Turkey’s ruling alliance welcomes Islamist parties with misogynist agendas
Istanbul – Two Islamic parties have signed on to support Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s electoral alliance, threatening legalization of violence against women and addressing the rights of women and the LGBTQ community in general.
In a U-turn over the weekend, the New Welfare Party (YRP) was officially admitted into the People’s Alliance led by Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP). The coalition also includes two far-right parties.
The Freedom Party, known as Huda-Par, announced on Friday that it would field candidates under the AKP list in the parliamentary election to be held alongside the May 14 presidential vote.
Before supporting the People’s Alliance, both the YRP and Huda-Par insisted that their support was dependent on amending Law 6284 regarding the prevention of violence against women and children. In a list of 30 demands, the YRP also called for the closure of LGBTQ associations.
“The memorandum of understanding, in which the principles we demanded as a New Welfare Party are written, was signed by the Social Welfare Party. [parties’] general secretaries,” YRP leader Fatih Erbakan said on Friday.
Law 6284 was passed in 2012, a year after Turkey ratified the Istanbul Convention to protect women from violence. Erdogan signed a presidential decree in March 2021 to withdraw from the Council of Europe convention.
In a copy of the agreement between the AKP and YRP published by journalist Ismail Saymaz, the parties promise to “prevent distortions against our moral values” and to re-evaluate existing laws to “protect the integrity of the family.”
The document also mentions alimony payments, calling for changes to “end grievances in society”.
Ali Ihsan Yavuz, the AKP’s vice-chairman and head of electoral affairs, told broadcaster CNN Turk on Monday that the New Welfare Party had “no unusual proposal regarding women’s rights. … Our president is very careful about this issue.”
He added, “What we have adopted is only a memorandum of understanding [on what] the New Welfare Party is sensitive to.”
The inclusion of the YRP and Huda-Par came under the umbrella of the Alliance despite protests among female AKP officials.
Ozlem Zengin, deputy chairman of the AKP parliamentary group, described Law 6284 as a “red line” and Family and Social Services Minister Derya Yanik said it was “unacceptable… that it could even be discussed.” Zengin said she received “hundreds of threatening messages” after her speech.
Dilek Bulut from the Left Feminist Movement said that discussing the amendment of Law 6284 would make women more vulnerable to violence.
“In an environment where violence and discrimination against women is increasing and becoming more brutal day by day, those who annulled the Istanbul Convention have shown their true faces by making Law 6284 a matter of negotiation,” she said .
Lawyer Gokcecicek Ayata, from the Women’s Platform for Equality, agreed that the debate would provoke irrational violence. “With this protocol, they encourage and incite the perpetrators of violence,” she said. “In a country where at least three women are killed every day, the People’s Alliance is opening up to question the rights of women of all political persuasions, from 7 to 70, for their own success. No 6284; they oppose the right to alimony, civil law, equality and women’s right to life.”
Meanwhile, ties to Huda-Par brought other aspects, namely its roots in the Kurdish Hizbollah movement.
Hizbollah, which is completely unrelated to the Lebanese Shiite group of the same name, emerged in the 1990s from Sunni Islamist groups in southeastern Turkey’s Kurdistan.
It was one of the most violent groups of its era, carrying out attacks including assassinations of members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Turkish security forces and civilians such as secular journalists.
Because of its opposition to the PKK, Hizbollah was widely believed to have the support of military and police elements.
Its influence declined after a police raid on an Istanbul safe house in 2000 in which the group’s leader was killed. Police also seized documents detailing membership and footage of torture sessions and murders, leading to hundreds of arrests.
However, links to terrorism were dismissed by Erdogan’s ally, Devlet Bahceli, who heads the Nationalist Movement Party.
“The Freedom Party has completely rejected terrorism and told our nation that it has nothing to do with any illegal organization,” said Bahceli, who often accuses the opposition of supporting the PKK. “There has never been a clear relationship between the terrorist organization Hizbollah and the Freedom Party, and within this framework, there has been no convincing and thoughtful information until now.”
Sadettin Tantan, who served as interior minister from 1999 to 2001, argued that Bahceli, as deputy prime minister during the same period, was “one of the best names they know is Huda -Par the political extension of Hizbollah.”