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Cablegate: Turkey's International Women's Day; Increased

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PP RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDBU RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA
RUEHLN RUEHLZ RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHAK #0592/01 0741001
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 151001Z MAR 07 ZDK
FM AMEMBASSY ANKARA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1341
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC
RUEUITH/ODC ANKARA TU//TCH//
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
RUEHAK/USDAO ANKARA TU

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ANKARA 000592

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL PINR OSCE TU
SUBJECT: TURKEY'S INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S DAY; INCREASED
AWARENESS BUT SLOW TO CHANGE


1.(U) Summary: Despite a flurry of activities to mark
International Women's Day on March 8, real progress on
improving conditions for women in Turkey has been limited.
Opposition MP Gulsun Bilgehan organized a special women's
session in parliament to highlight women's issues in Turkey;
only one cabinet minister attended, the State Minister for
family and women affairs. Two new women's shelters were
dedicated at the Kocatepe convention hall in Ankara, and
Turks aired their concerns with a variety of marches and
conferences throughout major cities. While honor killings
and domestic violence remain serious problems, a few
dedicated activists are increasing awareness and sparking
gradual change. End Summary.

2.(U) As Turkey's International Women's Day events showed,
there have been some advances, particularly for educated
women from established families or in urban areas. The newly
elected president of the Turkish Businessmen and
Industrialist's Association (TUSIAD) is the successful female
CEO of KanalD, Arzuhan Dogan Yalcindag. While Yalcindag
comes from one of Turkey's leading families, she has parlayed
that advantage into an impressive career that has broken
barriers and served as a role model. Yalcindag, who founded
the Women's Initiative for Turkey in the EU, used her TUSIAD
speech to push for increased attention to women's rights
issues.

3.(U) Republican People's Party (CHP) MP Gulsun Bilgehan
called for greater advancement for Turkish women and girls in
her Women's Day speech before parliament. Bilgehan, who is
one of the few Turks, let alone Turkish women, to be elected
to chair a Parliamentary Assembly Council of Europe (PACE)
committee, heads the committee dealing with gender equality,
honor killings, domestic violence, forced marriages and
education of girls. She has spearheaded an effort to
sensitize the Turkish parliament to gender issues,
distributing a Turkish language version of a PACE booklet on
domestic violence to all MPs. The special parliamentary
session on women's issues she organized was roundly applauded
in the media, which also zeroed in on the one lonely cabinet
minister who attended Bilgehan's speech: State Minister for
family and women's affairs Nimet Cubukcu. While PM Erdogan
has called discrimination against women "worse than racism"
and insisted that women must not be treated as second-class
beings, his failure to appoint more than one woman to his
cabinet is often cited as evidence of Turkey's glass ceiling.
The low percentage of women MPs (4.4%) is also indicative of
the hurdles women face in obtaining positions of authority.

4. (U) Conferences in Istanbul focused on equality and
freedom in order to eliminate the oppression of women.
Thousands of Turks marched in Turkey's major metropolitan
areas to show support for increased attention on the plight
of Turkey's women and girls. While awareness in the urban
areas is improving, much remains to be done in the more
traditional rural regions. Eight million Turkish women
reportedly are illiterate. Despite a government campaign to
encourage parents to send their daughters to school, some
640,000 Turkish girls do not attend school and fewer than
three percent of women receive a university education.
Mandatory schooling for Turkish girls ends at any earlier age
(11 years old) than in any other OECD country. Educational
obstacles translate to limited employment opportunities; only
a third as many women work as men, according to the Turkish
Clothing Manufacturers' Association chairwoman, and women
are paid on average 50 percent less than their male
colleagues. Turkey has been ranked near the bottom of the
World Economic Forum's (WEF) Gender Gap report for the last
two years, including for mother and child death rates.

5. (U) Against this background, small victories are
particularly encouraging. Two women's shelters were
inaugurated in the Ankara area on International Women's Day.
According to the Social Services and Orphanages Directorate
(SHCEK), since 1990 over 6,000 women and 4,600 children have
temporarily resided in SHCEK shelters. Press reports state
that by the end of 2007, there will 17 SHCEK women's shelters
in Turkey, with 13 more planned. The shelters provide refuge
for victims of domestic violence as well as women fleeing the
threat of honor killings by relatives. Honor killings remain
a problem in Turkey, with between 50 and 100 women murdered
each year and 17 percent of Turkish men saying they approved
of honor killings in a 2006 UN poll. Accurate numbers are
hard to determine as some killings are either not reported or
are labeled as an accident or suicide. The official number

ANKARA 00000592 002 OF 002


recognized by the TGNA is 91 honor killings over the past 5
years. "On paper, we seem to have achieved a lot," said
Justice and Development Party (AKP) MP Fatma Sahin, "but when
we go into the field, we recognize that a lot more needs to
be done." Sahin sponsored and promoted a 300-page report on
honor killings that led to legislative changes as well as
heightened awareness of the issue. NGOs are also closely
engaged in combatting this problem and helping to educate the
affected population.

6. (U) Advances are also gradually occuring in other
bastions of male dominance. According to Turkey's top
religious authority, in the near future female mufti
assistants will be appointed to all provinces in Turkey.
This will be the first appointment of women in such a
capacity in the Muslim world. The women will not, however,
preach in mosques.

7. (U) Comment. The status of Turkey's women illustrates the
tensions racking the country in a larger sense. Rural to
urban migration and increased education are disrupting
traditional attitudes. Women, who in many poorer, more
traditional areas are still viewed as property men must
protect by safeguarding their bodies and minds, are
increasingly being exposed to Turkey's modern side. As more
women join the workforce, out of choice or necessity, their
expectations are rising and their willingness to accept their
traditional role is falling. This year's International
Women's Day celebration demonstrated that many recognize the
challenges that exist and that progress is being made, but
there is still a long way to go. End Comment.

Visit Ankara's Classified Web Site at
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/eur/ankara/

WILSON

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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