Uproar erupts as AKP deputy labels strip-search victims ‘dishonorable’ for belated legal action

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Ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) deputy group chairperson Özlem Zengin caused an uproar after describing the victims of strip-searches in Turkey’s prisons and detention centers as “dishonorable” for failing to immediately report such incidents to the authorities.

The AKP deputy denied several reports and the statements of dozens of women who made the headlines in December concerning the Turkish police’s demeaning practice.

Dozens of women, including prominent writers and a politician, revealed in December 2020 that police had strip-searched them while in custody.

Pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) lawmaker Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu brought several reports into the public eye in late 2020.

Some women related their experiences long after the incidents during a Turkish wave of revelations similar to the international #MeToo movement in which women described past sexual harassment.

Zengin accused the women reporting strip-searches of telling “fictive” stories.

“Criminal complaint takes place right after an incident. If you strip-searched a woman, she would immediately report her humiliation; she wouldn’t wait a year [to reveal it]. An honorable woman, a woman with morals, would not wait a year,” she said.

HDP deputy group chairperson Meral Danış Beştaş lashed out at Zengin, saying, “All women are honorable,” during a parliamentary debate.

Beştaş said Hakkari Co-mayor Dilek Hatipoğlu of the HDP had also been subjected to a strip-search upon her detention in the past.

Categorically denying the existence of strip-search in Turkey, Zengin had accused Gergerlioğlu of “terrorizing the parliament” with his reports about the humiliating practice.

Zengin claimed strip-search reports were “made up” by followers of the Gülen movement, a faith-based group the Turkish president’s AKP government accuses of orchestrating a failed coup in 2016.

Lawyer and human rights activist Eren Keskin also criticized the AKP deputy for questioning the accounts of the strip-search victims. Keskin said she had met women who could never reveal in their lifetimes the sexual abuse they had been subjected to and that this was caused by the feudal and patriarchal structure of the society.

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