Turkish men don mini skirts to campaign for women's rights 2 Favorite 



Feb 21 2015


Istanbul, Istanbul Turkey

How did men in miniskirts become a protest meme on social media?

Turkish men aren't known for wearing skirts. But hundreds turned out in large numbers in Istanbul to protest about violence against women in Turkey on 21 February. They joined others outraged by the murder of 20-year-old Ozgecan Aslan who was abducted on 11 February and killed for apparently trying to prevent a bus driver from raping her. It's thought she tried to fend off her attacker with pepper spray but was stabbed and then hit on the head with a metal bar. Her body was discovered in a riverbed several days later.

Aslan's murder has led to a huge outpouring of anger, not only on the streets but also online. More than 6 million people have tweeted her name and thousands have used social media to share their own stories of sexual abuse. Most of those seemed to be women. But it was in neighbouring Azerbaijan, where most people understand Turkish, that men's reaction first seemed to trend.

Azeri men in miniskirts filled up the Twitter & Facebook timelines of people in Azerbaijan using the hashtag #ozgecanicinminietekgiy which roughly translates as "wear a miniskirt for Ozgecan".

The Twitter hashtag started on 20 February. To date, about 1,500 people have used it, with roughly equal take up by men and women online (51% and 49% respectively.) Their rallying cry on Facebook states: "If a miniskirt is responsible for everything, if [wearing] a miniskirt means immorality and unchastity, if a woman who wears a miniskirt is sending an invitation about what will happen to her, then we are also sending an invitation!"

However not everyone is convinced the campaign is either necessary or a good idea. "What's to get? What inept action!" said one Azeri tweeter, Javidan Aghayev. He told BBC Trending he thought the campaign was "Düşük," which means stupid in Azeri slang. "Instead of supporting women in a real, practical way, wearing a skirt or a wig is not going to have any positive effect," he says. "In conservative civilizations like Turkey and Azerbaijan, this campaign is not going to help. Maybe in Europe, but not here."

But other men felt the Aslan case was so horrific that it provoked deep reflection. "Very big incidents must take place in order for people to understand that something is wrong in Turkey," says Cenkal Karakaya, a male tweeter in Turkey. "We can't see how deadly decayed buildings are until there is an earthquake. We can't see the need to create safe working conditions for a mine until tragedies like Soma happen. We become aware only after things happen to us".

If the point of this miniskirt campaign was to raise awareness and secure media coverage, then arguably it has worked. Most of the accounts tweeting images of the men in mini skirts were well-known news outlets such as Hurriyet.

The debate over the Aslan case has also been taken up by Azerbaijan's officials, who held a parliamentary debate about rape and domestic violence earlier this week, led by MP Elmira Akhundova

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