Arts, Culture & Media

Why are Turkish women posting photos of themselves laughing on Twitter?


Hazal Naz Besleyici posted this photo to her Twitter.


Courtesy of Hazal Naz Besleyici

It's not every day that a member of the Turkish ruling Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) has women laughing.

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But a recent comment by Bulent Arinc, deputy prime minister for the party has done exactly that.

In a speech to mark the end of Islamic holy month of Ramadan, Arinc said that "[women] should not laugh loudly in front of all the world and should preserve her decency at all times."

This was part of a much longer speech in which he denounced the excessive use of cars and even mobile phones.

"Women spend hours on the phone to swap recipes," he said.

But almost from the moment the comments left Arinc's mouth, women and men across the country began criticizing his comments.

Many women have posted pictures of themselves laughing or smiling in public.

Reporter Dalia Mortada in Istanbul believes this is part of a bigger sentiment coming from Arinc about a lack of morality in Turkey.

She thinks that the line about women laughing sparked such an outrage because "it was such a basic thing to point out when there are so many other issues to look at."

Arinc also criticized unfaithful men in his speech.

Mortada says the people who have been criticizing Arinc's comments belong to the group of people who are generally not happy with the conservative AKA party in the first place.

"It's a sizable amount of the population," she says, adding that about 50 percent of the population in Turkey doesn't like the government.

That's why, she says, when politicians point out things as small as laughing, it draws major backlash.

That’s why men and women have been posting photos of themselves laughing on Twitter using hashtags "Resist Laughter" (#direnkahkaha) and "Resist Woman" (#direnkadin).

This is not the first time that people in Turkey have started a sarcastic and humorous campaign on Twitter about social issues.

There was a social media meme from a few months ago where women took photos of men's legs sprawled out on public transportation, not minding other passenger's space.

“Sprawled across these photos was the message 'mind your legs,'” she says.

As for Arinc, he responded to the backlash saying that his statement was taken out of context and that people who are speaking about this to foreign media should ask these outlets why they are not covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Mortada says no matter what the politicians say in Turkey, there is not chance that women there will stop laughing.

"Turkish society and culture definitely lends itself to that," she says.