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Cablegate: Gender Equality in Turkish Politics: Is Parity

VZCZCXYZ0000
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHIT #1045 3450849
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 110849Z DEC 07
FM AMCONSUL ISTANBUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7734
INFO RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/DIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY

UNCLAS ISTANBUL 001045

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM TU
SUBJECT: GENDER EQUALITY IN TURKISH POLITICS: IS PARITY
PLAUSIBLE?

1. (U) At a joint Jarl Hjalmarson Foundation-ARI Movement
conference entitled 'Young Women Fit For Politics', Turkish
and Swedish MP's discussed women's role in policy-making.
The Hjalmarson Foundation -- a democracy-development
foundation tied to the Moderate party of Sweden -- and the
ARI Movement -- an independent organization promoting
youth-oriented, participatory solutions -- provided a forum
to discuss the role women play in politics today, and the
ways in which that role might be expanded in the future.
While the Swedish MP's had little to offer beyond a mandatory
quota system, the Turkish MPs had more nuanced and realistic
assessments/approaches.

2. (SBU) Cem Toker, chairman of the Liberal Democratic Party
(LDP), argued that gender parity in a vacuum is nonsense. He
said each party has to run the best candidate it can with a
finite source of funding; if that candidate is a woman so be
it, but you can not force a party to run non-viable
candidates. In theory gender equality is a great thing, but
in Turkey the reality is something different, he argued. The
average Turkish citizen has a 4th grade education, the
average Turkish woman lower still. Add to that the lack of
real support, even within the feminist community, for female
candidates, he said. The LDP joined KADER -- Turkey's
largest women's organization -- in a series of workshops
designed to teach women in the South East about political
participation. At the end of the workshop, however, KADER
could not recommend a single woman that they would be willing
to back in a local election, he claimed.

3. (SBU) Canan Kalsin, Justice and Development Party (AKP)
MP, said that she was proud of the progress that her party
has made; out of the 50 women in parliament, 30 are AKP MPs.
That said, once she deviated from the 'all is well with AKP'
party-line she recognized that there were fissures in party
leadership, at least at her level, with regard to female
candidates. Women, she said, when allowed to participate in
politics are cubby-holed into 'women's issues', as she was
when she first joined AKP. "Only after making a noise" was
she promoted to her current position, Associate Provisional
Director of External Affairs. Kalsin ended by saying that
while progress has been made, meaningful participation by
women in Turkish politics remains a challenge.

4. (SBU) A similar debate has been taking place in op-ed
columns in the Turkish Press. Progressive columnists argue
that by banning headscarves at universities, women suffer
double discrimination: once at the hands of paternal Islam,
and again by the patriarchal guarantors of secularism. Both
of which, they note, disproportionately affect women. Devout
Muslim men are neither required to wear particular religious
garb, nor are they required to disrobe in any way before
entering public buildings.

4. (SBU) COMMENT: None of the 30 AKP female MPs wears an
Islamic headscarf, the wearing of which is banned on the
floor of parliament by by-laws dictating an MP dress-code.
However, the wives of most AKP elected officials and senior
bureaucrats do cover their heads, and a "covered wife" is
widely viewed as a career asset if not a political litmus
test. When asked whether Kalsin's choice to not cover her
head affected her ability to rise within the party, she
answered "no", albeit after a prolonged pause. END COMMENT

WIENER

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