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A Kemalist Feminist

Necla Arat

"Westerners say we should give up on Kemalism and become moderate Muslims. This is a shame. Kemalists defend equality and social justice… One never knows when moderate Islam will become radical Islam if it is intertwined with state affairs."

(Necla Arat in an interview with ESI)

Necla Arat (born in 1940), a social science professor and director of the Faculty for Systematic Philosophy, Istanbul University, is the founder of the Centre for Women's Research and Education at Istanbul University. She was active in the campaign for reform of the Civil Code, initiating an effort in 1993 which collected more than 100,000 signatures from across Turkey.

She is also a leading defender of Kemalist feminism. For Arat the main divisions among women's group are ideological in nature, based around the Islamist/secular divide. According to her "there is no dialogue about the headscarf among women's groups. Each one is stubborn and strict on this matter."

In April 2007 Arat claimed that the Justice and Development Party (AKP) had ambitions to install a "religious" regime in Turkey. She supported the Turkish military's warning published on 27 April 2007 arguing that "soldiers can express their opinions as freely as other members of society, just as business people or intellectuals do." Soon afterwards she was invited by the Republican People's Party (CHP) to be a parliamentary candidate in the July 2007 elections.

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