Canan Kaftancıoğlu, Şebnem Korur Fincancı and Meral Akşener, three of the most powerful women in Turkey, have been described by French daily Le Monde as opponents of “Islamo-conservative” President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan who pose a challenge to his “patriarchal model.”
“Gone are the days when Erdoğan was the only star in Turkish politics. … Coming from various political currents, less visible than their male counterparts, these women with strong personalities must work together to make themselves heard in Erdoğan’s ‘new Turkey,’ firmly frozen in its patriarchal yoke,” Le Monde said.
“In Turkey, men dominate,” Kaftancıoğlu, the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) representative for the city of İstanbul, told the French daily. “Being a woman is not easy, let alone being a female politician. Erdoğan and his circle do not like emancipated women. The fact that a woman can have political ambitions is unacceptable to them.”
The article defined the politician as a “trained forensic scientist who is a feminist that supports LGBT and is passionate about motorcycles,” which is not “the ideal woman according to Islamo-conservative criteria.”
Regarded as one of the architects of the CHP’s municipal election victory in İstanbul in 2019, which ended Erdoğan’s long-running rule in the city and dealt a significant blow to his ruling party, Kaftancıoğlu was sentenced to nine years in prison for allegedly insulting Erdoğan and spreading terrorist propaganda in the same year. She is free pending appeal.
Fincancı, a famous human rights activist and head of the Turkish Medical Association (TTB), is the second-biggest obstacle to the patriarchal model defended by Erdoğan, whose agenda of political Islam doesn’t include women’s empowerment, Le Monde said.
She is frequently targeted by the authorities and subjected to judicial harassment for standing up against widespread human rights violations in the country, which reached new heights following a failed coup in July 2016. The government launched a massive crackdown on non-loyalist citizens following the coup attempt under the pretext of an anti-coup fight.
Le Monde portrayed Akşener, leader of the nationalist opposition İYİ (Good) Party, as another obstacle in the way of Erdoğan and the most “enthusiastic” female politician in Turkey.
“I’m the only one [among women politicians] who is able to intimidate Erdoğan,” Akşener, former interior minister and deputy speaker of the Turkish Parliament, told the daily.
She founded the İYİ Party in 2017, a year after she was expelled from the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) — currently an ally of Erdoğan — for accusing MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli of being too close to Erdoğan’s government and standing as a candidate for the party leadership against him.