There has been widespread uproar at what was seen as misogynistic and insulting treatment meted out by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
At a meeting in Ankara last week, hosted by Erdogan for von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel, the European Commission chief was left without a chair. She was visibly taken aback when the two men sat on the only two chairs available, relegating her to an adjacent sofa. Video footage of the incident has elicited thousands of anti-Erdogan comments on social media, where it has been dubbed “SofaGate”.
No woman, let alone the European Commission’s first female president, should be on the receiving end of such thoughtless, shameful and disgraceful behavior.
Turkey’s defense? Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu argued that the seating arrangements had been discussed and agreed with the EU ambassador in Ankara — who, like von der Leyen, is German. Nevertheless, the incident is a symptom of a deeply rooted disrespect for women within the Turkish establishment, regardless of whether the foreign minister’s claims are true.
Frankly, what has shocked me is that anyone was shocked in the first place. With all due respect to feminists and human rights activist in Brussels and across Europe, what did you expect from the Erdogan regime?
The discourtesy toward von der Lyen came less than a month after Erdogan pulled Turkey out of a key European convention aimed at combating violence against women — a convention signed, of all ironies, in Istanbul, and which Turkey was the first to ratify in 2012. If that withdrawal wasn’t a hint of what to expect, what would be?
For his part, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi was livid at the “mistreatment” of von der Leyen, and went so far as to call Erdogan a dictator. “With these dictators, let’s call them what they are…” he said. “I absolutely do not agree with Erdogan’s behavior toward President von der Leyen … I think it was not appropriate behavior and I was very sorry for the humiliation von der Leyen had to suffer”.
Read more: Arab News