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Gender and Media Under the Fifteen Years of AKP Rule

Hâlâ Gazeteciyiz-Media Report-4 (July-2018)

Gender and Media Under the Fifteen Years of AKP Rule

Pınar Yıldız and N. Ceren Salmanoğlu


In the uninterrupted fifteen years of AKP rule, which was founded in 2001 and won the first election race in 2002, gender politics played a central role in the production of neoliberal-conservative values and in the formation of basic living spaces that the party relying on. In this period, the AKP has regularly kept its policies and discourses on the agenda to control the female body despite the changing agendas. Especially in recent years, legislative regulations and policies which have caused serious violations of rights of women and children are another indication of this central position of gender issues. The AKP government has tried to produce consent for the redefinition and control of the body in the name of family/community integrity by discourses generated on the axis of new conservatism and Islam. The media played an important role in the production of this consent and in the conservative reconstruction of the patriarchal structure. Because the media is always an important tool which preserves social norms, collective beliefs and values, and dominant ideology by regenerating them simultaneously (Tokdoğan, 2013:2). In this report, the role of the media in the formation and the reproduction of gender policies, and the preservation of the dominant discourse have been problematized during the AKP’s fifteen years rule. While the report traces the sexism that gained visibility in the media texts through AKP-era gender politics, the relationship between media and sexism was tried to be addressed as extensive as possible. Hürriyet, Zaman, Sabah, Yeni Şafak and Star which can be defined as mainstream and highly circulated newspapers were scanned in order to figure out how AKP’s gender politics have been framed in the media and which discursive strategies have been used to reproduce these policies that caused a lot of debates during all three terms of the AKP and also faced a fierce opposition from feminist movements.[1] The reason why these newspapers were scanned is the major role that they play in formation of the dominant discourses and the way that they get these discourses into the circulation of the public’s agenda (Köker and Doğanay, 2010). The news in the report were scanned with the discursive categories such as “abortion prohibition”, “three children”, “caesarean section”, and “male-female/mixed student houses”, which the gender politics of the AKP government appeared most clearly and also kept public busy for a long time. In addition, the report gives certain news examples about “heroism” narration and construction of acceptable femininity in the post-coup attempt Turkey, which we see them as representative examples of gender regime. Scanning of the papers has been done for the following week of the AKP leader Erdoğan and the notable party members’ statements which contain the topics such as “abortion ban”, “three children”, “caesarean section”, “male-female/mixed student houses” providing a base for the party to re-establish gender policies. Moreover, this report, prepared also by presenting news examples representing the gender politics of the government, will make visible forms of circulation and reproduction of discourses of the government through the media.

  1. Brief Overview to the AKP’s Gender Policies

The AKP, founded in 2001, underlines the fact that they are the party of the ‘change’ in which they differ from the political islamist parties as regard to women. In the first period of the party rule, which was established immediately after the elections on November 3, 2002, the widespread organization of the women’s branches resulted in significant gains in terms of women’s politics and positive legal regulations were made. However, AKP, which advocated the women’s quota that came to the fore with the struggle of the women’s organizations in the first period, will give up this principle and adopt a contrary rhetoric over time. In this sense, the gender policies and discourses of the AKP have an “ambivalent” structure, especially during the first period of power (Yeğenoğlu ve Coşar, 2014: 159).

The first manifest of the AKP, in which the party describes their position as ‘conservative democrat’, contained very important promises regarding women’s rights.[2] As a newly formed party in the first two periods of power (2002-2007; 2007-2011), the AKP has made important legal arrangements both for the sake of social consensus and for its goal of membership of the European Union (EU). For example, with the regulations in the Turkish Criminal Code of 2005 (TCC), the sexual crimes, previously taken as crimes against the family and community order, were carried under the heading of individual crimes and domestic rape was also included in the criminal offenses. Furthermore, the assumption that children may have “consent” in sexual abuse has been lifted and “honor killings” have been included in the scope of intentional killing (Aşan, 2016:7) In addition to this, for the local governments, whose population is over fifty thousand, opening women’s shelter became compulsory (Kıvanç, 2004). The labour act numbered 4857 (issued in 2003) introduced the principal of equal pay for equal work and also banned discrimination based on gender. It has to be underlined that all the progressive legal legislation of the AKP’s first 5 years was directly related to the struggle of the women’s movement which has started in the mid 80’s and boosted around 90’s that made women’s problems visible in the public sphere. Although these legal regulations create an impression that the AKP has a positive attitude towards women’s rights, they were not met the expectations of comprehensive intervention to the gender inequalities by the women organizations. (Coşar and Yeğenoğlu, 2014). The fact that the new TCC did not take into consideration of Women’s Platform’s demands such as “discrimination based on gender should be included as a criminal offense, preventing granting remission for all sort of honor killings by replacing the notion ‘tradition motive- töre saikiwith “honor motive –namus saiki’, increasing legal abortion period to 12 weeks” is the example of AKP’s embiavalence regarding gender policies.

Between 2007 and 2011, the second term of the AKP government, it can be seen that “family” oriented female perception which is the main component of conservatism, comes to forefront in the party rhetoric. Especially after the negotiation talks with the EU started to slow down in 2007, a discursive transition happened from “egalitarian rhetoric to the rhetoric of importance of woman for perpetuity of the family” (Tokgöz, 2013: 117). In this process, although some international obligations on women’s rights were assumed, AKP made its conservative approach the official state policy by changing Ministry of State for Women Affairs to Ministry of Family Affairs and Social Policy in 2011.[3] This change, in which the woman appears invisible in the family discourse, has been criticized by women and feminist organizations. In this context, it can be said that women’s rights are on the agenda of the party as long as it is only compatible with the family structure in the imagination of the AKP (Yeğenoğlu ve Coşar, 2014: 176). Especially from the third period of the AKP’s rule (2011-2015) on, the conservative approach of the party to gender issues deepened and became the basis of government policies. With the emphasis on “family integrity” and “strong family” being foreground, gender equality gains have been stepped back and discourses and policies which aim direct interventions for the female body have proliferated. For example, on May 1, 2013, the AKP government lifted the status of abortion as a health service to be paid by the state, only after facing strong reactions, abortion was added back to the Health Practice Regulation. However, due to the AKP leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s statements on abortion as a murder following his “call for three children” and policies shaped around anti-caesarean section statements in the same period, women’s access to health services such as abortion and caesarean section have been made difficult. At the same period, conservative policies towards women, family and the body continued with regulations that included incentives such as funds and accommodation support for the university students who make early marriages, as well as practices that make divorce difficult.[4]

It would be incomplete and erroneous approach to put the blame on only AKP’s fifteen years rule to separate AKP’s sexist rhetoric and legal legislations on gender equality from discourses of the state’s intrinsic approach to the issue. In the Kemalist modernization process also woman was seen as the bearer of the family and the nation, “the biological reproducer of the nation” and at the same time “the bearer of the tradition” (Yuval-Danis, 2010: 80). Yeğenoğlu and Coşar propose to define the gender politics of the AKP as “neoliberal-conservative patriarchal” in order to evaluate AKP’s gender politics as a part of the state tradition but in its own originality. According to the authors, the conservatism that the party blends with nationalist and religious-based rhetoric and practices that gained cultural, economic and political dominance in every period of power should be considered together with neoliberal policies (2014:165). In this sense, the AKP continued its conservative rhetoric while taking steps in line with neoliberal policies on women’s rights.

  1. Gender Policies of the AKP and the Media

While assessing how the gender policies of the AKP are mirrored in the media, it is compulsory to talk about the transformation of the media under 15 years of AKP rule. “Changing Media Capital of the AKP in Turkey” report (2017) written for HalaGazeteciyiz by Benan Eres and Hakan Yüksel clearly shows that the transformation of the media is one of the pillars of the AKP hegemony.[5] Eres and Yüksel argue that the mainstream media outlets which had been created by state resources and all sort of information and news content of the mainstream media has been subject to strict control after 2007 (2017). The report underlines that the AKP government’s effort to include the media in government-state integration is largely successful, and as a result, the partisan attitude of the media has risen. It should be noted that historically mainstream media in Turkey has always been in close relationship with the power structures and kept under control by these structures. The distinction of the AKP governments from the past is that the party has created its own media or acquired existed media institutions by using public resources. In this process, while the media ownership structures were being reorganized by the direct intervention of the government, with the authoritarian and punitive government control of the media, media organizations and employees are structured to serve the political aims of government (Kurban and Sözeri, 2012). Thus, when it comes to the mainstream media, it can be said that we are confronted with a media that reproduces the politics and discourses of the government by only covering the news acceptable to the political power and excluding the news inconvenient.

    1. For the Sake of the “Continuity of the Nation”: Discourse of “Three Children” and Discussion of the Abortion Law

The AKP, which promised to follow “family-centred policies” in solving the women issue and to prioritise “strengthening the institution of the family” in the 2007 election manifest, has begun to put forward the “sacred family” oriented women’s perception as the main determinant of gender politics. The demand for three children which appeared first in the speech of then Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan for World Women’s Day in 2008 was the first discussion topic to notice how the nationalist conservative discourse of the party has been shaped by gender norms: “We have to conserve our young population as it is. The main component of an economy is human. These ones want to eradicate Turkish nation. This is exactly what they do. In order to prevent the population to decline, make at least three children”(Hürriyet, March the 7th 2008).[6] In this statement, in which women’s rights became invisible by being seized for the sake of the continuity of the conservative society / family, the demand was for the continuity of a nationalist, conservative, Sunni and heterosexual family tradition which was threatened by “the ones who seek to eradicate the Turkish nation”. The mainstream media presented this call of Erdoğan with the ‘happy family’ photo and conveyed the discourse of ‘three children’ as a norm and necessity.

Yeni Şafak, March 8th 2008

Yeni Şafak newspaper, which presented the aforementioned news on its first page with a picture of a child in the lap of the Erdoğan couple, repeats the call of three children with this visualization representing the family in accordance with the rhetoric of the government. This call is reinforced with the cause and effect relationship between the family and the population. The content of the news piece, which summarizes Erdogan’s statement in its own language, highlights that “three children” is an advice from Erdoğan. The border between the language of the news piece framed by the headline “Make at least three children so that our population wouldn’t decline ” and Erdogan’s call for three children becomes ambiguous, the discourse of the political power through the news title not put in quotes circulates with “objective and impartial” language of the news. Therefore, the demand for three children is linked to the family and the population by presenting it with a normative language, and thus the desire to control the female body of a conservative rhetoric becomes invisible.

Zaman, March 8th 2008

The Zaman newspaper very similarly summarizes the same news in its own language and frames it with the title “Every family should make three children”. The strategy that integrates the language of the news with the discourse of ruling power appears once again ; the title is given without quotes. Erdoğan’s sentinces, which see birth control as a “trap” for the Turkish nation, are directly conveyed in quotes, so that by reporting the demand for three children along with “the trap” for the nation in the cause and effect relationship, the woman is placed in a secondary position responsible for the future of family and the nation.

In the second period (2007-2011) during which the woman was ignored as a subject and placed in the discourses such as “sacred mother” and “sacred family”, one of the AKP regulations that was discussed extensively in the public sphere and caused protests from women organisations was a prohibition on abortion.[7] Then Prime Minister Erdoğan’s statement on the matter reveals directly the conservative policy conducted on woman body: “I see abortion as a murder. You kill a child in a mother’s womb or after delivering the baby. I don’t see any difference” (Hürriyet, May 26 2012).


Yeni Şafak, 26 Mayıs 2012

Erdoğan continues his discourse of “Abortion is a murder” with the statement of “Every abortion is Uludere”: “I am a prime minister who is against the ceasarian section and I know all these are done by the plan. I know these are the steps to prevent our population to grow. I see abortion as a murder and I am calling those circles and media members who are against my statement about this subject, you keep talking about Uludere. What I am saying is: Every abortion is an Uludere” (Hürriyet, May 27th 2012).[8] Erdoğan’s statement was covered in a full page in the mainstream printed media.



Hürriyet, May 27th 2012

Mainstream media, embed Erdoğan’s intervention on woman’s body in a discourse in which Erdoğan was talking for the sake of the “continuity of the nation”. The discourse of political the power, trying to legitimize all interventions to woman’s body such as abortion, three children and caesarean section in a disaster scenario and to control woman’s body for the sake of the continuity of the nation, is reproduced and circulated in the mainstream media.

For example, Hürriyet newspaper placing Erdoğan’s statement “Every abortion is Uludere” at the centre of the news piece presents the opposing views on the abortion ban under the big headline of “The Plan for the Eradication of the Nation”. While Zaman newspaper covers Erdoğan’s speech with 7 subheadings, the headline of the piece reads “Insidious plan: Caesarean”. This headline used without quotation marks signifies the consolidation between the discourse of the newspaper and the political power.

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Zaman, May 27th 2012 Hürriyet, May 27th 2012

A year after this statement Erdoğan brings the topic again to the table during the publicity meeting for the project called “Being a Family” by the Ministry of Family and Social Policy: “In this country, for years they operated birth control mechanisms. So to speak they castrated our people, our citizens… Ceasarian section, abortion are the ways of doing it. They have always done this. By doing these, they almost committed murder, almost cheated us” (Hürriyet, 19th of June).[9] In the same speech, Erdoğan put forward the emphasis of the “family”: “By carrying a conservative democrat identity, our party’s target is the family, strong and steady family. Because, if the family structure of a nation collapses, that nation also collapses, or is a candidate to collapse. However, the stronger the family stronger the nation ” (Hüriyet, 19th of June 2013). Erdoğan’s definition of the family is expanded from the nucleous family to the family as a whole nation. With this family/nation discourse, the notions of acceptable subject, in other terms, acceptable woman and man and finally acceptable citizen are constructed. Then, every action/rhetoric, which is out of the borders of the woman and her body who has been made of responsible for the continuity of the family/nation, is stigmatized as “danger” or “traitor”. In his speech, Erdoğan warned mothers of the “hoax” to decrease the nation’s population: “In this country, for years they betrayed us with birth control and they attempted to eradicate our generations… Here I am particularly appealing to our mothers and women. You are the one who will disrupt the game in the first place, you have to take up a position here. As a Turkish mom and woman you are the one who will disrupt the game” (Star, 18th of June 2013).[10] He brings the discussion on abortion and caesarean section forward by joining the discourses of “danger towards our generations”, “treason” and Turkishness together. Arsan and İşlek underlines the fact that since 2002 on, one of the disastrous scenarios that kept Turkish media busy is the discourse that the Turkish family structure is threatened by “immoral others” and “marginal groups”. According to the authors, the legitimate ground for this sort of discourse is created by reproducing “the fears of the population drop by the degeneration of Turkish family, the country’s regression by a new military coup and the disidentification of the society by uprooting it from religion and tradition via the media” (2016: 158).

The news pieces mentioned above conveying Erdoğan’s statements with the headlines such as “the plan of the eradication of the nation”, “The insidious plan: Caesarean section”, “Abortion is murder” and “Fight against the murder in the womb” without quotation marks reconstructed the security discourse of the political power which is targeting a life for individuals and the society full of anxiety and fear. AKP’s desire to control of the woman’s body and the statements about “ protection of family unity” on every occasion can be understood within this context. what is to be underlined here is that family is positioned as a security issue like population or state. It can be observed that the security strategy has been deepened from the population and society to the family. Violence against woman, one of the most important social problems of today which has increased at noticeable level in recent years, can be assessed within this context. The fact that the priority in the policies to prevent violence against women is given to continuity of family unity under the security discourse is causing a rise in violence. [11] 2017 Data Report of the We Will Stop Femicide Platform displays that the violence against woman increases particularly with attacks to women rights during the state of emergency (We Will Stop Femicide Platform, 2018).[12]

The security discourse came handy for the AKP and its neoliberal political style since it is sufficient enough as a legitimation argument for the conservative stance. On November 10th 2017, AKP Leader and President R. Tayyip Erdoğan, during a certificate ceremony of Organisation of Islamic Cooperation Organisation Women Advisory Council for young female leaders, repeated his three children demand and he framed the problem as a security issue by arguing that the population growth is not only related to being religious, it is also connected to fighting against the terrorism:

…What do our god and the holy prophet say? The order is crystal clear. Get engaged. Married. Procreate. Sensitivity on this very issue is extremely important. Muslims have to procreate. They should not be stepped back from this. I also do care about muslim women’s sensitivity on this issue. The terrorist organization in Turkey is very careful about this issue. They at least have five, ten or fifteen children (Milliyet, November 10th 2017).[13]

Erdoğan’s these statements contain “enemy-friend logic” which feeds strategic fears and insecurity. As Mark Nueocleous puts it, framing any issue as a threat or as an enemy-friend logic makes it a “security issue”(2014:21). When Erdoğan appeals to Muslim women (contrary to the first period of the party rule), he draws the borders of this call with the “terror” discourse. This discourse obviously targets Kurdish population and sees its population growth as a danger. In order words, giving birth of Kurdish women is constructed as a threat. Sabah newspaper chooses “Muslims have to procreate” part from Erdoğan’s speech for its headline and reproduces government’s security focused nationalist-conservative appeal. Furthermore, the newspaper positions Erdoğan as a patriarchal superior talking on behalf of women by placing Erdoğan’s photo at the background of the photo of Muslim women.

Sabah, November 11th 2017

2.2 AKP: As a Protector and Punitive Father Figure

The imagination of the family/nation under the control of the father/state is AKP’s core gender policy notion which is shaped under the nationalist-conservative ideology of the ruling party. In this rhetoric as a father figure, state determines the borders of what is acceptable and what is not. In other words, AKP rule locates “acceptable” woman and man discourses in the family metaphor and continuity of the nation context in order to create a legitimate base for itself. While “the usage of the notion of the family with the discourse of nationalism by the state somehow equalizes the balance of power between the state and the family, in this balance of power, “state as a social institution determines the definition of the family and its role in the society” (Şerifsoy, 2000:172). According to Şerifsoy, family used as a metaphor draws “the borders of the fiction of state and nation” (Şerifsoy, 2000:172). The hierarchy based on gender within the family is also based on a division of labour where the state / father is “powerful enough to make the final decision” (2000:196). The news under the headline of “State looks after” of Hürriyet newspaper reproduces this narrative which contains the idea that state/father is the final decision maker.


Hürriyet, May 31st 2012

Recap Akdağ, then Minister of Health, answers the criticisms about the abortion ban: “They say what if something bad happened to mother? If necessary state looks after the baby” (Hürriyet, May 31st 2012).[14] Akdağ’s statement protested by the women’s organizations found itself a place on Hurriyet’s headline as “State Looks After if its necessary”. The rest of the news piece in subsequent inside pages of the newspaper is given under the headline “State looks after” with a picture of baby free from woman body and sexuality. The framing of the news ignores woman as a subject and her right on her own body. The state/father figure positioned as a final decision maker in the vision of family/nation notions, made his control over woman’s body and power relations invisible for the sake of continuity of nation/ family. Thus, the discourse locating woman in the motherhood and the family, based on the integration of nation and family collaborates with population policies and ends up with controlling woman’s body and sexuality (Şenel, 2017:25).

This control of the government appears once again with the discussion about “male-female mixed student houses”. This time AKP’s (Erdoğan’s) demand was for female students who are “chaste” and “royal to their families” . The statement which started the discussion of “male-female mixed student houses” came from then Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the group meeting of AKP On November 5th, 2013: “… University students, young girls and boys are living together. There are no control mechanisms over this issue. This is against our conservative democrat principles… Somehow, this will be taken under control” (Hürriyet, 5th of November 2013)[15]. This statement can be read as an attempt to reshape the definitions of acceptable femininity and masculinity by the conservative and authoritarian political rule by using paternalistic sensitivities of the society. After this statement of Erdoğan, the debate takes the form of “honour of the youth” vs. “intervention to the private life” in the mainstream media. At the centre of those debates was again woman body with the “advices” about how “female students” should live.

As an effective means of building public opinion, the media tries to produce public consent by building unilateral frameworks of meaning that create a legitimate ground for the rhetoric of political power, as it is clearly seen in the news content. Here in below, two news from Yeni Şafak newspaper about “male-female mixed student houses”, that we examine, reflect the newspaper’s ideological preference openly and articulates itself to sexuality with the conservative discourse. From this point of view, Erdoğan and party executives’ attempts of locating themselves as a father figure find exact media representation opportunity. The newspaper, presents the Erdoğan’s statement “These kids entrust us” at its headline and “draws a father figure as if he was trying to protect his family” (Arsan and İşlek, 2016: 172).


Erdoğan’s discourse, which does not see the citizens as adults and autonomous subjects, shaped the content of the news. In the news piece Erdoğan’s answer to critics is given widely: “We do not intervene anyone’s life style… Whose lifestyle has been interfered by AKP under the 11 years rule?”. However, in the same news piece it cannot be found who, when and how blamed Erdoğan about the issue. The statement that Erdoğan came up with about the male-female mixed student houses was delivered with the sub-heading “is it really nice?” and reached the readers with the rhetoric of the government. In the news piece, there was no place for the critical views from female and male students as the main subjects of the news, thus the dialog with the rest of the members of the society who does not think themselves from “the family” was left outside the frame..

Hürriyet, November 16th 2013

During the above mentioned discussions, Hürriyet newspaper published a news piece on its first page with the title “Horror with a Baby in the Student Residence in Denizli” in the same period. Women gain visibility in the mainstream media mostly either incidents where they cross the limits of acceptable or morals produced throughout the heteronormative gender roles as “good or bad”. The newsworthiness of the incident arises from “its crossing the limits of acceptable, being shocking and sensational and containing violence” (Akınerdem, 2016:13). As Arsan denotes that normally a typical 3rd page homicide news turns into a headline when the murderer is an unmarried pregnant woman who stays at a student residence (2016: 185). This newspaper emphasises the fact that incident occurred in Denizli where the “male-female” mixed student houses becomes the headline of the country. Moreover, the newspaper strengthens the common belief that female students’ private life should be intervened by hinting “the possible danger that may be faced by the female students who does not protect their chastity”.

2.3 Construction of the “Acceptable” Femininty

AKP adopted the discourse of patriarchy and reproduced it with the help of topics such as three children, abortion and caesarean section. By doing this, its policy which is shaped by the neoliberal conservative ideology, constructed woman in her private sphere as a member of a family and a worker under the gender based labour of division in the public space (Tokgöz, 2013). In this sense, AKP’s policies for increasing female labour force participation reproduces the gender based labour of division with the “neoliberal and conservative discourse which supports female labour participation with flexible working forms” (Tokgöz, 2013:111). While the egalitarian regulations were passed, “on the other hand legislations were made which would keep women at home for the sake of fertility and lead women to participate labour force under subordinate, disadvantageous conditions in the name of flexibility” (2013: 119). These regulations which aim to “accommodate domestic life with work life” of women actually target integration of woman to the labour market with part-time jobs and flexible working forms without hindering their “domestic responsibilities” (Ulusoy, 2017). The circular issued in 2010 about increasing female employment and ensuring equality of opportunity for women was changed in a draft circular in November 2017 and regulations in favour of women were made such as “ensuring equal pay for equal work principle, equality of opportunity for women in public institutions and auditing if these aims are met by reporting, watching if gender equality is respected by audits to public and private enterprises and fining if not” (Akgökçe, 2017). There is no doubt that, it is the consequences of conservative ideology of the ruling party which made it harder for women to get a job or made it easy to work under the flexible contracts in the insecure work environment.

This approach, which locates woman “first” in the family, it is constantly reproduced in both policies and discourses of the ruling party. President Erdoğan stated that “woman and man cannot be equalized and that’d be against the nature” at the conference which was held by Woman and Democracy Association (Hürriyet, 24th of November, 2014).[16] This speech which made it crystal clear that AKP does not see the woman issue as a matter of equality, continues with describing “femininity” relying on religious discourses and relating it to “motherhood”. After a year from Erdoğan’s statement, “the chair of motherhood was given to woman from our religion”, Minister of Health Mehmet Müezzinoğlu underlined: “Mothers should not see any other carrier more important than motherhood carrier”(Hürriyet, 2nd of January 2015).[17] In 2016 Erdoğan: “… Woman who denies their motherhood due to her job in fact denies her womanhood. It does not matter how successful woman is at her job, if she denies her motherhood and is unwilling to do her domestic duties, she is deficient and incomplete” (Hürriyet, 5th of June 2016)[18] While these words directly corresponds to AKP’s understanding of acceptable woman/wife/mother, they also “combine the male control on female labour with the male control over woman body by force and consent. The only way to perpetuate this control over woman and unpaid labour force is the heterosexual family blessed by the marriage bond” (Ulusoy, 2017).

The discourses and policies of the government regarding “harmonisation of family and work life” has been reproduced by the news about women working but “firstly” being “good housewife” and “good partner”. It almost overlaps the government’s policies and discourses about the carrier of the woman with Sabah newspaper’s headline “There is a governor in the kitchen”. This very news piece constructs a frame for women to show how it is possible for women to join the labour market in a harmony with gender norms.

Sabah (web,)May the 22nd,2015

In the news piece, just after explaining that Yasemin Özata Çetinkaya, appointed as the new governor of Sinop, was the 3rd woman governor in the history of Turkish Republic, it was emphasized that she was married with three daughters. The following sentence displays the fact that she is primarily a mother and her statement, “Motherhood is harder than the office of governorship” is highlighted. The news continues not with the details of the governor’s work life but with the details how “successful” she is when it comes to kitchen. It was showed that she enjoys cooking and “making mantı with her hands”. The visual preferences of the news depict this content. A big picture of Çetinkaya showing her while cooking in the kitchen is used with a second smaller picture presenting her in a kitchen apron. By occupying the smallest space, the third photo of Çetinkaya taken in her office is left in the very back. Thus, the visual of the news presents a narrative of the priority ordering of expected roles for acceptable women. The piece as a whole depicts how women can participate into the gender regime, in other words, it depicts the acceptable femininity. What is expected from the acceptable woman is that “they should carry on their status as ‘mother’ and ‘wife’ according to their gender roles in the family” even if they are in the working life (Ulusoy, 2017). Depending on this status of women, they are made to be subject of the news in the mainstream media as “self-sacrificing” or “felonious” mothers.

Feyza Akınerdem argues that it is not sufficient to analyse the news with the already existed “reproduction of the gender role” narrative (2016:20). It has to be taken into consideration that normative realm has been constructed with the other norms and the differences that has been produced by these norms (Akınerdem, 2016: 20). As the three examples given below show, in addition to self-sacrificing woman image, the borders of the unacceptable are also drawn with the depictions such as “monster” and “felon” in reporting the incidents that women are perpetrators. For example, during a religious holiday in 2013, a woman who left her baby home and went outside the city to visit her family and caused her baby to die because of starvation and dehydration was reported in the media as “monstrous” and “felon” mother. Funca Ş. Cantek (2017) states that, the way in which the incident was reported turned into a lynch towards the woman on the grounds of “sacred motherhood”. Sabah and Star newspapers giving the news on their front pages reports “ this woman who commits adultery and kills her own baby by referring to her feminine sexuality along with turning her to a mysterious sex object with her red pants and blonde hair (Cantek, 2017). As can be seen from Sabah newspaper’s headline “She is a monster not a sister-in-law” when the perpetrator is woman, the media provides a one-sided narrative. Thus, “not only political or ideological leaders speak, but also the language of the news, which construct ‘the reality’”, and finally “anonymous masculine language begin to speak” (Sancar, 2012: 239). Akınerdem indicates that the real matter of these news is an overflowing state of women from the limits of the acceptable in a monstrous way, thus “the examples of the good mother, royal, submissive wife, successful business woman against monster and victim women” are made visible and this way the good examples are promoted (2016: 28).

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Sabah, 23rd of October 2013

Sabah, 16th of June 2012 Star, 23rd of October 2013

While, the discourse of the media which is formed in the heterosexist gender structure depicts “acceptable woman and man” figures it frames the individuals and groups who are excluded by this heterosexist structure as the others who bothers the “acceptable”. Studies conducted on the media representation of the LGBTİ+ individuals draws the attention to the homophobic, discriminative and heterosexist discourses which dominate the news texts. According to data KAOS GL[19] in 2017 more than half of the media contents related to the LGBTİ+ individuals contains human rights violations. The media often ignores the LGBTİ+ individuals; if the media has to cover them, they are presented as subjects of disasters, sensations and crime (Alankuş, 2015; Depeli and Çaylı Rahte; Tar, 2017).

The discriminatory discourse of the media to LGBT + individuals undoubtedly cannot be separated from the gender politics of the AKP government, which is based on the notion of a nationalist and conservative society. The AKP government pledged to secure constitutional guarantees for all diverse sections of the society when it came to power in 2002, even before the 2002 general elections, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the rights and freedoms of homosexuals should be legally protected.[20] However, the AKP government, securing its second term in the 2007 elections, started to take back its commitments rapidly by ignoring the LGBT + individuals and their rights with homophobic and discriminatory statements (Aşan,2016). Especially, in the new TCK mentioned above (Turkish Civil Code, 4721) which came into force in 2005, the phrase of “immorality” brought about the restriction to many rights of women and LGBTI + individuals by seeing those rights as immoral (Aşan, 2016:8).

Parallel to the policies of AKP ignoring LGBTİ+ rights and leading violations of their rights, the media also continued its discriminative and homophobic rhetoric. The discourse of “public security”, that has been overly used by the government, was also the basis for banning gay pride parades in Turkey since 2015. The media presented the news about banning gay pride either as there was no violation of rights or as can be seen from Sabah and Hürriyet, they caused rights violations by reporting it with a homophobic or discriminatory language. Despite the fact that it is a fundamental right to organize meetings and rallies and legal permission is not needed for demonstrations, direct attacks against LGBTI + individuals are adopted in both news texts and these groups are pointed out as criminals.

C:\Users\özgür\Desktop\sabah 1 temmuz 2015.png C:\Users\özgür\Desktop\hürriyet.png

Sabah, 1st of July 2015 Hürriyet, 26th of June 2017

AKP’s discriminative and homophobic policies and discourses towards LGBTI+ community became even cleaerer with the practices during the state of emergency. President Erdoğan reacted to the LGBTI+ quota of one-fifth that Nilüfer Municipality introduced to the elections for district committees when he was giving a speech on November 9th, 2017 during a meeting with heads of districts, Mukhtars:

The main opposition party’s connection to our nation is so lost that they can introduce, just imagine, a LGBTI+ quota for the elections for district commitiees in one of our big cities from which we now have represantatives. Allah Şaşırtmasın (May God show them the right way). Look at this situation! When a party loses its own core values and balances then it s impossible to forsee where it will be dispersed (Hürriyet, November 9th 2017).[21]

Even if the president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan covered many different topic during his speech, Hürriyet newspaper picked particularly the part with the reaction to “homosexual quota” and used the headline as “Allah Şaşırtmasın (May God show them the right way)”. Another newspaper, Yeni Şafak, gave Erdoğan’s speech in a full-page news and used “Allah Şaşırtmasın” as subheading under the text. It can be seen that ignoring LGBTI+ is common for both papers but they are employing different strategies. Hürriyet is the newspaper where the news about LGBTI+ individuals presented as sansational or magazinish. It can be said that Islamist-conservative newspaper, Yeni Şafak takes a “distant” stance for the news about LGBTI+ individuals and it prefers to ignore those individuals as a whole. However, it has to be added that both newspapers produce newspieces in a way which marginilize, alienate the LGBTI+ individuals and legitimize the government’s discourse.

Hürriyet, 10th of November 2017 Yeni Şafak, 10th of November 2017

After Erdoğan characterised LGBTI+ individuals’ existence as immoral, on November 18th, the Governership of Ankara announced indefinite ban on “every activity which is organized by LBGTI NGOs” on the grounds of “social sensitivities”, “the protection of common health and moral” and “ protection of rights and freedom of others”. The ban for Ankara was followed by cancelletaions of planned activities in other cities such as İzmir, Bursa, İstanbul, Kocaeli and Mardin. As Pembe Hayat and KAOS GL NGOs emphasized in their statements against the bans, while the ban makes LGBTI+ NGOs who are struggling for equal citizenship and fighting against the discrimination inoperative and those NGOs and individuals also become target of the ban in the media.[22] Because the abstract concepts such as “social morality” and “public security”, the ban relying on, led to the broad interpretation of the ban, they also created an athmosphere making LGBTI individuals vulnerable against right violations and criminalizating existence of LGBTI individuals. The mainstream media also continues to be a mean for disseminating rights violations with a news language ignoring and legitimising rights violations of LGBT individuals and containing hate speech.

2.4 Narratives of Woman and Construction of Acceptable Motherhood Post Coup Attempt Era in Media

The State of Emergency which was declared right after the coup attempt on July 15th, 2016, basic rights and freedoms have been tightly restricted. Besides, all the oppositions have been suppressed by the government in order to build a monodic discourse on the public sphere. After the coup attempt, the government highlights certain facts such as “national security”, “national integrity” and “continuity of the nation” combining nationalism and militarism. This militaristic discourse founded with gender norms were attached to different rhetorics by the political power “as an important instrument of power that shapes male socialisation processes, regulates their citizenship relations with the state, and locates men into the gender regime of the state” (Sünbüloğulları, 2013: 15). After the coup attempt of the July 15th, this nationalist/militarist discourse came into use with images and symbols of the “heroic male” narrative in the mainstream media. The common visual which established “heroism narratives” in question was the photos of men on the tank.

Sabah (web), 22 July 2016


Hürriyet, 16 July 2016

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Sabah, 16 July 2016

The headline of the news published a day after the coup attempt in Sabah newspaper reads “People rose up in 81 cities”, and the picture of a man on a tank with a Turkish flag was used to symbolise people. The news is a brief summary of hegemonic masculinity which is shaped by nationalist militarist discouse constructed both in the rhetoric of the political power and in the mainstream media. The picture, which was widely as a phallic image in almost all newspapers after the coup attempt, marks the people as “unity of brotherhood” (Najmabadi, 2000: 129). As can be seen from the news below the “masculinity” is created with the notions such as “martyrdom”, “braveness”, “power”, “saga”, “virile”. The militarist language of the news text, reproducing the borders of both hegemonic masculinity in everyday life and acceptable citizenship, is created with gender norms and it also reproduces those gender norms by recirculating them (Öztan, 2013: 82).


Sabah, 16 July 2016


The mainstream media, which reinforces hegemonic gender norms, produces “heroic male” narratives while including “women” to these narratives as wives. While, the tales of the “heroism” of men take the first pages and headlines of the papers, news and narratives regarding women find a secondary place mostly inside pages under issues such as health and magazine or in newspaper supplement.

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Yeni Şafak, 31 July 2016

On Yeni Şafak’s Sunday supplement, the news reporting the women who lost their lives during the coup attempt was titled as “Country is a child for the mothers”. The narrative that the news text used “the women who take their country as their kid” and women “risking their lives” for the country intercept with militarist discourse that conforms with gender norms. Unlike “masculinity” created with concepts such as “street”, “power”, “glory”, “heroic women” are associated with family, child, home, motherland and motherhood. In this sense, it should be kept in mind that motherhood “is not a biological constant but a flexible discourse” and it gains its legitimacy by always moving around, attached to other discourses (Walby, 2000: 39). Another news text which found itself a place on the inner pages, is titled “Mothers looked after the country as their children”is formed with words such as “fearless”, “against the bombs and tanks”, “brave women”, “to leave a better country for their children they carried out the duty with a mother’s sensitivity”. In this way, the news draws the border of the “heroic woman” with “motherhood”.


Yeni Şafak, , 24 July 2016


Yeni Şafak, , 25 July 2016

The emphasis in the narrative of those news was particularly on “the sons and husbands whom were sent off by their moms/wifes”. Regarding the narratives of women who took the streets, the story of Şerife Boz was highlighted with the title “I follow them with the truck”.[23] The news reports the women taking streets by framing them with gender norms by the subtitles and visuals it used. It was interesting that Şerife Boz’s statement “My husband told me not to go out. I followed him with the truck” was taken to the headline. Violation of the man’s orders can only be acceptable under the excuse of “love for the nation”, in this way; the borders of the violation were drawn.

Sabah, 24.07.2016

 Sabah, 19.07.2016

In the news texts, women’s activities have been surrounded with the family portraits and emphasis on their motherhood. In other words, while men are portrayed in the texts as heroes and exercising their power, women’s “heroism” narratives were presented with visuals of close-up family photography. As can be seen by Sabah newspaper with two news pieces examined above, one for a personal story of a man and one for a woman, while female roles as wife/mother are underlined, men are made subjects by placing them in “heroism” discourse. As a result, all of the analysed news texts assume that there is a single kind of “acceptable/good citizen” on the street during and after the coup attempt, and constructs “heroic narratives” with a conservative and nationalist discourse shaped in gender regime.


The AKP government has continued to produce “family” oriented policies and discourses that try to control women’s labour power, body and women’s daily life throughout 15 years of power, even if they have taken positive steps to improve women’s participation in the workforce in the first two periods of their rule. The gender politics of AKP, which has gradually strengthened its control over the media, has been regenerated by the mainstream media attempting to preserve power relations. The women representations in the mainstream media become a medium in which the “ideal woman” is framed. In line with the policies of the AKP, the mainstream media reports women with sexist codes by associating women with home, it also locates the women taking streets during the coup attempt in the news only on the basis of maternity and family, and controls the women’s activities by surrounding them with sexist norms.

What is to be underlined here is; there is a strong correlation between AKP’s interventions of the woman body and the violence against the women. Because discourses on family integration and protection preserve the social structure which produces violence against the women. Undoubtedly, the role of media should be emphasized in the rise of violence against women. Even when the women can be subject of the news through the rights violations such as violence, harassment, rape, so on, the women continue to be exposed to rights violations due to the reporting form of the incidents (Alankuş, 2007:38).

We are aware that many debates we try to analyse in this report about how AKP’s gender policies have been framed in the media is not complete. It is obviously required to come up with more comprehensive reports and struggle against the existence of the media which intervene all the living spheres with a conservative and masculine approach and under the control of a government/political power that attempts to control women’s body for the last 16 years. Certainly, one of the most important tools of this struggle is to produce our utterances and to make our voices heard in all areas of life, primarily about our lives and bodies, with new media circles that individuals excluded and alienated, LGBT individuals, and women will create.


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Pınar Yıldız

She graduated from Radio, Television and Cinema Department of Ankara University Communication Faculty in 2004. She received her master degree from the same university in 2008 with the thesis “Identity in Yeşim Ustaoğlu Cinema”. She received PhD degree in 2016 with her thesis “Images of Remembering and Forgetting”. She worked in Ankara University Communication Faculty between 2009-2017 as a research assistant. Her academic interests are film studies, gender, memory and migration studies. She directed the documentary called Sürgün (Orhan Eskiköy) in 2004 and worked as an assistant director for the movie called Babamın Sesi ( directors: Zeynel Doğan, Orhan Eskiköy) in 2012. She was purged from Ankara University in February 2017 as she signed the peace petition and now she continues her works as an independent researcher.

Ceren Salmanoğlu Erol

She got her first degree from Public Relations and Advertising Department of Ankara University Communication Faculty in 2010. She received her master degree with the thesis “Narrative of Deifference: Representation of Kurdish Woman in Turkish Novels. Her research interests are as such political communication, Kurdish question and gender. Se worked as a research assistant in Ankara University between 2011-2017. Se was purged from her position in Ankara University in Fenruary 2017 as she signed the peace petition “We will not be a party of this crime”. She still continues her PhD studies in Ankara University.

  1. For more info see also, https://serbestsiyasa.com/?p=3127 and https://serbestsiyasa.com/?p=1074
  2. See Also, “AKP Election Manifest” , 2002, https://www.tbmm.gov.tr/eyayin/GAZETELER/WEB/KUTUPHANEDE%20BULUNAN%20DIJITAL%20KAYNAKLAR/KITAPLAR/SIYASI%20PARTI%20YAYINLARI/200304063%20AK%20PARTI%20SECIM%20BEYANNAMESI%202002/200304063%20AK%20PARTI%20SECIM%20BEYANNAMESI%202002%200000_0000.pdf  
  3. In addition to this legislations some of the international obligations have been undertaken. For example, Turkey signed the Istanbul Convention, Action Against Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence. (https://bianet.org/bianet/toplumsal-cinsiyet/187280-istanbul-sozlesmesi-ne-diyor-devlet-ne-yapiyor)
  4. One part of the AKP’s policies on family was rather than promoting marriage, AKP aggravate the procedures of divorce. In 2013 Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Family and Social Policy collobratively organize a Project named “Ask it to the Family Consultant”. By the help of this Project, institutions were planning to “save” 20 thousand marriage. http://www.milliyet.com.tr/devlet-360-dakikada-evlilik/gundem/detay/1794213/default.htm
  5. https://halagazeteciyiz.net/2018/05/10/akp-doneminde-turkiyede-degisen-medya-sermayesi/
  6. http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/erdogan-en-az-uc-cocuk-dogurun-8401981
  7. Undoubtedly, the urge to intervene woman’s everyday life and body is not special to AKP. Kemalist modernization projects aim was create a contemporary family notion which is formed as nuclear family. Thus, they spread the family planning and birth control strategies. This reality became a base for AKP’s “they castrate our nation” discourse which ended up imposing policies against the abortion and caesarean section.
  8. http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/milleti-silme-plani-20636174
  9. http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/gundem/sezeryan-kurtajla-cinayet-islediler-23537027
  10. http://www.star.com.tr/guncel/erdogan-halkimizi-kisirlastirdilar-haber-763638/
  11. Violence against the woman trippled in last 10 years, https://www.evrensel.net/haber/351391/kadina-yonelik siddet-10-yilda-3-kat-artti-2, Erişim Tarihi: 10 Mayıs 2018
  12. According to the report of the We Will Stop Femicide Organization in 2017 in the last year 409 women were killed by the men, 387 children was molested and 332 women has sexually absued. ” http://kadincinayetlerinidurduracagiz.net/veriler/2845/kadin-cinayetlerini-durduracagiz-platformu-2017-veri-raporu
  13. http://www.milliyet.com.tr/erdogan-dan-elen-musk-ile-gorusmesine-ankara-yerelhaber-2395477/
  14. http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/devlet-bakar-20661267
  15. http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/gundem/arinc-ve-akdogan-ogrenci-evleri-icin-ne-demisti-25052340
  16. http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/gundem/cumhurbaskani-erdogan-kadin-ve-adalet-toplantisinda-konustu-27640428
  17. http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/gundem/saglik-bakani-muezzinoglu-annelik-bir-kariyerdir-27882199
  18. http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/erdogan-calisiyorum-diye-annelikten-imtina-eden-kadin-kadinligini-inkar-ediyor-demektir-37291399
  19. KAOS GL is an Ankara based NGO working for LGBTİ+ rights.
  20. http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=11478
  21. http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/cumhurbaskani-erdogan-hak-ettikleri-cezayi-en-40639888
  22. http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=25036
  23. There has been some speculation for Şerife Boz’s photos which were claimed to be taken during the night of 15th of July especially when it was declared that she was a candidate for the parliament. The claims were various and one of them was that those photos were hoax and they were actually taken on July 16th instead of 15th. The families of the martyrs took this situation to court due to the fact that she derived improper personal benefit through the situation. As a matter of fact, it really is ambiguous that without a standard driving licence that she managed to gather everyone in the neighbourhood in the truck and drove them to the city centre. Since these sort of fake news and hoaxes mostly serves the purpose of perpetrators and the AKP itself then this situation was not investigated thoroughly. For details please see: https://www.sozcu.com.tr/2018/gundem/serife-bozun-akpden-adayligi-ortaligi-karistirdi-beni-kiskaniyorlar-2378733/

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