Turkey Cracks Down on Cleavage

How do you know whether a regime that frees women to wear Islamic headscarves at work is liberal and furthering democracy, or Islamist and restricting it?

The question concerns Turkey’s government, which in the space of a few days has ended a headscarf ban for civil servants (except in the judiciary and security services), but also caused a female TV music-show presenter to be fired for showing too much cleavage.

The headscarf ban was a piece of unabashed social engineering introduced in the 1920s to make Turkey, the rump of the former Ottoman Empire and Islamic Caliphate, secular. If you are liberal and not Islamophobic, ending the ban is a good thing: Women should not be excluded from the workplace just because they are devout and believe this requires covering their hair, period.

But what if the change — which Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan introduced as part of a broad “democratization” package — is part of a wider plan of social re-engineering, this time designed to impinge on the liberties of non-religious conservatives? If so, the numerous cases in which women were discriminated against, fired or passed over for promotion for wearing a headscarf even outside of work would now be repeated in reverse: Women who don’t wear headscarves to work, and men whose wives don’t cover their hair, will be discriminated against, fired and passed over for promotion.

Turkey’s secularists say this is already happening to men whose wives show their locks. That’s hard to prove, but the real issue is trust — secularists believe the worst of Erdogan’s intentions. Are they right?

Read more at Bloomberg

With global influence, Turkey matters

The Committee to Protect Journalists promotes press freedom worldwide by defending the rights of journalists to report the news without fear of reprisal. Founded in 1981, CPJ takes action when journalists are censored, jailed, kidnapped, or killed for their work, without regard to political ideology. In its defense of journalists, CPJ protects the rights of all people to access independent sources of information – an essential part of a free society.

Turkey is hardly a press freedom paradise, but what makes the country so exciting for journalists is the amount of news it generates on any given day. The domestic story is huge, with near-daily street protests, the booming economy beginning to sag, and the prospect of regional conflict looming with Syria. And Istanbul is a base for the international press covering not only Turkey but also Syria, Iraq and Egypt.

All of this means that it is not hard to get a crowd of journalists together in Istanbul, especially if you’re buying the drinks. The talk inevitably turns to not only of what is being reported but what is not.

CPJ’s classification of Turkey as the world’s leading jailer of journalists was last year’s headline. The use of broad anti-terror laws to criminalize critical expression has long been a key component of the Turkish government strategy to suppress the Kurdish media as well as leftist and nationalist groups that it alleges are trying to topple the government.

The situation today is actually worse than it was when CPJ’s comprehensive press freedom report was issued in October 2012. In June, when street clashes over the destruction of Gezi Park morphed into broader demonstrations, journalists covering the protests became frequent targets of police abuse. During CPJ’s visit to Turkey last week, I met with one journalist, Hüseyin Gökhan Biçici, of the broadcaster IMC, who described how police detained him, ripped off his gas mask, and repeatedly beat him with clubs, focusing on his genitals.

But most mainstream journalists don’t fear being beaten or jailed. Instead, they fear losing their jobs.

The primary means of media control and manipulation involves indirect methods, such as pressure on media owners whose complex business interests depend on government support. There are widespread reports of phone calls from government advisers resulting in a particular journalist being fired or hired. The Turkish Union of Journalists reports that dozens of journalists have lost their jobs.

Read more at The Huffington Post

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