By Murad Sezer
Anti-government protests have gripped Turkey for almost two weeks, and Istanbul’s famous Taksim Square and adjoining Gezi Park have become a center of the demonstrations, with thousands flocking there to voice their opposition to Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and his ruling AK party.
Ayse Diskaya is one of them. She is a 48-year-old housewife, an active member of the left-wing cultural organisation Halkevleri, a women’s rights activist – and now a Gezi Park protester. Riot police cleared the square early on Wednesday but Ayse says she will return to Gezi Park later in the day.
Ayse lives in an apartment building in Okmeydani, a poor neighborhood of Istanbul, along with her husband and two sons. Until two weeks ago, her daily routine consisted of taking care of the house and working to promote women’s education. Since then it has involved heading down to Gezi Park to protest against the government and helping out with a stand that Halkevleri set up there.
Ayse has taken part in the Gezi Park demonstrations because of her involvement with women’s issues. She is worried about new policies brought in by the Islamist-rooted ruling party, which she thinks will have a negative impact on women. “I’m against the government because their approach to women issues is not modern,” she said.
She is not alone in her concerns: many secularists in Turkey have expressed worry about education reforms, which critics accuse of promoting an Islamic agenda, as well as new abortion laws and legislation to restrict alcohol sales. Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan denies their accusations of authoritarian behaviour.