Turkish women find official’s rebuke of female laughter hilarious

Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc has sparked a hilarious outburst with his admonition of women who laugh in public.
(Adem Altan / AFP/Getty Images)
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It’s rare for Turkey’s dour Islamists of the ruling Justice and Development Party to provoke belly laughs, but Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc has the country in stitches over his views on the ideal woman.

“She will not laugh in front of everyone and she will not display her attractiveness,” Arinc said in a speech marking the end of Ramadan on Monday, the Cihan news agency quoted from his appearance in the Bursa region. He lamented female laughter, excessive driving, social media and cellphones as signs of Turkey’s moral regression.

His swipe at women willing to express their amusement in public spurred a laugh-out-loud protest on Tuesday, when hundreds of women across Turkey posted pictures of themselves in open-mouthed fits of mirth.


Arinc’s holiday diatribe against what he sees as immodesty also encouraged political opponents to lampoon the humorless leadership of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is running for president in the Aug. 10 election.

“If there’s one thing we need it’s the hearty laughter of women,” Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, Erdogan’s main rival for the presidency, tweeted amid the flurry of comments and toothy photos posted on Twitter and tagged #kahkaha (laugh) and #direnkahkaha (resist, laugh).

Arinc also lashed out in his speech at women chatting on cellphones in public and at the role television and the Internet have played in turning young Turks into “sex addicts.”

“We have to rediscover the Koran. We have gone backward, morally,” said Arinc.

Erdogan’s government this year banned Twitter and YouTube in a vain attempt to stifle criticism of his inner circle when key ministers were targeted by social media in a corruption expose. Turkish courts eventually ordered restoration of the popular blogging and image-sharing sites.

Arinc’s speech appeared to bolster more liberal Turks’ claims that Erdogan and his Islamist political party have been attempting to impose their own religious values on the country, in defiance of the secular bedrock of modern Turkey as founded by Kemal Ataturk 90 years ago.

The deputy government chief did have an immediate effect on public behavior.

“From now on,” tweeted Pervin Buldan, deputy head of parliament from the Peoples’ Democratic Party, “we will respond to all statements by Arinc by laughing.”


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