#BBCtrending: The women having a laugh in Turkey
- 29 July 2014
Women across Turkey are posting photos of themselves laughing and smiling on social media. Why?
Women should not laugh in public. So said Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc in a speech on Monday about "moral corruption" in Turkey. "Chastity is so important," he said. "She will not laugh in public."
His comments have prompted a big backlash from women on social media in Turkey, with thousands posting photos of themselves laughing and smiling on Twitter and Instagram. There have been more than 300,000 tweets using the term "kahkaha" - the Turkish word for "laughter" - and on the hashtags "Resist Laughter" (#direnkahkaha) and "Resist Woman" (#direnkadin).
Many suggested the government should focus on issues like rape, domestic violence and the marriage of girls at a young age - rather than women laughing in public.
"It was an extremely outrageous and conservative statement," says writer and political commentator Ece Temelkuran, who has almost one million followers on Twitter. She was among the first to tweet an image of herself smiling - and encouraged other women to do the same. "My whole timeline was full of women laughing - which was extraordinary, and kind of beautiful," she told BBC Trending.
On Instagram it was a similar story. "I'm free and whether I laugh or not is my decision," says 23-year-old Hazal Naz Besleyici who posted a photo of herself with a broad grin in response to the comments. "They should not interfere in our life," she told BBC Trending.
Many men in Turkey have joined in the criticism of the deputy prime minister. "Oh God, let this be just a joke," tweeted Fatih Portakal, a famous Turkish TV presenter. "If women can't laugh in public, then men should not cry in public," he added - a reference to the deputy prime minister's reputed propensity to shed a tear when listening to speeches by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Erdogan himself prompted a similar reaction in Turkey two years ago when he referred to abortion as "murder". Many women posted photos of their stomachs to social media, with the words, "My body, my decision."
The first round of the presidential election is due on 10 August, and among the hundreds of thousands of comments and images about women laughing, was a tweet from one of the contenders challenging Erdogan for the job, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu. Clearly seeing an opportunity to seize the mood, he wrote: "More than anything else, our country needs women to smile and to hear everybody's laughter."
In his speech, the deputy prime minister also called on men not to be "womanisers" and blamed TV shows for encouraging teenagers to become "sex addicts". While the general tide of opinion on social media was damning in response, he did get some support. One man tweeted to say Arinc was simply trying to uphold "moral values" that form "part of Turkish culture".
Reporting by Cordelia Hebblethwaite
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