Interior Minister Soylu slammed for using sexist language in row with mafia leader

Bar associations and women rights groups have slammed Interior Minister Süleyman for using sexist language in his latest war of words with mafia leader Sedat Peker. They have pointed out that Soylu's referral to Peker as a “helpless and shameless man who is taking refuge behind his wife's underwear” constitutes a crime for degrading women.

Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu addresses a meeting in this file photo.

Duvar English

Several bar associations' women rights centers and women organizations have slammed Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu over sexist remarks he made while answering questions on mafia leader Sedat Peker during an interview with state broadcaster TRT Haber.

During the interview, Soylu touched upon some of Peker's claims, one of which was that the police had pointed gun towards the mafia leader's wife Özge Peker and children while raiding their house in Istanbul in April.

Peker had also claimed that male police officers had gone through his wife's underwear drawers during the raid and there were no female officers among them.

Soylu refuted the claims, saying: “Nothing has been done to anyone's wife. The Turkish police know very well what they are doing. The helpless and shameless man who is taking refuge behind his wife's underwear [referring to Peker]. There is here a fiction.”

Soylu's comments drew the criticism of several people for being “a masculine language that insults women.”

According to the president of the Ankara Bar Association's Women Rights Center, Ceren Kalay Eren, Soylu's comments constitute a crime for using women's underwear as a means of insulting someone.

“Soylu's comments constitute a crime as per the Turkish Penal Code's Article 216-2,” Eren said, referring to the article which seeks a jail term of up to one year for “publicly degrading a section of the public on grounds of social class, race, religion, sect, gender or regional differences.”

“The person whom Soylu is insulting here is in fact not his addressee [Peker], but instead women, who constitute half of the population of this country. He is, therefore, instrumentalizing women to insult a man,” she said.

Eren said that every public official needs to comply with the principles of gender equality and that if Turkey had implemented the Istanbul Convention properly, an attitude as that of Soylu would have brought his resignation.

The vice president of the Istanbul Bar Association's Women Rights Center, Birsen Baş Topaloğlu, said that Turkish men insult one another by using phrases which are in fact insulting to women.

“The fact that such a language is adopted by politicians is increasing the violence against women. Although Süleyman Soylu's addressee is Sedat Peker, he is referring to a woman as an element of insult,” she said.

One of the lawyers of Turkey's Women's Platform for Equality (EŞİK), İdil Yalçıner Şimşek, similarly pointed out that Soylu's remarks were “very masculine and insulting.”

“Such a discourse is in fact a product of their own mentality. It is unfortunately a masculine language that sees women as always a second class and uses women when even insulting other men. It is a language that we frequently witness both in politics and society. And this is an understanding which will be on the rise with the withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention,” Şimşek said.