Turkish writer, Mustafa Akyol, argues the tragedy for women in his nation stems from failure of secularists to build on the efforts of Ataturk to create a society in which males and females had equality. This raises an important issue for those concerned with women’s rights — is the only way women in Muslim societies to achieve equality through creation of a secular state/
As one who has been closely watching the work of Prime Minister Erdogan, whose AKP supports creation of a government that is Muslim oriented, it has become clear that Erdogan has, as of this point, supported equal rights for women. He argues wearing the head scarf represents for religious Muslim women an important right — one that Turkish secularists will not allow in Parliament of schools. The western media jumps to simplistic conclusions when discussing Muslim societies — secular represents “good” and religious represents “bad.” Perhaps, it is time to move away from that viewpoint and acknowledge the issue of women’s rights is much more complex. Erdogan’s party is asking two dozen women to stand for seats in parliament in July’s election. That is nearly the same number as women running under secular party banners.
This is not to claim a victory for Erdogan and the AKP means women will achieve equal rights in Turkey. One suspects this struggle will continue with steady progress being made to ensure women are able to fully participate in society. I find it interesting that in Palestine, the Fatah, which claims to be secular, rarely gives women many political positions. Life, as always, is more complex.