Outcry after Turkish woman hit for wearing shorts during Ramadan

ISTANBUL • A Turkish man assaulted a young woman on a bus in Istanbul for wearing shorts during the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, images showed yesterday, sparking a furore among women's rights activists in the country.

University student Asena Melisa Saglam was travelling on the bus when the man seated behind her struck her in the face, images published by Turkish media showed.

She responded by chasing him, but he grabbed her and slung her to the back of the bus before running from the vehicle.

Ms Saglam said that throughout the journey the man had been verbally harassing her by saying she should not be wearing shorts during Ramadan.

The man was detained but following questioning - in which he reportedly said he had been "provoked" - he was set free, causing further outrage.

"The release of the attacker is a threat to all women," the women's rights organisation We Will Stop Femicide Platform wrote on Twitter.

"We will wear whatever we want outside. We will not give up our freedoms."

Following the outcry, an order was given to rearrest the man but it was not immediately clear if he had been detained again.

Ms Saglam, 21, was quoted by the Hurriyet daily as saying: "From the moment I sat down, he was making these remarks, 'You dress like this during Ramadan? You should feel ashamed to be dressed like that'." She said she put on her headphones and ignored him but then he got up, hitting her so the side of her jaw hit the bus window.

According to the Platform, 173 women have been murdered in the first five months of this year, and 328 last year.

Opponents of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accuse the government of presiding over a creeping Islamisation of Turkey, which has undermined the secular principles of the state set up by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk that enshrined women's rights.

But the government insists that while it has given women the right to wear the Islamic headscarf at university, school and even in the army, this has not impeded the freedom of Turkish women to dress as they please.

A man named Abdullah Cakiroglu, who kicked a Turkish woman who was wearing shorts last year in a similar case, is currently on trial and faces nine years in jail if convicted.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 22, 2017, with the headline 'Outcry after Turkish woman hit for wearing shorts during Ramadan'. Print Edition | Subscribe