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Women Are Posting Photos Of Their Backs To Protest Turkish President's Sexist Joke

The campaign comes after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan made a joke construed as sexist.

Posted on June 3, 2015, at 10:25 a.m. ET

Turkish women are posting photos of their backs to protest against their president, using the hashtag #SırtımızıDönüyoruz, which means “we’re turning our backs.”

The photos are a response to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan insulting a group of women for turning their backs to him as his campaign bus drove past them on June 1, an English-language Turkish newspaper Hurriyet Daily News reported.

Erdogan told the women, "Of course, my decency does not permit me to tell you what [this move] means," the Hurriyet Daily News reported.

His remarks were widely understood in Turkey as a lewd joke implying that a woman turning around was an invitation to sex, Haldun Solmazturk, a Turkey expert for the London-based think tank Chatham House, told BuzzFeed News. The women were supporters of an opposition party, according to Today's Zaman, another English-language Turkish newspaper.

"His reference was clearly to sexual intercourse ... In the day-to-day talk and the slang [in Turkey], this is the only way it could be understood," Solmazturk said in a phone interview from Ankara. "He's offering this interpretation to insult them and to damage the party they're associated with."

Erdogan also reportedly caused offence by saying that the women would have to be members of parliament to voice political opposition to the president.

Erdogan has provoked criticism from women’s rights activists for a series of comments about women’s place in society. Last November, he said that motherhood should be a woman’s priority, The Guardian reported at the time.

Erdogan greets supporters in Istanbul on May 29.
Murad Sezer / Reuters

Erdogan greets supporters in Istanbul on May 29.

Last year, Turkish women posted laughing or grinning selfies after Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arinç said women should not be seen laughing in public. He later said the comments had been misinterpreted and applied to women and men.

Earlier this year, women also posted selfies in black clothes to protest the murder of a female student, allegedly by a man who killed her when she resisted a rape attempt.

Erdogan faces a crucial parliamentary election on Sunday – his Justice and Development Party, the AKP, needs a two-thirds majority to help achieve his aim of changing Turkey's constitution to give the president more power.

The women who turned their backs to the president's campaign bus earlier this week were from the People's Democratic Party, known as the HDP, a new group that poses a challenge to him.

The HDP has its roots in the country's Kurdish minority but has broadened out to become an increasingly popular voice for the Turkey's left, according to the BBC. It has a high number of female candidates and could scotch Erdogan's hopes of securing a majority, the BBC reported.