The politicization of rape as a consequence of western modernity and conservative Islamism: Competing media narratives in Turkey

By Ece Algan
Submitted to Session P4589 (Communicating Politics in the Middle East: Objects, Spaces and Voices in Political Narratives, 2016 Annual Meeting
Turkish Studies;
LCD Projector with Audio Patch or Speakers;
The murder of a 20 year-old student --Ozgecan Aslan-- in an attempted rape in February of 2015 caused an uproar and nationwide protests in Turkey. The political polarization of the country along the lines of secular Kemalists and conservative Islamists ignited the outrage for Ozgecan’s situation further helping the issue of violence against women to occupy a central space in the public sphere for weeks through street protests, social media campaigns and numerous newspapers commentaries. Through a critical discourse analysis of the stark differences in the coverage of Aslan’s rape and murder among liberal and conservative newspapers, this paper will illustrate how the patriarchal discourse of the male dominated, partisan mainstream journalism ended up framing the event as an opportunity to either support or criticize the current conservative and Islamist government. I argue that Aslan’s murder and the issue of increased violence against women in the past decade was used by liberal media commentators and columnists to criticize the conservative family and gender policies of the current government while conservative media outlets, which are pro-government, used Aslan’s murder both as a moral tale about the importance of a devout, humble life devoid of consumerism and similar temptations that encourage lewd behavior, and as an example of the type of constant attacks they receive from the liberal media due to their political and religious convictions. While patriarchy was not seen or addressed as a root problem for rape, Ozgecan Aslan ended up becoming a polarized and tragic symbol of either the consequence of western modernity or conservative Islamism depending on the ideological composition of the media outlet in question.