Turkish women who attended an International Women’s Day rally in Istanbul last Friday have been harshly criticized and accused of disrespecting an Islamic call to prayer (the Adhan).
The criticism came from Sunday from none other than President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Thousands of women in Turkey gathered to march in Istanbul’s central district of Taksim on Friday to commemorate International Women’s Day and were met with tear gas fired by riot police trying to disperse the rallying crowd.
The pro-government daily newspaper Yeni Safak, published a report on its website accusing the marchers of catcalling the Islamic call to prayer, saying they began to boo when they heard it started.
Following the news report: “They disrespected the Adhan by slogans, booing and whistling,” said Erdogan during an election rally in the Mediterranean city of Adana.
“A group led by CHP and HDP [the Republican People’s Party and the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party] convened in Taksim supposedly for women and disrespected the Adhan with their whistles. These people had never read our national anthem. The ones who do not adopt the call to prayer would applaud the enemy when they are at the gates,” said Erdogan lashing out at the opposition as well, alleging the march was initiated by them.
Attendees of the march responded to Erdogan’s accusations from their social media accounts, saying they were booing and whistling continuously to protest against attempts to halt their march and it had nothing to do with the call to prayer which coincidentally began while they were protesting.
Following Erdogan’s remarks, a group of bearded men wearing turbans marched in the Taksim square in a street dense with pubs on Sunday evening, chanting “let the hands encroach on the Adhan be broken!” The video of the angry people marching in the street was published on the Twitter account of Evrensel daily.
Erdogan’s tone is regarded by his critics as a bid to consolidate his base who are sensitive to religious symbols like Adhan.
Fake news in favour of Erdogan’s wild allegations run by pro-government media
Turkey’s pro-government media outlets had previously made reports similar to that of Yeni Safak daily on various occasions, the most prominent one being the Kabatas case when Elif Cakir, a pro-government new outlet did an interview with a hijab-wearing woman alleging she was violently attacked by the protesters during the 2013 Gezi protests.
In May 2013, masses protested a construction project on the revival of military barracks in Istanbul’s Taksim square which also entailed the destruction of trees in the near-by Gezi park. The protests quickly spread throughout Turkey within days partly as a result of the then Prime Minister Erdogan’s divisive remarks, dismissing the protesters as “a few looters.”
Pro-government media entities started publishing a story of Zehra Develioglu, the daughter in law of an AKP member mayor, who alleged a group of protesters attacked her because of her headscarf, leaving her unconscious on the ground to find herself covered in urine when she woke up.
The severity of the allegation resonated with Turkey’s religious population and caused outrage against the protesters, and Erdogan added fuel to the flames by claiming there was CCTV footage of the incident, a video he failed to produce since then.
The allegations turned out to be false soon after, but the reports took their toll on the minds of the AKP base, solidifying an Islamophobic image of the protesters.
Several pro-government pens had apologized years later for backing the unsubstantiated allegations.
Erdogan stopped at nothing to smear the protesters, also accusing them of entering the premises of a mosque wearing shoes and having beers inside the mosque, a lousy allegation also first published by a pro-government media outlet.
Due to wide-spread police violence during the protests, the ones who were affected by tear gas or water cannons took shelter in a nearby mosque and were unable to take off their shoes, which is obligatory for Islamic rites.
As for the drinking of alcohol inside the mosque part, the religious observer (imam) administering the mosque testified he did not see anything like that taking place in the place of worship, dismissing Erdogan’s accusations.
The imam was replaced and assigned to a village after his remarks.