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Women are being silenced in Turkey’s crackdown

In the days after a failed military coup shook Turkey, women say they are being silenced.

From the start of the coup attempt by military officials on Friday through to the government’s crackdown in response, women’s voices have been almost entirely absent.

Images of protesters on the streets are mostly men. The military leadership is entirely male. The government is 85 percent men, with only one female minister. Currently, 43 cities don’t have any female representatives at all.

Publicly, the fact that mostly conservatives are holding vigils at the squares might be a factor in women’s absence, too. At least one religious group, namely the Ismailaga movement, issued a decree stating that they’ve decided the women will stay at home and pray while the men will go out to the streets to support the government.

Some women’s groups say they are being specifically targeted. On Twitter, many women talking about the coup attempt are reporting an increase in harassment on the streets. Others are railing against misogynist language used by all sides, reducing women to pawns, or spoils of war.

“The coup, the war, AKP’s backwardness or jihadist mobs … they all target women,” said University Women’s Collective, a popular feminist group, in a recent statement. (AKP is the Turkish acronym for the ruling Justice and Development Party.) “They use sexual harassment against women’s [quest to] exist freely. They are enforcing their manhood by threatening to rape the wives or daughters of the declared enemy. Women must defend themselves.”

The events of the first few days after the failed coup don’t suggest otherwise. On Saturday, the day after the coup attempt, Veysel Taskin, an executive with the Trabzonspor soccer club, tweeted: “The properties and the wives of the infidel coup-plotting bastards are spoils of war.”

Taskin ended up resigning from his post following the uproar, but he wasn’t the only one to objectify women as booty in these precarious times. A widely circulating video online allegedly shows a police officer asking an imprisoned soldier who supposedly took part in the failed coup d’etat if he has a daughter. He then threatens: “I’ll f*** her!”

Reports of sexual harassment and violence against women have also increased since Friday. One woman tweeted that a man threatened her sexually while asking for a cigarette.

Another said that she was approached by a stranger in the subway who consecutively told her not to wear a dress. Yet another one was told to conceal her cleavage by a man who drove his car toward her at high speeds. A young woman tweeted that people celebrating the government’s survival after the overthrow attempt shouted at her as they drove by: “Bitches, you too will get what you deserve!”

“Conflicting environments, such as war or military coups, always increase violence and discrimination against women” says Selen Dogan, the chairman of the feminist group Uçan Supurge (Flying Broom). She explains that “these conflicts involve militarism, nationalism and religious motivations, all of which negate demands for freedom, equality and non-violence.”

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