'Sexists' and 'perverts': Insults rock Turkish politics

 Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivers a speech during a ceremony on the occasion of 171st anniversary of foundation of the Turkish National Police at the Presidential Complex in Ankara, on April 7, 2016.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivers a speech during a ceremony on the occasion of 171st anniversary of foundation of the Turkish National Police at the Presidential Complex in Ankara, on April 7, 2016.PHOTO: AFP

ISTANBUL (AFP) - President Recep Tayyip Erdogan slammed an allegedly sexist remark by Turkey's opposition leader as an "affront" to all Turkish women on Friday (April 8), further fuelling a colourful war of words which erupted earlier in the week.

The verbal spat started when the leader of the Republican People's Party (CHP), Kemal Kilicdaroglu, accused Family Minister Sema Ramazanoglu of "laying down in front of someone", to criticise her handling of recent cases of sexual abuse in schools.

The remark prompted outrage with the ruling party accusing Kilicdarogul of sexism and "immorality".

"What will we do with these political perverts?" Erdogan said on Wednesday, in comments carried by local media.

He said every word used by his opposition rival was "unnecessary, like Kilicdaroglu himself."

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu meanwhile accused the opposition chief of being "inhumane" and declared he had unfollowed him from Twitter as a result of his remarks.

As the scandal mushroomed, the family minister Ramazanoglu decided Thursday that enough was enough and pressed charges against Kilicdarogul for "mental anguish and violating her personal rights", reported the pro-government Daily Sabah, adding she sought 50,000 Turkish Lira (S$23,600) in damages.

"I believe these unfortunate statements have bothered all female members of the CHP and also Kilicdaroglu's wife," she said in a statement, reported by Hurriyet daily news.

Kilicdaroglu fired back at the criticism, saying it was in fact Erdogan who was guilty of "perversion", after the president said recently that the way some young people dressed or showed public affection was not in line with his values.

"Is it your job to sit at (the presidential palace) and look at the girls and women?" he said.

Kilicdaroglu has denied his original remark was sexist.

With the debate showing no sign of dying down, Erdogan brought it up again Friday after finishing prayers at a mosque, saying the remark was "an affront to all the women of Turkey".

Erdogan himself has raised eyebrows over his comments about women, urging Turkish women to have at least three children and railing against efforts to promote birth control as "treason".

Critics have accused his government of trying to impose strict Islamic values on Turkey and curtailing women's civil liberties.

In March he marked International Women's Day with the comment: "I know there will be some who will be annoyed, but for me a woman is above all a mother."

Thousands of women protested his remark in Istanbul with chants of "We want equality".

The president is also exceedingly touchy at any hint of an slur against him, with dozens of cases ongoing against journalists and cartoonists accused of insulting him.