Some 100 actresses gathered at Istanbul’s Kenter Theater on April 2 and read out lines from various plays to protest claims that women were not allowed to go on stage for a theater performance last week in the Turkish Parliament.
The event gathered renowned actresses Demet Akbağ, Gülriz Sururi, Tilbe Saran, Zerrin Tekindor, Ece Dizdar, Jülide Kural, Banu Çiçek, and Hande Doğandemir.
“It is very precious that we are here today together; no one of us is accepting the ban on actresses acting in parliament that happened last week. We see the ban on female actors that was applied in our parliament, which is supposed to represent the will of the people of Turkey, as the gravest example of gender discrimination,” Saran, a prominent actress, said during the protest.
“We stand in every area of life as women, and will continue to do so. No men, whatever their political ideas are, will be able to destroy this fact. Our courage on the stage comes from Afife Jale [the first Muslim theater actress in Turkey], from a 100-year-old women’s struggle and presence in parliament. And we are now on this stage to remind this again. We’ll continue our struggle until we engrave this moment on our memory. We’ll always utter our words and be on stage. Today, we’ll read out 100 lines from 100 writers,” Saran said.
Their male counterparts were also present at the theater to support the women’s cause.
Speaking during the event, veteran actor Rutkay Aziz said: “This is a very meaningful gathering; it has affected me very much. We witnessed discrimination and oppression against our women in every area, and now we see this happening in parliament. But our women gained the right to be on stage with the Republic [of Turkey]. And they will not let go of this right that easily. And we will stand by their struggle.”
A theater company on March 28 carried out a performance in memory of the March 18, 1915 Gallipoli victory, a battle that marked a turnaround against the Allied Forces in favor of the Turks during World War I, which eventually led to the birth of the Turkish Republic.
But Parliament Speaker İsmail Kahraman had allegedly ordered the company not to allow female actors on stage for the play, which led to an outcry especially among opposition parties.
“This incident is not acceptable for gender equality, women’s rights, and secularism,” main opposition Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) women’s branch head Fatma Köse said, adding that such an act was “against the constitution.”
Köse demanded people responsible for the incident to be called to account by authorities.
Kahraman, on the other hand, denied claims he wanted women off the stage, saying such speculations resulted from a misunderstanding.
Kahraman on April 2 denied a play even took place, saying that instead a group consisting of 16 women and 13 men, in total 29 people, had only sung a Gallipoli folk song during the event.
“All they were going to do was simply sing a Gallipoli folk song. There were 16 females among those singing. There were a total of 13 men. They were 29 people in the hall in total. And there were nine soldiers [wearing outfits]. It was a wonderful program. It was a program that everyone was pleased about,” he said.
Murat Bakan, a CHP deputy for the Aegean province of İzmir, meanwhile submitted a parliamentary motion for an inquiry into the incident, daily Cumhuriyet reported on March 29.
“Are the allegations that you ruled for ‘women not to take the stage’ true?” Bakan said in the motion directed at Kahraman.