By Harut Sassounian
Turkish Deputy Prime Minster Bulent Arinc is the latest government official to put his foot in his mouth.
In a speech last week, this high-ranking official preached his perverted version of morality to Turkish women by telling them not to laugh in public! “A woman will know what is haram [forbidden] and not haram,” Arinc warned. “She will not laugh out loud in public. She will not be inviting in her attitudes and will protect her chasteness.”
Arinc, a co-founder of the ruling AK Party, continued his chauvinist sermonizing: “Where are our girls who slightly blush, lower their heads, and turn their eyes away when we look at their faces, becoming the symbol of chastity?” He ridiculed women for discussing cooking recipes and other "frivolous things" on cell phones. Imitating a female voice, he squeaked: “What happened to Ayse’s daughter? When is the wedding?” He told the women to talk about such insignificant matters “face to face,” not on the phone!
The Deputy Prime Minister’s demeaning remarks spread like wildfire. In defiance, tens of thousands of Turkish women went on social media (Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram) posting ‘selfies,’ pictures of themselves, laughing out loud. Rather than stopping their laughter, women started laughing … at him!
Arinc's ridiculous comments were picked up by the international media, including Hurriyet, the guardian, ABC News, The Daily Star, National Post, Washington Post, Time magazine, Newsweek, The Australian, and hundreds of newspapers, magazines, radio and TV stations, blogs and websites. The Turkish Deputy Prime Minister has become the laughing stock of the world!
The next day, instead of apologizing for his sexist remarks, Arinc made matters worse by insisting that he stood by his words, and attacked his critics. He wondered why everyone was focusing on a small segment of his hour-and-a-half speech. He proceeded to mock female celebrities: “There are some artists who laugh artificially and send me their photos. Real laughs relieve a person, but these are artificial ones. You all had your moment of fame, but when that eluded, you tried to attract attention with alcohol and such fake laughter. Despite being married with kids, women go on vacation with their boyfriends, while leaving their husbands behind, and never miss a chance to wrap themselves around a dancing pole.”
This is not the first time that Turkish officials have made such asinine statements. In the past, Arinc was quoted saying that a rape victim must have “wanted it.” He also stated that it is perfectly fine if parents give permission to their 15-year-old daughter to marry a 45-year-old man. Ankara’s Mayor Melih Gokcek, while condemning abortion, shamefully declared: “Why should the child die if the mother is raped? The mother should die instead.” Meanwhile, the Forestry Minister told women who were seeking employment, “Isn’t your housework enough?” Former Minister for European Union Affairs, Egemen Bagish, an AKP official who frequently made nonsensical statements, was quoted: “What happened in 1915 can’t be classified as genocide as far as I am concerned, but I was not around in 1915.”
Rather than being worried about women’s laughter, Arinc and Erdogan should be more concerned about their government’s increasing slide into authoritarian rule by jailing journalists, killing Christian priests, violating minority rights, supporting Jihadists in Syria and Iraq, and engaging in corruption, theft and embezzlement. This is the real immorality that Arinc should denounce.
By preaching totalitarian morality for women, the conservative Turkish leader is appealing to Islamist voters to support Prime Minister Erdogan who is running for President on August 10. Arinc’s stone-age strategy has backfired as nearly half of Turkey’s deeply divided society does not consider itself Islamist and was offended by his remarks. Erdogan’s rival in the presidential race, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, blasted Arinc’s statement, saying that “more than anything else, our country needs women to smile and hear everyone's laughter!”
After Erdogan’s meteoric rise to power, his government has pursued brutal policies at home and abroad, bringing worldwide condemnation to the country. As the probable next President, Erdogan and his clique are most likely to continue undermining Turkey’s international standing, turning it into a rogue state. After the presidential election, Turkey’s Islamist women would only laugh in private, while the secularists would laugh in public and risk getting 100 lashes!