Turkish men in miniskirts take to streets for women's rights

Posted Feb 25, 2015 by Stephen Morgan
Turkish men are protesting against a recent attempted rape and murder of a young women by donning miniskirts and taking to the Web and marching through the streets.
The men wish to show their support for women's rights and their opposition to sexual violence following the murder of Ozgecan Aslan, a 20-year-old student, who was kidnapped earlier this month on and apparently murdered for trying to stop a bus driver from raping her.
The BBC reports that it's "thought she tried to fend off her attacker with pepper spray but was stabbed and then hit on the head with a metal bar." Her burned body was found a few days later by a riverbed.
The men's unusual protest has caught the eye of everyone in Turkey. It has made this a central issue and talking point in a country where women's rights are frequently ignored and a blind eye is often turned towards sexism, abuse and violence.
A UN Women report has highlighted the fact that "two out of every five women in Turkey (are) exposed to sexual and physical violence."
CNN quoted a well-known lawyer and activist, Hulya Gulbahar, who said that at least five women per day are thought to be killed through male attacks.
The mini-skirted men are part of a wider protest movement which has organized a demonstration in Istanbul following the shock and outrage felt by many in Turkish society.
Time magazine said that it first began with an online protest which quickly mushroomed into a movement of tens of thousands. It spread to neighboring Azerbaijan - another country with a terrible record of discrimination and violence against women - where many people understand Turkish. In fact, it is a group of men from Azerbaijan, who are thought to have started the online campaign with the Twitter hashtag #ozgecanicinminietekgiy, which means “wear a miniskirt for Ozgecan.”
Since then the BBC says that over 6 million people have tweeted the victim's name and thousands of women have used social networks to share stories of their own sexual abuse. A Facebook protest page stated, “If a miniskirt is responsible for everything, if [wearing] a miniskirt means immorality and unchastity, if a woman who wears a miniskirt is sending an invitation about what will happen to her, then we are also sending an invitation!” There has been about the same take up of the hashtag among women and men. 51% were men and 49% women.
CNN was told by a well-known Turkish lawyer and activist, Hulya Gulbahar, that the skirt protests are "very effective" and that it is "the first time women's rights have been so widely endorsed in Turkey."
"The women's movement is trying to tell society, "My dress is not an excuse for your rape or sexual harassment." But society didn't want to hear these voices" she added.
"People try to find excuses for rapes and killings. But they didn't find any in this case, because Aslan was very innocent, purely innocent. The protest shows that a short skirt is not an excuse for rape."
Gulbahar believes that the first thing which needs to be changed is government attitudes, which she says only views women as mothers.
"Our President and government are saying to society everyday that they do not believe in women and men's equality; woman is [seen as] God's gift to man, the man protects the woman.
"They try to make these ideas all of society's ideas. But some women and men are resisting now."