The Year That Was for Turkish Women

As 2014 comes to a close, I reflect on the year that was for Turkish women.


Indie favorite The Impeccables subtly explores violence against women, a pressing issue in Turkey. Actresses Ipek Türktan and Esra Bezen Bilgin are brilliant as two sisters dealing with their dark pasts on a holiday to an idyllic Turkish seaside town. The film swoops national awards and Bilgin is awarded the Best Actress gong at the 4th Malatya Film Festival. The film’s director Ramin Matin says about the film and its title: “It refers to the expectations and pressure put on women to be ‘perfect’ especially in patriarchal societies such as Turkey. Women are expected to act in accordance with the morals of our very conservative society. Of course, no woman can live like that. On another level, the title refers to a certain upper middle-class in Turkey which considers itself ‘European’ and modern and demands the rest of the country to adhere to their idea of perfection.”




The Jameel Prize exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London displays works of the ten finalists including the winner, Turkish fashion label, Dice Kayek, who took the £25,000 prize for their gorgeous dresses – inspired by the robes of Ottoman rulers, Byzantine mosaics, and the domes of Istanbul’s mosques and palaces – which hung majestically in the gallery from January to April, inspiring awe from every angle.


femen ban erdogan


Two FEMEN activists staged a protest at an Istanbul polling station in Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s constituency on March 30. They wrote “Ban Erdogan” on their topless chests but were soon arrested and charged with “insulting the prime minister,” “violating the bans over election propaganda,” and “displaying themselves in a way against decency.” Shortly after, they were deported.


Turkey’s most well known female author Elif Şafak is awarded the Women to Watch, Advertising Age & MediaCat award.



Tuba Büyüküstün (source:

Turkish actress Tuba Büyüküstün is appointed as a goodwill ambassador of the United Nations Children’s Rights and Emergency Relief Organization (UNICEF).



Bülent Ersoy (source:

Turkey’s most popular transgender singer Bülent Ersoy makes the news with the announcement that she has an impersonator: a Singaporean artist living in Berlin under the alias Bülent Wongsoy. That’s when you know you’ve really made it.


Turkey’s Deputy Minister Bülent Arınç says women should not laugh in public. Speaking at an Eid al-Fitr holiday gathering in Bursa at the end of the month, Arınç, from the conservative Justice and Development Party (AKP), lamented that, “a man should be moral but women should be moral as well, they should know what is decent and what is not decent… She should not laugh loudly in front of all the world and should preserve her decency at all times.” This sparks public outcry and a fierce social marketing campaign of women from all over the country and elsewhere posting pics of themselves laughing on Twitter.


Tuba Büyüküstün is nominated for the International Emmys for her role in the series 20 Minutes. She doesn’t win but it does mark the country’s first nod in television’s highest honors.

Turkish author Birgül Oğuz one of the winners of the 2014 EU Prize for Literature.

Turkey-based Women’s Initiative for Peace calls for people to take a stand against a buffer zone to be created on the border of Turkey and Syria, which would leave the Kurdish community living there in an even more vulnerable situation.


Turkish German-born student Tugce Albayrak is beaten and eventually dies after she stands up for two teenage girls being harassed by a group of guys. Tugce’s story is absolutely heartbreaking as it highlights the extent of violence against women in our society.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan declares men and women are not equal at a Women and Justice Summit hosted by the Women and Democracy Association in Ankara on November 24.

Istanbul celebrates 100 years of women in academia.


On December 4, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu links gender equality with high suicide rates in developed countries. As reported in Hurriyet Daily News, Davutoğlu questioned why a high Gross National Product in developed countries equates with high suicide rates. According to the Prime Minister, one of the reasons might be “mechanical equality” between men and women, which “(destroys) the complementary relationships in life.” “Since our women are fulfilling that divine mission of keeping humanity alive, then they have the right to rest before and after becoming a mother and spare time for her children,” Davutoğlu said, before adding that his government will “champion” traditional gender roles.

Title image source:




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