AKP members target award-winning actress for pro-women’s-rights speech

Members of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) have targeted award-winning actress Merve Dizdar for a speech she gave about women’s rights at the Cannes Film Festival on Saturday, Turkish media reported.

AKP member Emre Cemil Ayvalı said in a tweet on Sunday that Dizdar was a “loser, a slave of the West,” adding that “She can barely read the paper she’s holding, she has an inferiority complex, and yet she slanders her own country in the West.” 

Dizdar won best actress at the Cannes Film Festival on Saturday for “About Dry Grasses.” In her award speech Dizdar said she played “someone who is fighting for her life, and she has overcome a lot of difficulties.” 

“Under normal circumstances I would have to work hard on this character in order to understand her, but I live in a part of the country which enabled me to fully understand who she is,” she added. “I understand what it is, being a woman in that area.”

Dizdar also said she dedicates her prize “to all the rebellious souls in Turkey waiting to live the good days that they deserve,” in remarks that were interpreted as her endorsement of opposition candidate Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, who lost a runoff election to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Sunday. 

Ayvalı also implied Dizdar was a terrorist, saying she was no different than members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Metin Külünk, a controversial figure and a close confidant of Erdoğan, targeted Pervin Ersoy, wife of the minister of culture and tourism, for showing solidarity with Dizdar. 

“She is like the wife of a Republican People’s Party [CHP] member,” Külünk said of Ersoy. “It is unacceptable for Ersoy to endorse someone who slandered our country in front of the world.”

Ibrahim Uslu, president of the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK), slammed Dizdar on Twitter, telling her to “respect her country.” 

The Human Rights Association (IHD) said they were in solidarity with Dizdar amid a “lynching campaign” carried out by AKP members.

Issuing a statement on social media, the IHD criticized the AKP’s paternalist stance and said they stood with all women who were victims of gender-based violence and discrimination. 

“Those people who have the power bring an end to femicide and gender-based violence but have not done so are trying to cover up their incompetence [by targeting Dizdar],” they said. “Merve Dizdar was urged to stay silent by government officials and conservative actors. She was told to not be open about problems women encounter in Turkey every day. This silence will only serve to deepen gender-based discrimination.”

Women’s rights platforms also expressed solidarity with Dizdar, greeting the young actress with flowers in Istanbul. 

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