Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2803

Article | Open Access

Women’s Coalitions beyond the Laicism–Islamism Divide in Turkey: Towards an Inclusive Struggle for Gender Equality?

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Abstract:  In the 2010s in Turkey, the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) authoritarian-populist turn accompanied the institutionalization of political Islam. As laicism was discredited and labeled as an imposed-from-above principle of Western/Kemalist modernity, the notion of equality ceased to inform the state’s gender policies. In response to AKP’s attempts to redefine gender relations through the notions of complementarity and fıtrat (purpose of creation), women across the political spectrum have mobilized for an understanding of gender equality that transcends the laicism–Islamism divide yet maintains secularity as its constitutive principle. Analyzing three recent attempts of women’s coalition-building, this article shows that, first, gender equality activists in the 2010s are renegotiating the border between secularity and piety towards more inclusive understandings of gender equality; and second, that struggles against AKP’s gender politics are fragmented due to different configurations of gender equality and secularity that reflect class and ethnic antagonisms in Turkish society. The article thereby argues for the need to move beyond binary approaches to secularism and religion that have so far dominated the scholarly analysis of women’s activism in both Turkey and the Nordic context.

Keywords:  authoritarian populism; feminism; gender equality struggles; laicism–Islamism divide; piety; secularity; Turkey; women’s coalitions



© Selin Çağatay. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.