Eskişehir Governor’s Office bans women from doing yoga in local park

A group of woman in central Turkey’s Eskişehir province were banned from doing yoga in a city park by the governor’s office amid outrage over local administrations’ bans on an increasing number of concerts and festivals across the country in the last two weeks, Turkish media reported.

A complaint was filed against a group of women who were doing yoga together in the Odunpazarı district park to the Presidential Communications Center (CIMER). Security officers escorted the women out, saying they could not engage in such sporting activities in the park.

In a statement on Twitter the Eskişehir Governor’s Office said the group consisted of 15 women; therefore, they needed a permit from local authorities to “hold a group event.”

Opposition politicians said the ban on women doing yoga as a group was a continuation of bans imposed by local administrations.

More than a dozen events, including concerts and university music festivals, have been canceled by local administrations on various pretexts since mid-May in moves seen by many as attempts by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government to interfere in people’s lifestyles and to try to force its Islamic values on the nation.

Kazım Kurt, the mayor of Odunpazarı from the Republican People’s Party (CHP), said the move to ban women from doing sports in the park was unacceptable. “What could be the reason for prohibiting women from practicing yoga in the park?” he said on Twitter. “Dear citizens, all our parks are yours, and you can do sports in any one of them.”

Zeynep Altıok Akatlı from the CHP tweeted that the conservative AKP government was doing everything in its power to prevent people from living the way they want. “The government is trying to enforce its conservative lifestyle on people who don’t share their beliefs,” Akatlı said.

The recent bans on concerts across Turkey have drawn criticism from musicians, actors, bar associations and human rights activists.

Releasing a written statement on Friday, the İstanbul Bar Association said the cancellation of concerts and festivals was a violation of the constitution and aimed to “take away our right to live, our right to listen to the music we want and to attend the concerts of the artists we want … in short, our right to live freely and decide freely about our lives.”

The Diyarbakır Bar Association also issued a statement on the bans, saying those responsible for the bans based on such differences as language, culture and lifestyle within the context of “national and moral values” would “undoubtedly deepen the social polarization.”

“It’s not possible to accept in a democratic order those who exercise public power and are in a decision-making capacity going beyond the limits of the law to ignore the freedom of expression of the artists and target them due to their … language, clothing or musical style,” they added.

“We don’t accept these outdated restrictions and prohibitions that have become systematic. We won’t allow you to prevent artists, especially female artists, from engaging in their professions as they wish in this country!” the Women’s Platform for Equality (EŞİK) also said in a statement on Friday.

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