Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who has regularly been accused of violating women’s rights throughout his career, attempted to shift the heat towards a different direction last week, calling on his critics to direct their attacks towards the Jewish people, whose prayers he said were degrading towards women.
According to a report in the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet, Erdoğan made the remarks while accepting an award from members of the Roma community in Bursa. While condemning racism, Islamophobia and discrimination, he wondered why his critics never blasted the Jews for their treatment of women. “I am addressing to those who talk about women’s rights. Why don’t you raise your voice against the Jews who thank God in their prayers that they were not created as women? Was there any other understanding, a logic as demeaning for women as this one?”
Erdoğan, a devout Muslim, often courts controversy with divisive public comments. He has previously angered women’s groups by stating that women should bear at least three children and by attempting to outlaw abortion.
In other recent comments, he declared that women are not equal to men and accused feminists of not understanding the special status that Islam attributes to mothers.
While addressing a meeting in Istanbul on women and justice, Erdoğan said men and women are created differently, that women cannot be expected to undertake the same work as men, and that mothers enjoy a high position that only they can reach.
“You cannot put women and men on an equal footing,” Erdoğan said. “It is against nature. They were created differently. Their nature is different. Their constitution is different.”
The Turkish president, who had compared in the past social media to the “murderer’s knife”, and proudly declared he does not “tweet or schmeet,” changed his mind on at least one issue when he sent his first ever personal tweet from the account @RT_Erdogan.
It was a tweet denouncing smoking on Turkey’s national anti-tobacco day.
“Get a grip of yourself against this poison,” Erdoğan wrote, using the hashtag #SigarayaTeslimOlma (Don’t give in to cigarettes) and signing off with his initials RTE.
The account handle had in the past been used by supporters of Erdoğan but it has now been taken over by the presidential administration for the president’s tweets. It has already been verified by Twitter as an official account.