TİHEK became spokesperson of misogyny in Turkey

The Human Rights and Equality Institution of Turkey (TİHEK), which has become the spokesperson for misogyny and an anti-Civil Code stance should return to its basic duties. The head of TİHEK, Süleyman Arslan, who escalates this same rhetoric on his own personal account, should be removed from office.

Doctor Ali Edizer’s short-lived fame came to an end when he was dismissed from his position as the deputy head physician, but his ideas live on. In fact, his ideas are dominant. He served at the Ministry of Health’s Health Sciences University (SBÜ) before he was fired from his position after sharing social media posts in which he defended polygamy as an alternative to divorce. 

His ideas, however, are in almost all government institutions. First, we saw them in the Parliamentary Divorce Commission. They are now in government and the rhetoric of government supporters. The opponents of the Turkish Civil Code are becoming more and more daring as well as more misogynistic. This opposition to the code and misogyny make up an important part of social engineering efforts carried out with alleged links to several cases of fraud in areas such as religion, tradition, customs, and local and national values. 

We have been saying for years that the chief target was the Turkish Civil Code, but this topic was not able to draw attention from larger segments of society. Attacks on the rights women had gained and the reports by the infamous Divorce Commission were all signs. This plan, this program is being put into action. Thanks to their social media monkeys, these plans and programs are revealed suddenly, creating an effect that not even hundreds of demonstrations or press releases could compete with.

In the case of Elizer, perhaps the power of the social media had an adverse effect and he was removed from his position. His anti-divorce tweets had messages such as, “Do not cheat on your wife, take another wife. God has given you permission; do not break up your family.” Objections to these messages arose in the media and on social media, just as did cries for justice. These objections somehow functioned as democratic participation. Not because our country is democratic and not because the government actually wishes to protect the Civil Code and equal citizenship rights, but because the doctor spoke too soon. The doctor was dismissed because he gave away what was already on their minds. He just gave it away too soon.

While they are at it, there is another official who needs to be dismissed for the same reasons. The same procedure is needed for the Human Rights and Equality Institution of Turkey (TİHEK) and its Chairman Süleyman Arslan. The chair should be removed or he should resign. The institution must function in accordance with its main mission. EŞİK, the Women’s Platform for Equality, issued a press release on Sunday.  

It must have gone unnoticed due to the Ali Edizer incident. The chair of TİHEK has much more serious social media posts than the SBÜ physician. These posts are shared on Chair Süleyman Arslan’s personal accounts and the institution’s official accounts. 

The Human Rights and Equality Institution of Turkey (TİHEK) is violating human rights law with its messages. The institution is neglecting the rights of women and children. In fact, an institution that is supposed to work toward preventing rights violations is violating rights itself. TİHEK encourages discrimination when it should be fighting against discrimination. It gives opinions that make sure inequalities find a secure place in social life and within the state. For instance, this post shared by TİHEK is no different than what doctor Ali Edizer shared. It is only more well-worded: 

“The legitimization of diverse family norms, from the moral point of view, will end society; they will cause chaos. Divorce does not solve everything in the case of cheating. Spouses should protect family honor. Children have the right to be raised in a healthy family environment.” Come on now, what is family honor? The institution that is supposed to protect human dignity is honoring the institution of the family. Just like a family gang who covers up domestic crimes, they honor the family, not the human being. They demonstrate a reflex of protecting the institution, which is contrary to its foundational law.  

This message from TİHEK uses an absurd reasoning when they state that divorce due to infidelity will create new problems. The only difference between this message and Ali Edizer’s is that it stopped the sentence there and did not continue. It stopped there and took a short breath because it is an institution. On the other hand, it is a serious issue that they remember the rights of children when it comes to divorce, but the same children are open to abuse with the cover up of “marriage” when it comes to the debates about child marriages.      

The EŞİK Platform issued a press release with the title “Which human rights does the Human Rights and Equality Institution of Turkey (TİHEK) protect?” I wonder if TİHEK ever considers women and children as human beings. Their announcements contradict their founding purposes and make one search for answers. For instance, the head of TİHEK, Süleyman Arslan, tweeted from the official Twitter account of the institution, posting untrue statements about the Istanbul Convention. He made proposals that would lead to forced child marriages. Arslan’s statements were posted on September 30 both to TİHEK’s official Twitter account and his own personal account. 

"Early marriage and sexual abuse crimes should be separated. Just because people marry at an early age, they should not be prosecuted with disgraceful offences. This situation violates the rights of the person and his family, especially the children born in this marriage.” 

The press release written in response by EŞİK: 

“Here, in this message, early marriage means forced marriages that are imposed on girls below the age of 18 by their parents. Accepting these kinds of marriages just because the family elders have approved it or if a rape is trying to be covered up by marriage, and suggesting to separate sexual abuse of minors and this situation, is beyond justifying child abuse crimes. It means exposing all children ‘under the name of marriage’ to abuse and rape, and sentencing them to a lifelong environment of violence. The stance of Süleyman Arslan, which legitimizes child sexual abuse, not only rejects children’s human rights, it also reflects a mentality of tolerating human rights violations.”  

On the same day, the Istanbul Convention was the topic of discussion in messages sent by the institution and its chair: “There are different opinions regarding the Istanbul Convention. However, it is clear that it has aspects that are contrary to our values. Diverse family types, living together without forming a family and illegitimate life styles are being legitimized through the convention.”  

EŞİK had this answer: “The Istanbul Convention is not a document of values that varies from one society to the other. It is a complete set of universal norms based on international human rights law, aimed at preventing gender-based violence. This convention, as stated in all other international human rights conventions and in the Turkish Constitution, ensures the implementation of all the rights it has guaranteed without any discrimination. With his statement, Arslan has targeted not only the Istanbul Convention, but all international human rights conventions.” 

Another message by TİHEK and Arslan, in contradiction with human rights and again contrary to the equality of genders, was as follows: 

"The Constitutional Court did not decriminalize adultery, it has only removed the gender inequality in punishments regarding adultery. Adultery is a universal crime. The entire legislative system has a responsibility here. Infidelity is a crime and it should be regarded as a crime.” 

There is an open contradiction between the two messages, one that wishes for adultery to be redefined as a crime and the other declaring that divorce due to infidelity, which is adultery, was not a solution. It would be more appropriate to say that the mission of reinforcing inequalities is revealed rather than a contradiction. Alimony (welfare allowance), pardons for abusers, children treated as debts, fathers as victims… all of these concepts are attempts to erode women’s equal citizenship rights. They are attacks on women’s gains acquired through the Civil Code. Again, several other objections target the implementation of equal rights. Among them are the gender equality principle, the principle that legal statements by women are essential, the Istanbul Convention and the anti-gender violence law number 6284… 

The Human Rights and Equality Institution of Turkey (TİHEK), which has become the spokesperson for misogyny and an anti-Civil Code stance should return to its basic duties. The head of TİHEK, Süleyman Arslan, who escalates this same rhetoric on his own personal account, should be removed from office.