Turkish Parliament’s Islamist speaker bars actresses from parliamentary performance

Turkish Parliament Speaker İsmail Kahraman

İsmail Kahraman, the Islamist speaker of the Turkish Parliament, reportedly told a theatre company that he did not want to see any women on stage during a memorial performance on the anniversary of the Battle of Gallipoli, according to a report by Turkey’s left-wing BirGün newspaper.

“We had been practicing for three days. With one hour to go we were told that women couldn’t be on stage,” the newspaper quoted a Turkish actor from the troupe who did not want to be named as saying. “We were unable to hold back our tears.”

The actor added that the request that women not perform had come from Parliament Speaker Kahraman. The actresses not allowed on stage were made to wait on a staircase in the building during the performance and were later escorted out.

According to the report, one actress left Parliament in tears, and the play ran for only four minutes rather than the expected 12. Another actor who also did not want to be named said the first request from authorities regarding the play had been to cut out choreography in which soldiers leaving their homes hugged their mothers goodbye as they did not want to see men and women embracing on stage, however innocently.

“We had gone down the stairs in our costumes when we came across İsmail Kahraman,” another actor said. “He said: ‘The women actors are not coming out, are they? Well done.’ Then he made a joke to a colleague in a military costume, saying, ‘Which regiment are you in?’ but no one laughed.”

An actress lamented that the troupe had not been given enough time to organise an effective protest. “Thirty minutes was not long enough to decide on a more effective path,” she said.

Kahraman has also described the Turkish military offensive against US-backed Kurdish armed groups in northern Syria’s Afrin area as “jihad.” Kahraman’s use of the Islamic word for “holy war” came amid increasing religious rhetoric from Turkish government circles targeting Kurdish political parties and the larger Kurdish movement in Syria as well as in Turkey.

“Look, we are now in Afrin. We are a big state. Without jihad, there can be no progress, one cannot stand on their own two feet,” Kahraman said, praising the campaign against the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) that the US trained and armed in the war on the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Syria.

Kahraman had sparked a heated debate in 2016 when he told a convention of Muslim scholars that secularism would have no place in a new constitution for the country. (SCF with Ahval)

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