Merve Kavakçı, wearing a blue headscarf pinned beneath her chin, calmly walked into Turkey’s Parliament on May 2, 1999. She was going to be the first covered woman and youngest deputy in Turkish history to take her oath of office. But she never had the chance. Within minutes of her entrance, nearly 100 of her peers began banging their fists on tables and shouting in unison, “Get out,” until she was removed by force.
But the harassment did not stop there for Kavakçı, who would be attacked by the government, media and military for years. Civil rights activist and author Richard Peres, in his recently published book “The Day Turkey Stood Still: Merve Kavakçı’s Walk into the Turkish Parliament,” tells her behind-the-scenes story and what it says about complex issues in Turkish politics and society.
“Merve viewed her story as a clear violation of civil rights: she was elected and not allowed to serve her constituents for no other reason than her religious beliefs. We both thought that this fact would resonate with Western democracies,” Peres told Sunday’s Zaman in an exclusive interview.
In the first book published in the West on this spectacle with reverberations more than 10 years later, Peres stresses what happened to Kavakçı was also a hindrance to true democracy and evidence of the perpetuation of gender inequality in Turkey.
Read the complete interview here