Thursday, January 28, 2010

Governing Neo-Islamist Leaders Freak Out Over My Critiquing Their Oppression of Women

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By Barry Rubin

Recently, it has been reported that the AKP has been forcing women out of senior jobs in Turkey. A while ago I wrote an article publishing and describing four photos sent to me by Turkish friends showing graphically how oppressed and miserable Ermine Erdogan, wife of Turkey's prime minister, looked on visiting the Obamas in Washington.

What's going on in Turkey is scarcely a secret. For example, a Turkish-American wrote recently in the Los Angeles Times:

"In a disturbing trend, secular Turkish women feel growing pressure to cover up, even facing intimidation or discrimination if they don't. In one case, Turkish President Abdullah Gul, who has the authority to appoint university rectors, bypassed highly recommended female professor of medicine Gaye Usluer for a man, who was recommended second to her and received far fewer votes from their colleagues at Eskisehir Osmangazi University."

There are many such stories with specific examples to back them up.

Now an AKP member of parliament has thrown more abuse on me than I have ever seen in a mere 800 words. (And I've been working on the Middle East for 30 years!) The article in Hurriyet says that I am an evil Orientalist imperialist, though it at least pays me the compliment of saying I am original about it.

And all I said is that she looked oppressed! Oh, right, that's not a problem for women in the Middle East. Incidentally this is a reaction to the huge number of Turks who have been talking about the piece and complementing it. By referring to the trumped-up conspiracy trials which have labelled critics of the AKP as traitors, the article attacking me implies that Turkey is quickly ceasing to be a democratic country.

Of course the tone of crazed rhetoric and virulent hatred--reflecting the desire to wipe me off the face of the earth--is probably the greatest condemnation of the movement that launched it which professes to be a moderate family-values party, not a radical Islamist one. If the AKP was as it claimed, it would provide a reasoned response, perhaps even trying to convince me that I was wrong.

When one cuts away all the abuse, the only point cited to prove that I'm wrong is that the prime minister's wife has been involved in a campaign against illiteracy.

In strategic terms, the article is rather stupid. What the author should have done was to suggest that I insulted Turkey in some way. But instead she makes it all about the AKP and how great it is. I can practically see Hurriyet readers guffawing and nodding their heads as they read the article since they know what I'm writing is true.

What most amuses me about this attack is that the article never describes what I wrote or what the pictures show.

What makes this most amusing is that I have just published articles on the attempt to crush free speech and on the effort to intimidate people through name-calling. Most timely. 

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). To read and subscribe to MERIA, GLORIA articles, or to order books. To see or subscribe to his blog, Rubin Reports.

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