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Sunday, 22 September, 2002, 12:16 GMT 13:16 UK
Turkey's 'men-only' politics angers women
Woman supporter of Republican People's Party [CHP] sits on bus after attending political meeting
Turkish women feel marginalised from politics

Many women in Turkey are furious about the shortage of female candidates standing in November's parliamentary elections.

Turkish woman
The proportion of women in Turkish Parliament is less than 4%
There are 550 seats in the Turkish Parliament, but on the basis of the candidate lists published by the political parties this week, women are unlikely to win more than 21 of them.

A coalition of groups representing women's interests is calling on its three million members to vote for those parties which promise to do more to represent women's interests.

Turks will often tell foreigners that thanks to Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the Republic, Turkish women were granted the right to vote before their French counterparts.

But the fact is that they have made very little progress since then.

Male-dominated

The tiny proportion of women in parliament has barely increased since the early days of the Turkish Republic.


If you talk to Turkish men they won't accept that there is inequality

Candidate Zeneb Ghosh
Much as Turkey wishes to be seen as a modern Western democracy, attitudes towards women are closer to Middle Eastern culture than to Europe.

In other words, outside of Istanbul and Ankara it is still a male-dominated society.

This is certainly reflected in the distribution of seats amongst party candidates.

Those women who have been selected say they have been assigned seats they could never possibly win.

They also complain that the proportion of women in the next parliament is unlikely to be above 4%.

Rallying tactics

Zeneb Ghosh, a candidate in Istanbul, believes that men are prepared to see equality in certain areas of life but never in politics.

Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit voting in a previous election
Women coalition leaders say Turkish politicians don't attract women's votes

"If you talk to Turkish men they won't accept that there is inequality," she says.

"In academic in business life (equality) may be true, but not in politics."

The coalition of women's groups is trying a new tactic: Voting for parties on the basis of their policies on women and numbers of female candidates they have put forward.

Securing votes

Bilge Digleli is a leading member of the coalition.

"We are going to advise our members to vote for that party that has put women candidates in eligible places," she says.

"We are trying to say to the political parties - we shall forget those who forget us.

"They do not think about attracting women's votes but many things change in Turkey also and we hope that women voters vote according to what parties promise for them."

The women hope that the prospect of securing three million votes will be enough to change party attitudes.

But success is unlikely to be easy or quick in a country where men show no inclination to share political power with women.

Turkey's election

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01 Jan 02 | Europe
16 Sep 02 | Europe
22 Jul 02 | Islamic world
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