Critics of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan are frequently riled by his embrace of a moderate form of Islamist politics, an ideology whose rhetoric and values, they believe, pose a challenge to the staunchly secular founding principles of the Turkish republic. On Monday, Erdogan made remarks that seemed to confirm his opponents' fears.
"We will multiply our descendants. They talk about population planning, birth control. No Muslim family can have such an approach," he said in a speech in Istanbul that was broadcast live on television, according to Reuters. "Nobody can interfere in God's work. The first duty here belongs to mothers."
This is hardly the first time Erdogan, who has four children, has railed against birth control. In 2013, he declared that every Turkish family should have at least three children to boost the country's population. "One or two children mean bankruptcy," he said at the time.
In 2014, he went on to describe the use of contraception as tantamount to "treason." Activists say access to abortions, which are legal in Turkey, has grown more difficult for women under the watch of Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development Party. The Turkish president has likened abortion to "murder."
Erdogan's latest comments have generated a furious reaction from women's rights groups and opposition parties. “You cannot usurp our right to contraception, nor our other rights with your declarations that come out of the Middle Ages,” the Platform to Stop Violence Against Women said in a statement on Twitter. “We will protect our rights.”
"It is not up to the president, or other persons, to discuss decisions that should be made based on scientific criteria by scientists or decisions that relate to women’s bodies,” opposition politician Özgür Özel said.
The latest furor comes in the wake of the formation of the country's new cabinet, which includes only one female minister.
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