Cleric slams abuse of women in Turkey

ANKARA – Hürriyet Daily News

The mistreatment of women is the result of “excessive ignorance” about Islam, Turkey’s chief cleric said Thursday, following the recent release of consecutive reports on violence against women.

“People sometimes try to rationalize their bad behaviors by using religion. This has been the case in almost every culture and religion,” Mehmet Görmez, head of Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs, said following meetings with Gunther Meinel, the head of the Union of Diplomats in Europe, and Istanbul’s Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew.

During the meetings, Görmez addressed the growing concerns over the rights of women in Turkey, saying his directorate had been working for the last 10 years on a road map aimed at eliminating incorrect views and attitudes toward women’s place in society.

“As a man of the cloth and of science, I see it [women’s rights] as the whole world’s problem. I see this not as a gender [problem] but as a problem of power and ethics,” he said.

“Our excessive ignorance is the source of so many false attitudes. This shows we have not been working enough on the matter,” Görmez added.

In response to nearly daily news reports about killed or beaten women, the Turkish government has decided to take further measures to stop violence against women and to increase sanctions imposed on offenders. President Abdullah Gül’s office announced Tuesday that he had appointed the State Audit Board, or DDK, to extensively investigate cases of domestic violence.

Following his meeting with the head of the Union of Diplomats in Europe, Görmez told the media that Meinel had asked him questions about the failure of the separation of religion and state in Turkey. “As I know very well the implementation in Europe, especially about structures in some countries that have recently joined the European Union, I should say that I did not understand what he meant with this question,” the top cleric said.

Bartholomew meets with Görmez

In a separate meeting with Patriarch Bartholomew, Görmez said his directorate was sensitive to the freedoms and rights of all religious groups and see these groups’ problems as their own. “I want to underscore that we are as sensitive as they are when it comes to their freedoms. We, as the Directorate of Religious Affairs, see freedoms of religious communities, including their freedoms of religious education, as our own freedoms,” he said.

Görmez’s statement appeared to refer to the Patriarchate’s request to open the Halki Seminary, which has been closed since 1971. Turkey is under pressure from Western countries for allegedly restricting the freedoms of Christians living in the country.