Originally published under the title, "So we are shocked (again)?"
Turkey ranked 125th out of 142 nations in the World Economic Forum's 2014 Gender Gap Index, a drop of 20 places over the last eight years.
This columnist is often shocked when others are shocked when President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's Islamist-self speaks like an Islamist. What's so shocking about him saying that women cannot be treated equal to men – other than the irony that he said it at a feminist summit? He had said this before. He had also prescribed, numerous times, how many children Turkish wives should make – three, or if possible, four or five.
How on earth does the world expect him to speak? Like a liberal? Like a secular Muslim? Like the leader of an EU member state? Or like the leader of a country where an average of three women every day are being killed by men, and where domestic violence, abuse and sexual discrimination is part of the culture?
Only a month ago, the World Economic Forum's (WEF) Global Gender Gap Report 2014 ranked Turkey at 125th out of 142 countries – compared to 120th out of 136 countries last year. According to the WEF's report, Turkey is among the lowest ranked of the 40 countries in the upper-middle income group (and holds the lowest spot in the Europe and Central Asia region). See, money doesn't bring civilization!
Inheritance rights for women were introduced in Ottoman Turkey in 1847. Women won the right to become civil servants in 1913. Equal education rights were introduced in 1924. Women won the right to vote in municipal elections in 1930 and were granted full suffrage by a constitutional amendment on Dec. 5, 1934, 25 years earlier than Swiss women (Turkish women obtained 35 parliamentary seats in elections in 1935.)
"Women should have chastity. They should not laugh in public."
Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç
However, 80 years after granting women full suffrage, Turkey is probably better known to the rest of the world for its habitual honor killings, rape stories, underage marriages (at one-third of all marriages) and violence against women than its beaches, sunshine and kebabs.
The findings of a 2011 survey by a team of academics from Istanbul's Bahçesehir University revealed hints about the related Turkish mental paradigm: 33 percent of Turks (male and female) think women should be beaten if they deserve to be beaten; 60 percent (both male and female) think women should obey men and, surprise, surprise, 81 percent identify themselves as religiously devout. A separate study in 2010 had found that 25 percent of Turks think it would amount to sinning if women and men worked in the same office.
In a 2011 article, this columnist found the stereotypical details of the professional careers of the lady members of the families of government bigwigs. The finding was boringly analogous and revealed an almost identical resumé story: for the pious mind, the only suitable profession for a female family member, even if she holds a degree from the world's finest university, is housewifery. A clear majority of the lady members of the rising Islamist aristocracy sported the fancy "quit work when married" line in their resumés, with only a couple of ministerial wives following professional careers. This pattern could not be a coincidence, or have changed since 2011.
Remember what President Erdoğan said last week along with "women cannot be treated equal to men": "Feminists do not grasp the importance of motherhood in Islam" and "the office [job/post/career] that our religion has bestowed on women is motherhood."
Also remember what Prime Minister Erdogan said a few years earlier: "Do not expect me to respect it when boys and girls sit together on benches [at university campuses]."
And also remember what Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç said - not 400 years ago, but last July: "Women should have chastity. They should not laugh in public."
So, once again, we are shocked that President Erdoğan thinks women cannot be treated as equal to men. So awfully shocked! But never mind; Turkish women are happy. Most of them, like Turkish men, passionately vote for Mr. Erdoğan. And remember: A third of Turks, both male and female, think women should be beaten if they deserve to be; and 60 percent of Turks, both male and female, think women should obey men.
Are we still shocked?
Burak Bekdil, based in Ankara, is a columnist for the Turkish daily Hürriyet and a fellow at the Middle East Forum.