutal murder of Özgecan Aslan, a 20-year-old university student who was killed by a man after she resisted his attempts to rape her in Mersin on Feb. 13. One demonstration, in which the local Republican People's Party (CHP) mayor Murat Hazinedar participated, was organized in Beşiktaş. That march focused on the importance of women being on the front lines of the march. On the Asian side of İstanbul, the We Will Stop the Murders of Women Platform also led a women's march through the streets of Kadıköy on Saturday evening.

This article was originally published on 21 February 2015 by Today’s Zaman.