struggle for independence in the First World War under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk marks the birth
of modern Turkey. The reforms which followed, established the independence
of the Turkish Nation; but above all the emancipation of Turkish women.
In the Islamic countries around us women are still under various inhibitions.
On the other hand, in secular and democratic Turkey and in the Turkish
Republic of Northern Cyprus women who follow the ideals of Atatürk are able to contribute to the world of science, law and justice. Women's
rights and secularism are Atatürk's gifts to the Turkish women. The Turkish
women are most grateful to Atatürk.
During the Ottoman period, the women were left
two hundred years lagging behind the civilisation; they were merely decorations
for the home and men's friends in bed. With the reforms that Atatürk put
forward, the Turkish women were given rights that made their status equivalent
to their European counterparts and sometimes even surpass them. (The rights
to vote and to be voted were given to the Turkish women in 1934).
The rights given to the Turkish women by Atatürk
are unfortunately on the risk of being eroded after his death. During a
period where women's status should be further developed, this is a worrying
The continuing questions concerning the sustainability
and development of women's rights are no longer just theoretical legal
puzzles but are real life features. The practice of men using women as
property or slaves must be stopped. Although we may have perfect laws preventing
this method of abuse of women, the laws will only be effective if the correct
ideology on the equality of women to men is carried in the hearts and minds
of the people. If not, the law is bound to stay on its own, just in paper.
The question of women's role in society in the
Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus came to the agenda in a striking way
in the 1980s. It has been widely discussed and scrutinised ever since in
every possible angle and in greatest depth. It can be summarised in the
Do the women cherish and accept the traditional
downgraded view of themselves or can they reject that notion and in a modern
world take their place in society, the "society" not being their husbands'
homes but the world we live in today?
The traditionalists would like to see women at
home, carrying out domestic tasks for the sake of their religion and for
the sake of our customs. In this line of work women receive no pay, they
have no rights to form unions or to go on strike. In a traditional family girls and boys are brought up in a way that limits their ambitions along
sexist lines. Whereas the limitations for a man might be that it would
be difficult to change their professional careers once they are established
in one career; the limitation for a woman is that she cannot have higher
ambition than just being a housewife.
The society and the family gives the wrong message
to a little girl: "It is easier to find a husband: a natural thing to
do, then engaging in a career". Settling down in such a fashion is
the only career for a woman but there is no pay or rights to form unions.
The woman works from dusk till dawn in her housebound duties. Her achievements
may be rewarded by constant bullying from her husband. The bullying is
quite common and is just a continuation from the traditional family set
up. A well known Turkish saying "Kızını dövmeyen dizini döver" (Keep
your daughter in order or you will regret it later) is a warning to fathers
that the only way for daughters to be disciplined for their future marriages
is through bashing.
In addition to domestic duties, the woman receives
bashing from her husband; only then her day is complete. The next day awaits
her domestic duties and the bashing as well. This cycle is repeated every
day for the forthcoming months and years. The woman must live for the sake
of others, for her husband's well being, for her children's well being
and even for the well being of her grandchildren. She may never find the
time for her own well being.
On the other hand, the modern Turkish woman who
follows in the leadership of Atatürk can reject the notion of the traditional
way of life for women and fights for her rights as a human being, for her
rights as an individual.
Thank heavens that the emancipated Muslim Turkish-Cypriot
woman in Northern Cyprus has been able to discover her own self and by
progressively educating herself, has been able to ask for more rights from
the society. You have to ask to receive. And the women now want more of
an equal status to men and are achieving it.
The women want to be recognised as a human
being, and more importantly the ecognition that half the population comprises of females
and her place in society is not just her husband's home but the actual