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Reactions mount over Erdoğan’s remarks likening headscarved opposition members to mannequins

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been criticized by scores of social media users and a number of opposition figures for remarks implying that Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) displays its members who wear headscarves like mannequins for political gain.

The president on Friday slammed former culture minister and current CHP lawmaker Fikri Sağlar, who had said he feels uncomfortable seeing female judges wearing headscarves in court.

The party’s spokesman clarified that Sağlar’s views do not represent their official stance, and Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the CHP’s chairman, also rejected Sağlar’s views, saying the CHP is not interested in how women dress in their daily lives, at work or even in the courtroom.

“Displaying some headscarved women like mannequins in order to get [more] votes in some places can’t deceive anyone anymore, that’s over. We have many members wearing headscarves in parliament now. Don’t you see it, Mr. Fikri? The situation is improving and you’re out of touch,” were Erdoğan’s remarks that sparked outrage among the public.

In response to Erdoğan, Kılıçdaroğlu emphasized that he should apologize to all women who wear headscarves for likening some of them to mannequins.

“There cannot be a grosser insult than this for a woman. What do you mean by calling them mannequins? It’s alright when they [headscarved women] are members of his party, but they are ‘mannequins’ if they are members of other parties. Does this make any sense? Why don’t you shut up and stop insulting people,” the CHP leader said.

A large number of Twitter users also criticized the president for likening women to mannequins and shared posts under the hashtag #ÖzürDileErdoğan (Apologize Erdoğan).

“A total of 386 women were murdered in our country in the past year. Just do your job and ensure women’s safety instead of shamelessly insulting them,” Meral Akşener, leader of opposition İYİ (Good) Party tweeted.

Sevgi Kılıç, one of the CHP’s headscarved Party Assembly members, said she “vehemently condemned” Erdoğan insulting a group of women that includes her.

“Doing politics by using women’s clothing is weak. No woman is a display item, whether she wears a scarf or not,”  Birol Aydın, the spokesperson of Turkey’s Islamist opposition Felicity Party (SP), told the Anka news agency, adding that the country’s main problem is the hardship women have been facing, not what they wear.

Future Party (GP) spokesman Serkan Özcan also spoke to Anka about Erdoğan’s remarks, saying that describing a headscarved woman as a mannequin was “heartless.”

“The ideology that aims to polarize people about everything is now trying to polarize headscarved women. This situation hints at the difficult situation they are currently in,” Özcan added, referring to Erdoğan and his government.

The Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP) pledged to remove the ban on the wearing of headscarves in all spheres when it came to power in 2002 since civil servants and students were prohibited from wearing headscarves. There is now complete headscarf freedom in the country.

Erdoğan’s AKP government has been criticized by many for abusing the values and symbols of Islam for political gain.

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