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Islamist groups target female AKP politicians for defending law on protecting women

Ozlem Zengin Derya Yanik

AKP politicians Özlem Zengin and Derya Yanık

Two female politicians from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government have been facing attacks and criticism from some Islamist groups and conservative parties in Turkey due to their objections to the repeal of a law for the prevention of violence against women.

AKP deputy group chairperson Özlem Zengin and Minister of Family and Social Services Derya Yanık have been the subject of attacks since last month, when the New Welfare Party (YRP) demanded that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan repeal Law No. 6284 for the protection of the family and the prevention of violence against women while discussing terms for joining the People’s Alliance led by him.

The radical Islamist Free Cause Party (HÜDA-PAR) – the political arm of Kurdish Hizbullah – which was also discussing terms for joining the alliance, expressed support for the YRP’s demand.

HÜDA-PAR was founded in 2012 on the ashes of the outlawed Kurdish Hizbullah, an extremist Sunni group that emerged in southeastern Turkey in 1985.

YRP Chairman Fatih Erbakan is the son of the late former prime minister Necmettin Erbakan, a leading figure of Turkey’s Islamist movement.

Following the announcement of the YRP‘s demand, both Zengin and Yanık expressed opposing views, causing discomfort within Islamist groups in Turkey as well as the base of their own party.

“The spirit and existence of Law No. 6284 are of utmost importance. Even questioning its existence is unacceptable to us. … The AKP considers women’s rights and the fight against violence against women a red line,” Yanık said in a series of tweets on March 13.

“Law No. 6284 is an important issue for us and a red line. This was expressed exactly as such in the meetings we had with our president as well as in meetings attended by all women’s NGOs,” Zengin also said during a speech in parliament on March 15.

Both women were targeted after their statements, with Zengin later telling the state-run Anadolu news agency that she had been subjected to a “systematic and organized attack” on social media and had received hundreds of threatening messages on her phone.

The AKP MP added that she was “tired of being left alone,” referring to the silence of her fellow party members on the issue.

Among the Islamist figures who targeted Yanık and Zengin was Ahmet Mahmut Ünlü, a popular pro-government preacher who goes by the name of Cübbeli Ahmet Hoca, who questioned their religious beliefs during a sermon, without mentioning their names.

“May God bless Mr. Tayyip for withdrawing from the İstanbul Convention. But [now] some women within his own party have stood up [about Law No. 6284]. What are you, Muslims or infidels?” Ünlü said.

Opposition figures expressed support for Zengin, criticized AKP for silence

Following the developments, several opposition figures stood by Zengin and slammed the ruling AKP for leaving her alone to face attacks and threats for expressing her views.

Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) women’s branch president Aylin Nazlıaka told the T24 news website on Wednesday that she had a 23-minute phone conversation with Zengin and saw how she was isolated and targeted within her own party.

Opposition Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA) vice chair Mehmet Emin Ekmen also said it was “concerning” to see the threats Zengin is facing.

“It’s concerning to see such serious threats against someone who has dedicated her life to her party and values, with unwavering sincerity and loyalty. Those who remain silent and have abandoned Mrs. Özlem to be alone are also responsible for these attacks,” Ekmen said in a tweet.

Femicides and violence against women are serious problems in Turkey, where women are killed, raped or beaten every day. Critics say the main reason behind the situation is the policies of the AKP government, which protects violent and abusive men by affording them impunity.

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