Home > Democracy, Women's Rights > Turkey’s influence could emphasize women in new Arab democracies

Turkey’s influence could emphasize women in new Arab democracies

July 20, 2011

Women now comprise 14 percent of Turkey’s parliament and could grow to 25 percent by 2015, which could have some effect on possible Middle East democracies and their inclusion of women.

Turkey appears to view itself as a progressive, modern Islamic nation and a leader for the region. It is very likely that Turkey will assist emerging Middle East democracies in establishing institutions. And Middle East nations may look to Turkey for advice before it invites United States meddling.

If Turkey lends a hand in designing Middle East democratic institutions, its female parliament presence could show nations like Egypt and Tunisia that women need a voice in the legislature. Turkey is a model Egypt and Tunisia wish to emulate, and including women in parliament is one way to appear more progressive, at least at a surface level.

Of course, Turkey didn’t become this way overnight. From the Washington Institute on Near East Policy:

This was a slow process, with the ratio rising from 0.88-1.34 percent in the 1980s, to 2-4 percent in the 1990s.

Since the late 1990s, however, women’s demands have accelerated the rate: In each election, the ration of women legislators has nearly doubled, reaching 14 percent on June 12. If this current trend holds, at least a quarter of all deputies in the 2014-15 legislature will be women.

Turkey, still lukewarm on its European Union aspirations, has moved toward a more Islamic-oriented nation under Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan. Previously, it harbored strong ties with Syria, although those are now waning.

The Arab Spring is about human rights and democracy. Women are part of that mix. Having Turkey as a guiding hand will help show more conservative Muslims who support democracy that women have a place in making important political decisions.

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