Enthusiastic Protest with Fireworks in Kadıköy
Today, the murder trial of Mehmet Ayvalıtaş provoked thousands of people to gather outside the courthouse this afternoon. The police attacked the protestors at the courthouse and they eventually relocated the demonstration to the center of Kadıköy (Boğa Heykeli). The community of protestors decided to walk to the AKP’s regional builiding in the district of Kadıköy where the police predicably reacted with the TOMA water cannons as well s tear gas. The third demonstration in Kadıköy was conducted this evening as a heightened, enthusiastic response by the protestors with the usage of fireworks. Kadıköy has not been the centre of a protest of great size since October (with the exception of the “corruption” riots of December). This is significant for protestors to face the coldness of Turkish winter to get their message across.
The worldwide political activist group promoting feminism “Femen” has established a branch in Turkey and has begun to spread in influence. Grabbing attention from the start, it opened it’s Twitter account yesterday with the following post:
“Türk kadınları birleşin! Haklarınız için mücadele edin! Göğsünüzde politik mesajınızın yazılı olduğu üstsüz bir fotoğrafınızı bize gönderin!” (Turkish women unite! Fight for your rights! Your chest is a political message so send us a topless photo!)
This idea, not only of feminism but of “sextremism,” captures the attention in openly liberal societies (e.g. Eurocentric and western societies) so one can only imagine the impact in traditional, conservative nations- like Turkey.
As an observer of both societies, as well as being a woman, I am fascinated by the tactics of Femen’s movement as well as uncertain of it’s intended effectiveness versus the reality of the response it receives. I am critical and find that despite the attention grabbing, not all attention is good attention. Some responses to Femen have been violent and, in some contexts, has actually brought about more oppression which is the exact opposite of its ideal intentions of liberation.
Femen’s goal is to promote women’s freedom and rights, but their approaches are equally rejected as they are accepted amongst women. Turkey is a great example for not only is it an Islamic culture, it is part of the European Union and has been growing more liberal and, to an extent, westernised. This creates an interesting scene of Muslim feminism countered by western images of Muslim femininity.
Femen’s approach of topless protests are radical and cause a greater uproar to more eastward you head, especially in Islamic societies. The significant correlation between worse patriarchal oppression and the harsher response to these types of radical expression is no mystery. The best example I can think of to compare the reaction of a moderate Islamic republic (Turkey) to a more conservative Islamic republic that encompasses Shari’a law: Tunisia.
Tunisian activist Amina Tyler sparked outage amongst when she posted a topless picture of herself online with the words: “my body belongs to me and not your honour.” To this, she received numerous death threats, as well as the head of the “Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice” in Tunisia called for the teenage activist to be punished with 80-100 lashes but, he went on to say, with the severity of her crime, she deserved to be stoned to death.
This event triggered Femen’s response of the promotion of “International Topless Jihad Day” back in April (2013). This Day was intended to encourage to fight against patriarchy in its three manifestations: “sexual exploitation of women, dictatorship and religion.” This was conducted with the objective that the infamous tactic of “sextremism” would serve to protect women’s rights.
This caused a wave of responses by Muslim women rejecting Femen’s tactics and circulated online in a movement entitled #MuslimahPride.
The PROS of Femen’s controversial protestation:
Attention. Let’s be blunt, tits are effective attention grabbers for both females and males. They draw wide spread attention to the cause through networking and various means of media outlets.
The people involved in Femen are passionate and truly care about the issues regarding women’s rights and freedoms. They actively try to promote their passion for women’s justice and try to make a difference.
The biggest CON I have is presented in the form of a question:
How effective are these protests really? The tactics are extreme and, in some previous examples, have caused more harm and hostility than progress in achieving their ideal objective.
With Femen’s establishment of a branch in Turkey, I am quite interested in seeing the public’s reaction here and how the promotion of their message will effect the protests here.