Turkish women activists fighting discrimination in mosques

Women in Mosques Platform, a Turkish group set up in 2017, is campaigning for Muslim women’s equal access to mosques in a country that has traditionally encouraged women to worship at home. On the website of the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (September 10), Sevilay Nur Saraçlar writes that, while there are spaces for women in many mosques, they are usually small, separated, and relegated to the back, or in some cases even to a separate building in the courtyard. The situation has angered some younger women, especially those engaged in professional or academic work. While the group has taken on other issues, such as access for elderly people, their key issue is advancing the rights of women in mosques at a time when their attendance has reportedly been on the rise.

Making use of social media, the women activists are challenging customs in the hope of convincing mosque administrators to make changes. While accepting the practice of women standing behind men during prayer, they are against the full separation and isolation that this leads to, with women’s quarters being “often separated from the men’s area with cloth-covered folding screens,” Saraçlar writes. Besides the issue of spaces for women in mosques, inadequate washroom facilities for ablutions before prayer is another issue raised by the group. With the country’s Religious Affairs Directorate administering a state-provided budget that has been consistently on the rise since 2006, they stress that some of this tax money should be used for addressing the needs of women wanting their rightful place in mosques. Some other groups working on a wider range of issues, such as the Havle Women’s Association, are also supporting the demands of female worshippers.

(Institute for War and Peace Reporting, https://iwpr.net/global-voices/turkey-women-demand- equal-treatment-mosques)