Laughter a Threat to Chastity? Yes, Declares Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister

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ANKARA, Turkey -- Chastity has long been a source of contention and in fact has often been used as a justification for the domination of women throughout the centuries in various parts of the world. It is another means by which some men seek to control women’s sexuality and reproductive freedom.

Though many people think of the issue of controlling women and forcibly “preserving” their chastity as a phenomenon unique to countries with emerging economies where young girls are routinely subjected to Female Genital Mutilation (FMG), these practices have been imported to the U.K. and other E.U. nations with high immigrant populations.

However, the West is not without guilt as similar overt restrictions and unsanitary practices were routinely implemented in Europe during the 16th century when men made their wives wear ‘chastity’ belts to prevent sexual intercourse during their long absences at sea or war.

The history of women being controlled subtly and overtly is a never ending battle; however, this week the war for equality reached ridiculous lows when Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister, Bülent Arınç, stated in a speech that “among other activities that women laughing in public somehow contributed to the moral turpitude of the nation.

During his 28 July 2014 speech which was given on Eid al-Fitr, the official end of the month-long Islamic celebration of Ramadan, “Arınç described his ideal of the chaste man or woman, saying they should both have a sense of shame and honor.” (Source: Hurriyet Daily News)

This atavistic attitude at once casts sexuality as “unclean,” but also blames women for defiling themselves, a specious argument often used to justify rape, while also claiming that these 'loose' women constantly lure otherwise chaste men into debauchery and sin. In his speech, Arınç outlined his ideas of morality saying:

“Chastity is so important. It is not only a name. It is an ornament for both women and men. [She] will have chasteness. Man will have it, too. He will not be a womanizer. He will be bound to his wife. He will love his children. [The woman] will know what is haram and not haram. She will not laugh in public. She will not be inviting in her attitudes and will protect her chasteness.”

These ideas are not Arınç’s alone, but are an outgrowth of the conservative tenor of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) of which he is a prominent member. The AKP has been in power since 2002, and in the intervening years has shepherded over a subtle but systematic erosion of women’s rights.

Unbeknownst to many in the West, “Turkey had a thriving women’s rights movement in the 1980s and 90s, but has recently experienced a back slide in progress. Violence against women has doubled over the past few years, only one third of women are employed, and the country rates almost dead last in gender equality in education, health, politics, and the economy.” (Source: Huffington Post)

Women’s rights are being eroded on all fronts from wage equality and reproductive rights in the United States, to FMG in Sub-Saharan Africa, to the 'One Child Policy' in China, to chastity requirements in restrictive Middle East nations. Though many in the West and East have greeted Arınç’s comments with derision and mockery, this is no laughing matter.

Follow Nahmias Cipher Report on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Editor-in-Chief: @ayannanahmias

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Iran: Morality Laws Lead to Arrest of Dancing to “Happy” Celebrants

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Allyson Cartwright, Contributing JournalistLast Modified: 00:52 p.m. DST, 22 May 2014

House Party, Iran, Photo by Beyond Borders Media

TEHRAN, Iran — Three men and three women were arrested in Tehran after posting a YouTube video of themselves dancing to Pharrell Williams’s hit song “Happy."

The video entitled “Happy in Tehran” was deemed obscene by the Tehran police chief, Hossein Sajedinia. The country, however, has rallied around the six young Iranians and is criticizing the government for being too socially restrictive.

Subsequently, five of the dancers in the video have been released, but the director is still being held in police custody, according to CNN.

The “Happy in Tehran” video depicts the Iranians dancing around different locations to the song “Happy”. Most notably, the three women were publicly unveiled—a punishable offense in Iran. It became a viral video in Iran and was shared all over social media. When it was posted in April, the video garnered more than 165, 000 views on YouTube before it was blocked.

After the attention that the video received, it also caught the attention of Tehran police who determined that making the video was criminal. Police Chief Sajedinia explained to the state-run Iranian Students' News Agency why the video creators had been detained, “After a vulgar clip which hurt public chastity was released in cyberspace, police decided to identify those involved in making that clip.”

Sajedinia decided to make an example out of the creators adding, “Our dear youths should try to avoid these kinds of people. Like actors, singers, and these kinds of problems. Try to avoid it.”

The police tricked the video creators into their arrest, a source told Iran Wire.  The sources said, “All of the young producers received phone calls informing them that a friend had suffered a car accident and required their help. When they arrived at the address they had been given over the phone, security forces were waiting to arrest them.”

After the arrest, The Huffington Post says a public interrogation was held on Iranian state TV. On Iranian TV, the video creators were identified as “actors” who were coerced into making the video for an audition and told that it would not be aired.

The Iranian regime that has been in power since the 1979 revolution enforces conservative, religious values that result in the limitations of internet publication. The “Happy in Tehran” video represents how social media has been used globally to rebel against this kind of hardliner authority. After the arrests of the creators, most people seemed to defend them. Other Iranians reposted the video adding “#FreeHappyIranians” in support of the detained.

Even the president of Iran, Hassan Rouhani, came to the defense of the creators. He tweeted today, in reference to the five creators’ release, a quote he made last year, “#Happiness is our people's right. We shouldn't be too hard on behaviors caused by joy.” Reuters reports that Rouhani has been vocal about his opposition to harsh internet censorship saying in a speech from this weekend, “We ought to see (the Internet) as an opportunity.

We must recognize our citizens' right to connect to the World Wide Web.” Pharrell Williams, the singer of “Happy”, also spoke out in support of the six Iranians. The Grammy Award winner posted on his Facebook page, “It is beyond sad that these kids were arrested for trying to spread happiness.”

The video credits seem to suggest their intentions were just that harmless as it reads, “We have made this video as Pharrell Williams' Fans in 8 hours, with iPhone 5S. 'Happy' was an excuse to be happy. We enjoyed every second of making it. Hope it puts a smile on your face. © All Rights Reserved by Sol Production.” According to the video creators, the purpose of the video was to celebrate the UN's International Day of Happiness. Neda, one of the arrested dancers told Iran Wire, “We wanted to tell the world that the Iranian capital is full of lively young people and change the harsh and rough image that the world sees on the news.”

Follow Allyson on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Contributing Journalist: @allysoncwright

Outrage After Turkish Mine Explosion Kills Over 200

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Allyson Cartwright, Contributing JournalistLast Modified: 21:04 p.m. DST, 15 May 2014

"Orgreave S24's washout (3 of 3)  Photo by: Earthwatcher

SOMA, Turkey— At least 245 Turkish miners have died and 120 are still trapped after an explosion of a coal mine in what is being called the “worst industrial accident in the country’s history”. Hopes of rescuing the remaining miners are “dimming” according to Energy Minister Taner Yildiz. Thousands of people are rallying in response in Turkey, angered by the disaster and the lacking efforts from the government and rescue agencies.

The explosion in the mine occurred after a malfunction with a power unit. This has resulted in a power outage in the mine, making the mine cages inoperative and thus rescue efforts far more difficult. It is also reported by The Guardian that fires from the blast had not yet been extinguished, 18 hours after the explosion. Most of the deaths were caused by carbon monoxide poisoning as claimed by Yildiz. Reuters reported that oxygen is being pumped into the mine in order to keep the remaining trapped miners alive. However, Mehmet Torun, a board member and former head of the Chamber of Mining Engineers says, “Unless we have a major miracle, we shouldn't expect anyone to emerge alive at this point.”

Tensions are rising above ground as well in the nearest city to the mine, Soma. Friends and relatives of the deceased and trapped miners are venting frustrations against Prime Minister Erdoğan and his Justice and Development Party. Erdoğan’s government has a questionable history with the mining industry. Turkey was ranked third worst for worker deaths by the International Labour Organization in 2012. The New York Times says just two weeks ago they vetoed a proposition for a parliamentary commission that would try to alleviate the dangerous conditions in the mining industry. His government is further criticized for not responding to his rival party, Republican People's Party. They requested action on work-related incidents in the Soma mines in April, but were refused.

Violent demonstrations concerning the mining accident are occurring in Soma as well as in the country’s largest city, Istanbul, and the capital, Ankara. Wednesday afternoon protestors, mostly teens and 20-somethings, confronted riot police at the headquarters of the Justice and Development Party, according to The Huffington Post. They also said that the police were equipped with gas masks and water cannons. The protestors could be heard shouting that Erdoğan was a “murderer” and a “thief”. It was reported that hundreds of protestors were also at the Soma Holding headquarters, the company that owns the mine.

Erdoğan’s presence at the mine furthers the anticipation of his candidacy in the upcoming presidential election, despite him not confirming a bid. He has postponed an international trip, instead going to visit the mine. He also has declared three days of mourning in Turkey for those miners lost. According to The Huffington Post, in the past he has been unsympathetic to the dangerous mining conditions in Turkey, saying after a 2010 accident where 30 miners died that it is part of the “profession's fate”. In the case of this accident in Soma, Erdoğan insists that it will be fully investigated. On the miners still trapped, the prime minister said, “Our hope is that, God willing, they will be brought out. That is what we are waiting for."

Follow Allyson on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Contributing Journalist: @allysoncwright

Social Media Bans Persist in Turkey

 recep tayyip erdogan, photo by cvrcak1

recep tayyip erdogan, photo by cvrcak1

TURKEY, Ankara - First Twitter and now YouTube, social media platforms in Turkey are continually being banned by the Turkish Telecommunications Authority. This latest YouTube ban comes after a video posted on March 27 on the site that is supposedly of an audio recording of top Turkish officials discussing a military operation against Syria, according to CNN.

This leak was followed by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s accusations that YouTube and Twitter are being used to slander and spy on the government. The Twitterban came first on 21 March 2014 after a re-election rally during which CNN quoted Erdoğan as saying he was determined to “root out Twitter”; however, the ban was deemed unconstitutional by the Turkish high court.  The YouTube ban followed six days later.

Besides the audio recording of a planned false-flag against Syria, more audio was leaked that incriminate the Justice and Development party leader, Erdoğan. What he calls “immorally edited material”, had been published on YouTube that supposedly was of Erdoğan instructing his son to hide millions of dollars from the police, further implicating him of corruption allegations.

After public outcry and protest, the 27 March 2014 YouTube ban was overturned 2 April 2014. Al Arabiya News said that the ban was found to be in violation of human right and instead of a site-wide sanction, 15-videos were banned. However, just two days following the lifting of the ban, it has been reinstated.  This back-and-forth with the rulings against YouTube has created more mass disapproval in Turkey and internationally.

Turkey has been vying for admission into the European Union, but after these latest regulations by the Turkish government, it seems like this may be less and less of a possibility. An anonymous high-ranking EU official spoke on Turkey’s EU bid to Today’s Zaman saying, “For Turkey's EU membership, countries like France and Germany will eventually seek a referendum for public support, and Turkey has lost the support of young and liberal constituencies in the EU with its ban on social media. This [ban] has definitely not brought Turkey closer to the EU.”

Losing EU favor is only the beginning. The US has also been vocal about their objection to Erdoğan’s social media ban. Al Arabiya News reported that last Friday, Washington had been urging the Turkish government to “open all social media space in Turkey”.

Even the massive internet company Google has joined the protest against the YouTube ban. Russia Today reported that Google has appealed the YouTube ban to Turkey’s Constitutional Court. Since Google Inc. is the owner of YouTube, a Google spokesperson told Wall Street Journal via email, “it is obviously very disappointing to people and businesses in Turkey that YouTube is still blocked, and we are actively challenging the ban in the courts,” and that the YouTube ban impedes on “freedom of speech”.

Any negative impact of these social bans on Erdoğan’s chances of winning has yet to be determined. Prime Minister Erdoğan is currently running in the Turkish presidential election. Local elections in Ankara were challenged March 30 after claims of corrupted results, of which Erdoğan won. Reuters reported that the opposition party’s call for a recount was denied. It appears that in local elections his candidacy has not been tainted. Turkish national elections for presidency will take place on 10 August 2014.

Contributing Journalist: @allysoncwright

Plight of Sex Slaves From Moldova to Dubai

Sex for sale from Moldova to Dubai. Mimi Chakarova tells a powerful story through photos and in the words of the victims of this heinous crime. The booming "Sex Tourism" industry is no longer a threat to women and children in remote, impoverished countries, it is a plague that is infecting all countries. The men and women who abuse and use other human beings for their own sexual gratification do not live in isolation. They could be and probably are someone to whom you are married and sleep with, or with whom you work or attend religious functions, or who educates your children. We must be more vigilant in trying to stem the tide of this worldwide crisis.

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Istanbul Fashion Week

Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 22:37 PM EDT, 21 April 2010

ISTANBUL, Turkey - Often when people think of Turkey, a predominantly Muslim country, the idea of fashion does not readily come to mind.  However, the 2010 Spring Season Fashion show in Istanbul, Turkey should have dispelled this misconception.  Turkey has become the new centre of the East meets West fashion world. It has been prognosticated that within five years Turkey's fashion week could rival that of Paris, Milan, London, São Paulo, and New York; a trend which Vogue is capitalizing on with the issuance of a premier Vogue Turkey edition.

Turkish designer Hatice Gökce, who is a founder of the Association of Turkish Fashion Designers, says: “Traditionally, Turkey excelled in manufacturing but did so without an understanding of the design process. That changed with the recession, which has had the opposite effect in Turkey compared to its impact in other countries: it has not only encouraged many more young designers to set up business, but it has woken manufacturers up to designs importance.”

What was most fascinating but not as well-known were the Islamic fashions that were featured during this week. Muslim women, especially those who embrace the Hijab which is both the head covering that traditional Muslim women wear and adopting modesty in dress, are often patrons and attendees of the Paris and Milan fashion shows.  However, with the Turkey show, some designers decided to tap into this lucrative market by designing a line of clothes that were fashion forward but met the needs of conservative women who value modesty.

What is often not known by Westerners is the fact that there are many extremely affluent Muslim women, particularly of Saudi descent, who shop, purchase and wear clothes from some of the worlds most exclusive designers. Clothes which are usually worn beneath the Burqa when in public but in private are clearly displayed with pride.

The idea of modesty is not unique to Islam.  In fact every Orthodox sect of the major religions (Judaism and Christianity) practice some level of covering for women.  In Orthodox Judaism, Tzunit governs the conduct between women and men, the tenets of modesty, and dress codes for women. Part of Tzunit is the practice of covering one's head, particularly if married, since a woman's hair is her crowing glory and should be reserved for the enjoyment of her husband.

Chaldean Catholic women among others cover their heads, and for conservative, traditional women of all three faiths, the issue of modesty, particularly when traveling to coed beaches and swimming pools remained a challenge until now.

One of the fashions featured at the show was the "Burqini", a full body bathing suit that allows a woman to maintain her sense of modesty without restricting her movement in such a way that it would be difficult for her to swim.

Bathing suits that provide the wearer with a level of modesty to which they have become accustomed are sold by a number of vendors such as Ahiida, and the swimsuit line by Stingray Bay was most appealing because they focused on all three faiths - Islam, Judaism and Christianity, as well as providing alternatives for individuals who need to cover for environmental and health reasons.  In any case, the Turkey fashion show has challenged existing preconceptions of fashion, and informed the public about the diversity that exists among Muslim women.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u1uDKphuBfs]

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