Actresses protest barring of women from play at Turkish Parliament

Some 100 actresses gathered at İstanbul’s Kenter Theater on Monday and read out lines from various plays to protest the prohibition of female colleagues from taking part in a play staged at the Turkish Parliament last month.

According to a report by the Doğan news agency, the protest was participated in by renowned actresses Demet Akbağ, Gülriz Sururi, Tilbe Saran, Zerrin Tekindor, Ece Dizdar, Jülide Kural, Banu Çiçek and Hande Doğandemir.

“It is very precious that we are here together today. Not one of us accepts the ban on actresses performing at Parliament as happened last week. We see the ban on female actors that was applied in our Parliament, which is supposed to represent the will of the people of Turkey, as the gravest example of gender discrimination,” Saran said during the protest.

“We stand in every area of life as women and will continue to do so. No men, whatever their political ideas, will be able to destroy this fact. Our courage on the stage comes from Afife Jale [the first Muslim theater actress in Turkey] and from  women’s 100-year-long struggle and presence in Parliament. And we are now on this stage to bring this to mind again. We’ll continue our struggle until we engrave this moment in our memory. We’ll always utter our words and be on stage. Today, we’ll read out 100 lines from 100 writers,” Saran said.

Their male colleagues were also present at the theater to support the women’s cause.

Speaking during the event, veteran actor Rutkay Aziz said: “This is a very meaningful gathering. It has greatly affected me. We have witnessed the discrimination and oppression of our women in every area. And now, we see this happening in Parliament. But our women gained the right to be on stage with the republic. And they will not let go of this right that easily. And we will stand by their struggle.”

A theater group on March 28 had put on a performance in memory of the March 18, 1915 Gallipoli victory, a battle that marked a turnaround against the Allied Forces in favor of the Turks during World War I, which eventually led to the birth of the Turkish Republic.

However, Parliament Speaker İsmail Kahraman allegedly ordered the group not to allow female actors on stage for the play, which led to an outcry, especially among opposition parties. “This incident is not acceptable as regards gender equality, women’s rights or secularism,” said Fatma Köse,  the head of the women’s branch of Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party’s (CHP), adding that the act was “against the constitution.” Köse has also demanded the people responsible for the incident be held to account by authorities.

Kahraman, on the other hand, denied claims he wanted women off the stage, saying such speculation resulted from a misunderstanding. Kahraman on Monday denied a play even took place, saying that instead a group consisting of 16 women and 13 men, in total 29 people, had only sung a Gallipoli folk song during the event.

“All they were going to do was simply sing a Gallipoli folk song. There were 16 females among those singing. There were a total of 13 men. They were 29 people in the hall in total. And there were nine soldiers [wearing outfits]. It was a wonderful program. It was a program that everyone was pleased about,” he said.

Murat Bakan, a CHP deputy for the Aegean province of İzmir, meanwhile submitted a parliamentary motion for an inquiry into the incident, the Cumhuriyet daily reported on March 29. “Are the allegations that you ruled for ‘women not to take to the stage’ true?” Bakan said in the motion directed at Kahraman.

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