Feminists, Islamists, and Political Change in Turkey



This paper examines how some feminist and Islamist women in Turkey helped bring about change in political values during the past decade. The traditional political culture upheld statist, corporatist (as opposed to liberal, individualist) norms. The state controlled religion in the name of secularism and limited democracy within the confines of formal equality. Both feminists and Islamists contested traditional political values by insisting on their own definition of their interests, as opposed to those that were state-enforced. The feminists questioned the justice of formal equality as they sought substantive equality; Islamist women challenged the secular concept of equality as they insisted on the justice of male-female complementarity. Both groups engaged in active politics and expanded the parameters of democratic participation as they sought substantive equality beyond formal equality. Yet the patriarchal heritage of Islam defined the limits of Islamist women's search for liberation within the confines of religion.