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İstanbul bar elects first woman president in its 144-year history

The İstanbul Bar Association has elected a female lawyer as its president, a first in the 144-year-long history of the bar, Deutsche Welle Turkish reported on Monday.

The 52nd General Assembly of the bar, which was established in 1878 and has nearly 57,000 members, was held on Sunday at the Haliç Congress Center, where the election took place.

A total of 56,944 lawyers voted in the election for president.

Lawyer Filiz Saraç from the Principle First Contemporary Lawyers Group (Önce İlke Çağdaş Avukatlar Grubu) was one of four female candidates running for the position in addition to five men.

Following her election, Saraç thanked her colleagues and said, “The Istanbul Bar Association, with its 144-year history, is the symbol of the struggle for rights. As we enter the 100th anniversary of our republic, I would like to thank our Istanbul Bar Association for giving me the honor of being its first female president. Thanks to the achievements of Atatürk and the republic, I am accepting this honor today.”

Lawyer and human rights activist Eren Keskin, however, was not pleased with the election of Saraç because she said Saraç represents the current mentality at the bar.

“The İstanbul Bar Association has elected a female president. Good… However, there was no change in the mentality of the bar,” Keskin said in her tweet, adding that an approach that is selective about defending the rights of people who are subjected to rights violations cannot be democratic.

Some bar associations in Turkey receive criticism for adopting the state narrative on a wide range of issues, not sufficiently raising their voices against the government for its human rights abuses and defending people based on their ideology and not due to the rights violations they suffered.

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