Cancel culture affects women, minorities in Turkey - analysis

Diverging from how it operates in the West, so-called ‘cancel culture’ in Turkey affects women and minorities rather than addressing inequality, Istanbul-based journalist Alexandra de Cramer wrote for Asia Times on Sunday.

Citing examples from recent months, de Cramer said powerful men have been targeting women who voice criticisms.

When actress Birce Akalay took to Instagram in July to say she was “sick” of Turkey’s economy going further down the drain and poverty increasing in the country, a pro-government columnist implicitly accused her of ties to Fethullah Gülen, an Islamic preacher who Turkey holds responsible for a failed coup attempt in 2016.

Küçük said, “Those who have spoken like this in the last 20 years have either gone to jail or fled, or their careers are over.”

Another actress, Ezgi Mola, was sentenced to pay compensation to Musa Orhan, a sergeant in the Turkish Armed Forces who was accused of abducting and raping a 17-year-old Kurdish girl who committed suicide over the incident.

Mola had called Orhan a “rapist”, before the court eventually convicted the sergeant of the very crime. However, he still won a defamation case against the actress.

When 22 year old musician Ece Ronay accused Mehmet Ali Erbil of sexual harassment in October 2021, the veteran comedian and TV personality turned the accusations on the young woman by saying she was “marketing” her body on TikTok and therefore should not be coy about sexual matters. Erbil’s followers attacked Ronay, and he sued her for defamation. The case is pending as of August 2022.

The #MeToo movement “never caught on” in Turkey, de Cramer said, save for a brief flicker after the brutal rape and murder of 20 year old Özgecan Aslan in 2015. “Turkey’s push against sexual abuse and harassment has arguably backtracked,” she said.

Rates of violence against women have skyrocketed in the last two decades under the Justice and Development Party (AKP) rule, with femicides increasing by 1,400 percent according to reports. In the last 15 years, the number of women seeking protection from their intimate partners rose 70-fold, according to a recent report by opposition deputy Gamze Akkuş İlgezdi.

At least 246 women have been murdered by their intimate partners in 2022, according to activist-run Monument Counter, a project keeping a tally of femicides since 2008. Turkey’s authorities do not make femicide figures public.

In 2021, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan signed an executive order to withdraw Turkey from the Council of Europe’s Istanbul Convention, a key document in battling gendered violence. In July this year, the Council of State ruled in favour of the withdrawal, despite major objections from almost all sections of Turkish society.

“The government is an explicit ally in hatred against women,” veteran women’s rights activist Canan Güllü said on the matter.

Meanwhile, Turkey’s judiciary “keeps rewarding men who treat women like property”, de Cramer said. “People who have the ear of the public should not target women with their vileness, as doing so will only perpetuate the injustice.”


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