Women in Istanbul stage “Don’t Mess With My Outfit” march against increasing Islamic modesty standards

In 1980, the Turkish government banned the wearing of the hijab (headscarf) in public places and by public employees, but lifted that ban in 2013, which is meet and proper in a democratic country, especially one that’s 95% Muslim. (Kemal Atatürk, despite his secularization of the country, never banned the headscarf or any garb except the fez, veil, and turban; he apparently thought that headscarves would disappear over time.) Just this year, the lifting of the hijab ban extended to members of the military—all part of Erdogan’s program of increasing theocracy. But I have no issue with allowing hijabs, since there should be religious freedom and the headscarf doesn’t interfere with any public duties.

There is a downside to this, though, one I learned of when visiting and lecturing at the public Middle East Technical University (METU) in Ankara some time ago—when the hijab was still banned there. As I’ve recounted before, I asked a group of uncovered, hijab-less women students whether they favored the hijab ban. They did, unanimously. When I asked them why, they told me that were hijabs allowed, the covered women would shame the uncovered ones, telling them that they were “not good Muslims.” (These students were liberal Muslims, and I and several professors went drinking and dancing with them to celebrate the end of my visit.)

Apparently this kind of hijab-shaming, and general shaming of uncovered women, is become more common in Turkey now that Erdogan is in power, which coincides with a lot more public wearing of the hijab and a greater public religiosity. And many Turkish women, especially in the modern and cosmopolitan city of Istanbul, don’t like it. As Reuters reported four days ago, on July 26 hundreds of Turkish women demonstrated for the right to wear whatever they want without being shamed. While there’s no prohibition of Western clothing, the shaming of women showing leg and other “offensive” parts is growing right along with Turkey’s theocracy. As Reuters notes:

The march, dubbed “Don’t Mess With My Outfit”, started in the Kadikoy district on the Asian side of the city. Women chanted slogans and carried denim shorts on hangers as examples of the type of clothing some men say they find unacceptable.

“We will not obey, be silenced, be afraid. We will win through resistance,” the crowds chanted, holding up posters and LGBT rainbow flags.

Istanbul has long been seen as a relatively liberal city for women and gay people.

But critics say President Tayyip Erdogan and his Islamist-rooted AK Party have shown little interest in expanding rights for minorities, gays and women, and are intolerant of dissent.

Protesters say there has been an increasing number of verbal and physical attacks against women for their choice of clothing.

Here’s one example of the growing shaming:

In one incident in June, a young woman, Asena Melisa Saglam, was attacked by a man on a bus in Istanbul for wearing shorts during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Video of the incident showed the man hitting her while the bus driver watched.

Here’s a video of the attack: first the man slaps her in the face with a newspaper, and then roughs her up after she confronts him. He was later arrested:

And more:

In another incident, Canan Kaymakci, was harassed on the street in Istanbul when a man accused her of wearing provocative clothing, saying she should be careful because she was “turning people on”.

Another woman, Aysegul Terzi, was called a devil and kicked by a man on a public bus, also for wearing shorts. Footage showed the man telling her that those who wear shorts “should die”.

This is the kind of harassment that happens when an article of clothing becomes a sign of moral virtue—exactly what the women of METU were afraid of. In such a coercive climate, how can you call wearing the hijab a “choice”?

Below is a video of the women of Istanbul demonstrating against that coercion. I like the fact that a hijabi is among them, saying that her sisters should be able to dress as they want. The demonstrators were joined by gay and transgender people, since the Turkish government banned Istanbul’s Gay Pride March scheduled for last June.

Jebus, I hate what is happening to that country. If you spent some time there, you’d be as sad as I am about what Erdogan’s creeping theocracy is doing to a vibrant country full of lovely people. I really do worry that Turkey will go the way of Iran, where before 1979 the women dressed as they pleased, but since the Islamic Revolution they’re all forced to cover.



  1. Posted August 1, 2017 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    Reblogged this on WilliWash.

  2. TJR
    Posted August 1, 2017 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    Turkey: its all Greek to me.

    • Posted August 1, 2017 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

      One of my favorite Saturday Night Live skits (when I was a kid) included a Greek character just repeating the phrase “Turks, are jerks” in response to almost anything. Or at least that’s how I remember it.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted August 1, 2017 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

        Ha ha! Turks and Greeks hate each other and sometimes I find them so much alike. My dad had a Greek friend who would complain about Turks and show his scar on his leg from fighting them.

  3. nicky
    Posted August 1, 2017 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    It reminds me of the protests by Iranian women after the Shah was ousted, I fear they are fighting a losing battle.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted August 1, 2017 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

      I thought the same and then I thought of the TV Series version of the Handmaid’s Tale.

  4. Phil O'Sophy
    Posted August 1, 2017 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    So a group of zealots and true believers demand that everyone must go along with their signs of moral virtue, and are so convinced of the rightness of their belief system that they use the power of the mob to police, shame and demonize any who disagree with them as “not good” people… wait, which country are we talking about again?

  5. Steven E
    Posted August 1, 2017 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

    Such an excellent reality check in the face of those who claim that wearing a hijab is a personal choice, that no-one is forced to wear it, and that it is in fact a sign of liberation.

  6. David Coxill
    Posted August 1, 2017 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    A lot of brave women on the march ,but i am afraid it is only a matter of time before we start hearing of acid attacks on women wearing western clothes .

  7. Ken Kukec
    Posted August 1, 2017 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

    Good for these gutsy Turkish women!

    Still, ain’t never gonna do it without the fez on.

  8. Taz
    Posted August 1, 2017 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    Maybe Linda Sarsour will confiscate their vaginas.

  9. Heather Hastie
    Posted August 1, 2017 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

    What Erdoğan is doing to Turkey worries me immensely. He’s arrested 10s of thousands in the last year creating a climate of fear and removing as much opposition as possible. These women are pretty much the last line of defence.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted August 1, 2017 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

      Yes and he attacked academics. A dictator often cleanses his country of academics as one of his first moves so he can have less intellectual opposition to his stupidity.

      • Jenny Haniver
        Posted August 1, 2017 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

        Yes, and remember the Khmer Rouge — I read that if you wore eyeglasses, you’d be taken away, probably killed — eyeglasses were seen as the sign of an intellectual — you read books!

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted August 1, 2017 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

          Yikes. I have bad myopia & my spec wearing friend & I have a fear that plays out differently for the two of us. She fears one day she would be dragged out of her house & taken somewhere horrible, without her glasses. I fear that the world will end & I’ll have no more glasses/contacts.

          • Diane G.
            Posted August 3, 2017 at 1:00 am | Permalink

            I’ve had that last thought myself many times!

    • claudia baker
      Posted August 1, 2017 at 3:52 pm | Permalink


  10. Posted August 1, 2017 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on The Logical Place.

  11. eric
    Posted August 1, 2017 at 7:25 pm | Permalink

    Video of the incident showed the man hitting her while the bus driver watched…

    …Another woman, Aysegul Terzi, was called a devil and kicked by a man on a public bus, also for wearing shorts…

    One lesson I draw from this is that a freedom of expression (such as dress) needs to be accompanied by a government commitment to defend unpopular expression, if it is to be real and mean anything. A “freedom to dress western” is meaningless if the government turns a blind eye to violent attacks perpetrated against women who dress that way. Its arguably worse than a hijab ban, because it provides an illusion of freedom that the government can use to claim it is defending civil rights, when in fact it is doing no such thing.

    So, while I dislike the idea of a hijab ban on principle, I think at this point I’m going to say: freedom is best served by either (a) Turkey prosecuting such attackers, or (b) implementing the ban. The option (c) of no ban and no prosecution is IMO worse, less free, than either A or B.

  12. Diane G.
    Posted August 3, 2017 at 1:04 am | Permalink

    It was heartening to see a couple of guys on the bus first checking to see if the woman is OK, then appear to be trying to catch a glimpse of her attacker.

  13. Yob Numpty
    Posted August 3, 2017 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

    Great article, keep up the good work. This creeping oppression is not just happening in Turkey. Look at Indonesia, Egypt. Even here in the USA. Go to parts of NYC or Paterson, NJ. And it is not just being harrassed about what you wear. It is also being harrased about what you eat, when you eat, what you think. When will people wake up?

  14. Posted August 16, 2017 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    Great read! I’ve shared the link for this post on my blog. The topic, oppression of women across the globe. Thanks!


One Trackback/Pingback

  1. […] you can see a YouTube video of  a woman being physically assaulted for her clothing in Istanbul: https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2017/08/01/women-in-istanbul-stage-dont-mess-with-my-outfit… Also, another book to add to the list, check out Veiled Courage: Inside the Afghan Women’s […]

Post a Comment

Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: