Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet) is set to launch a big campaign to promote the role and status of the women in society, after controversial comments on violence against women and gender relations from rogue preachers prompted outrage across the country.
“The Diyanet will touch on the women’s issue in a more visible and emphasized way in the new era,” Deputy Prime Minister and government spokesman Bekir Bozdağ told the Ankara bureau chiefs of various media outlets on March 15.
“I would like to announce that a huge campaign to convey the honorable place of the women in Islam, in accordance with the nobleness of Islam, to Turkey and to the world through books, television broadcasts, radio programs, seminars, panels and all other means,” he said.
Bozdağ serves as the deputy prime minister responsible for the activities of the Diyanet, whose head Ali Erbaş was also present at the meeting.
Bozdağ also noted that the Diyanet’s works on women will be carried out under the leadership of Diyanet Deputy Chair Huriye Martı, who was recently appointed as the first female deputy to the directorate since its foundation in 1924.
Discussion was sparked in the country after a number of preachers made headlines through controversial remarks on the role of the women in society.
Among them was Social Fabric Foundation head Nureddin Yıldız, who appeared to justify violence against women in a video posted online on March 3.
“Women should be grateful to God, because God allowed men to beat women and be relaxed,” Yıldız said. Other preachers around the same time had attracted attention for suggesting that women and men should not take the same elevators and intensive care units at the hospital should have separate places for female and male patients.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan intervened on the occasion of International Women’s Day on March 8, denouncing controversial preachers’ remarks on women and urging the Diyanet to be more active against “backward so-called religious authorities.”
A few days after Erdoğan’s statement, Martı was appointed as the Diyanet’s new deputy chair.
Bozdağ also said more women would be appointed to the directorate, where currently seven women are serving as department heads.
At least one female mufti will serve in every province, while female auditors and inspectors have also begun to be recruited in the Diyanet in order to increase women’s participation in its works.
“Efforts to tarnish our religion through women have coincided with our works [to increase women’s status]. That’s why we have been really saddened,” Bozdağ stressed, adding that an event is upcoming at which all these issues will be discussed with the participation of female scholars.
“We’ll bring women’s issues to the agenda of the people in a more efficient and visible way,” he said.
Diyanet to work on anti-terror campaign
Another area where the Diyanet will intensify its works is in “conveying the right information to the people on the exploitation of Islam by terror organizations, like [the Fethullahist Terror Organization [FETÖ] and [the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant] ISIL,” Bozdağ vowed.
“The Diyanet will not only release reports but also carry out effective works in the field to enlighten our people on the terror organizations that exploit our religion, as well as those that are religiously deviant,” he said.
Diyanet officials will visit every village, town and province in the country to brief locals on “the real faces of such terror organizations,” Bozdağ said, adding that these events will also include religious vocational (imam-hatip) high-schools, regular high-schools, and universities.
“Thanks to the common sense of our people, these terror organizations do not have much room for recruitment of the terrorists. But we will continue our works in order not to give them space in the future as well,” he said.
Meanwhile, Bozdağ also drew attention to “plots by intelligence organizations of some foreign countries that aim to spark new sectarian clashes in the Middle East and in the Islamic world.”
“The intelligence services of some countries have been exerting special efforts. They have reserved special budgets and are try to provoke something as a result,” he said.
“This is a great threat and danger for our country, our people and for all of us. We should all be cautious against those who want to pour fuel on the sectarian fire in our region,” Bozdağ added.