ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
The government is facing a firestorm of criticism over a recently appointed adviser to the prime minister who many say has taken the ruling party’s “family values” rhetoric to an unacceptable extreme. He has three wives.
Ankara’s version of the American television show “Big Love,” which features a polygamous Mormon man juggling multiple households, was brought to Parliament’s attention in May by an opposition deputy who questioned the appointment. The story apparently went largely unnoticed by the media until this week, when it was picked up by daily Radikal and daily Birgün, among other news outlets.
In June, the government confirmed that Ali Yüksel, a man who has married three women in religious ceremonies and considers himself a “Sheikh al-Islam,” a title of superior authority in religious issues, is employed as an adviser to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
“These kinds of religious marriages or other connections with more than one woman are not perceived as a problem in the Justice and Development Party [AKP]. The ruling government legitimates polygamy within its community,” sociologist Yıldız Ecevit told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review on Thursday in remarks critical of the appointment.
Yüksel’s polygamous lifestyle became a topic of public interest in 2004, when he was quoted in an interview for Fehmi Çalmuk’s book “Merak Edilen Kızlar” (Girls who Draw Attention) as saying he had three wives and intended to marry a fourth.
Some interpretations of Islam hold that the religion allows a man to marry up to four wives as long as he can provide for all of them and he treats them equally.
“We know that some AKP deputies are already polygamous. This contradicts efforts to achieve equality between men and women. This practice challenges women’s rights,
” Ecevit said. “They don’t call it adultery. They justify polygamy with Islam.”
In 2004, the AKP considered inserting an article banning adultery in the criminal code being revised for compatibility with the Copenhagen Criteria, but pulled back after receiving criticism from the European Union.
Key AKP officials have expressed a variety of conservative stances about marriage and family, with Erdoğan urging all Turkish couples to have at least three children and State Minister responsibly for women and family affairs Selma Aliye Kavaf expressing vocal disapproval of kissing scenes in Turkish soap operas.
Lawyer Yasemin Öz from the AMARGİ Woman Academy pointed out that although bigamy is banned in Turkey, there is no punitive sanction for those with multiple spouses. She said engaging in polygamy through religious marriages is inappropriate and should not be allowed to become a precedent since those marriages usurp women’s rights.
“There should be sanctions. For instance, there could be arrangements in the law for civil servants bringing disciplinary action in those cases. Or there could be arrangements in the criminal code,” Öz said.
Polygamy was officially criminalized in Turkey in 1926, although it is still practiced in parts of the country.
Mayor Halil Bakırcı of the Black Sea province of Rize, who was elected from the AKP, recently drew flack for suggesting polygamous marriages with Kurdish women from eastern Anatolia as a way to “solve” the Kurdish issue without resorting to military means. He has apologized for the comments, which he said were misconstrued, and the ruling party has launched an investigation.