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While Erdogan slams women for working, HALC’s women work for Hellenic issues on Capitol Hill

Tuesday, June 14, 2016  |   |  Tags: , ,

The contrast couldn’t be starker.

Last week, Turkey’s President Erdogan continued his tradition of mansplaining to women by claiming that women who work are “half persons” and are “denying their femininity” by not having children right away (at least three, per his claims).

Meanwhile, HALC women from across the country were in Capitol Hill working on Hellenic issues at the 32nd Annual Cyprus & Hellenic Leadership Conference.

Erdogan’s comments should infuriate anyone concerned with human rights. Since he took office as prime minister in 2003, the status of women in Turkey has taken a turn for the worse. According to one landmark study, 40% of Turkish women have been the victim of violence, and the situation keeps getting worse:

Nuriye Kadan, who heads Izmir Bar Association’s Women’s Rights and Legal Support Office, says that the last decade has not only seen the increase in the numbers of women subject to violence, but that the violence itself has become more intense and barbaric, “bordering on torture.”

“A woman who came to us for legal protection last year had been stabbed 42 times by her husband,” Kadan told Hurriyet Daily News (HDN) on Nov. 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. “These women are not just killed; they are mutilated and subjected to additional violence before and after the murder. The dose of violence borders on torture. The so-called third page news on women’s murders include attempts to burn the body, cut it into pieces or decapitation.”

It’s a country where a woman may be murdered just for asking for a divorce and where a man who murdered his two previous wives can be on a reality show looking for a third one (“Have you ever seen a murderer with such a smiling face?” the host asked)

It’s a distributing though sadly predictable trend. What else to expect when the nation’s leader says that men and women cannot be equal.

PSEKA group photo

HALC members at the 32nd Annual Cyprus & Hellenic Leadership Conference in Washington June 2016

Meanwhile, while Erdogan was busy continuing his war on women, HALC’s women were busy on Capitol Hill. HALC has engaged a new generation of women, training them to be leaders and getting them involved in the policy process.

If you’ve followed our “I am HALC” series, you’ve learned about members like Georgia Loukas Demeros, a highly successful attorney who mentors other Hellenic women and is active in HALC’s Athena Initiative. Or Sofia Konstantinou, one of the leaders of HALC’s Athena Initiative, who described the importance of engaging Hellenic women on the issues:

A photo from the inaugural Athena Initiative reception organized by Sofia Konstantinou, honoring Ambassador Eleni Kounalakis.

A photo from the inaugural Athena Initiative reception organized by Sofia Konstantinou honoring Ambassador Eleni Kounalakis.

The Athena Initiative is a platform to get more women involved in HALC and keep them civically engaged. I led the launch event for the Athena initiative honoring Ambassador Kounalakis. Getting more women involved in HALC and supporting Greek women overall is a priority for me. From that event, I saw how engaged other women became. I saw how excited they got about something different, and I would like HALC to be the place where we could promote women within the Greek community to higher levels of service and to really provide a network of motivation for excellence. I know one issue for many women is that when you pause your professional life and stop working so that you can raise your kids, you can quickly become disengaged and almost isolated. This initiative can keep us involved and active.

This is what HALC’s Athena Initiative is about, and it’s why every year, more and more Hellenic women get involved and go to Capitol Hill to fight for the issues — for Greece, Cyprus and for holding Turkey’s Erdogan accountable. A stable Turkey is in the best interests of Greece, Cyprus and the region, and that’s why we will continue to highlight both Erdogan’s attacks on women as well as the movement for equal and human rights in Turkey.

Erdogan may think women are “half persons” but here — and with HALC — women are exceptional advocates for change and democracy, full of passion and the ability to call out Turkey’s government for what it is: a shame of a democracy, a disgrace on human rights, and a call to action for all women of the need to keep fighting for equality and justice around the world.

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