What do the protests in Egypt and Turkey have in common? It’s an easy answer; there are many similarities, but the central focus is ‘women’s rights.’ Both Morsi and Erdogan wanted to institute sharia law, which both the women of Egypt and Turkey share common ground in their resistance of its implementation.
The demonstrations in Turkey began in May as a peaceful protest to the proposed destruction of Gezi Park in Taksim Square. As security forces physically attempted to remove the protestors, thousands of Istanbul citizens joined the early group. Soon the event turned into an angry protest against the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
He was fairly popular when elected, then he began to attempt a change in the country’s policies and enforce an autocratic form or rule. Although Turkey’s largest religious base is Islamic, the diverse people of the country resisted making the nation as ‘Islamic state,’ and force sharia law upon all of its people.
And the protests are not over, they have become a ‘weekend event.’
“Turkey is peaceful, but it’s tense,” warned Mustafa Akyol, a newspaper columnist and author of the book “Islam Without Extremes.”
Akyol believes the protests have polarized the nation.
“If the current mood goes on, I’m afraid the govermment will be growingly more intolerant of criticism and protests, and this will make criticisms and protests even more furious. And we will get into this vicious cycle which is really not good for anyone in the country,” Akyol said.
Erdogan, like Morsi, claimed that the protests are a conspiracy.
“They thought that no one would react, that they could do away with the election results and could usurp people’s rights. They and the forces behind them were wrong,” Erdogan told journalists at an iftar he attended in the Turkish capital, Ankara, this week.
He also claims that the protests in Egypt are linked to those in Istanbul.
“The Egyptian people did not remain silent. They went public and asked, ‘Where is my vote?’ Those who were present at Gezi Park thought that they represent all of Turkey,” Erdogan said.
He, of course, was speaking of the ‘Muslim Brotherhood,’ who support Morsi.
Ordinary pots and pans are the people’s weapons, banging them in protest against the government.
“Pots and pans, these are a crime,” Erdogan told journalists at another iftar last week in the Turkish city of Kastamonu.
“Nobody has the right to disturb anybody else. … This has nothing to do with freedom. On the contrary this is interfering with somebody else’s freedom,” Erdogan added.
In Egypt, women have taken to the streets in large numbers. They are demanding true democratic rule, where they will be treated fairly, and that men will not dominate their society and their country.
Tactics of sexual assault and rape have not deterred women from taking part in the revolt. Some women choose to wear the traditional hijab, and some wear western clothes and make-up. But they all demand to be heard.
Zillah Eisenstein, who is an internationally acclaimed writer, and activist, and Distinguished Scholar of Anti-Racist Feminist Political Theory at Ithaca College, Ithaca, New York, wrote an op-ed piece for Aljazeera regarding the Egyptian revolution.
Ms. Eisenstein wrote: “This massive movement made up of hugely differing identities and interests may not find a way to organize themselves quickly enough, but they are trying. And it may be that the military will not do their bidding for them in a way that moves things forward progressively. But this is the initial intent and this intent needs to be applauded. Whatever happens next should not negate the unique offering that the Egyptian people have created.”
She says that if the Morsi supporters are examined, very few women are involved, and that in most cases there were none present.
She also says that; “Many of these newly mobilized women are from rural areas and Upper Egypt and many are Coptic Christian women.”
She also claims that the majority of the sexual assaults on women, meant to discourage their involvement, have been committed by Morsi supporters, the Muslim Brotherhood.
The women’s movement has been active in the United States for decades, but is increasing in its fervor in the 21st century, as many members of our government attempt to eliminate their rights. It is obviously becoming a world-wide movement.
Egypt and Turkey have a commonality, they share a movement that seeks to stop the oppression of women, and in that they have found common ground.
Alfred James reporting