Turkey Recalls School Book Teaching Children Women Should Not Work


Turkish education officials are pulling a textbook from grade schools featuring a children’s story in which hyenas dismiss the idea of women being freely able to choose their own careers for fear that they will “not even want to start a family.”

The book, Flower Garden, was recalled this week after parents in an Istanbul school protested that their fourth-graders were being taught that women do not belong in the workplace, as well as unsavory stereotypes about artists.

Hurriyet Daily News reports that the offending short story in the textbook involves animals in the Serengeti discussing the reconstruction of society after a hyena rebellion. The newspaper explains:

A conversation between hyenas in the story discusses giving women “complete freedom” in order to make them “consider themselves equal to males” and harm the community.

“They would want to work the hardest jobs. They would not find time for their families. They would not even want to start a family. Even if they did, they would not want to reproduce because they would not be able to take care of their children,” a hyena says.

The book also implies that all artists are alcoholics, drug addicts, and sex fiends, with one hyena conspiring to use artists to “turn other youngsters into ’empty heads.'”

Flower Garden‘s author, Şükrü Şumnu, a lecturer at Fatih Sultan Mehmet University, described the controversial portions of the book as “exaggerations” common to children’s literature.

The incident follows an even greater controversy in a middle school in Turkey in which a substitute teacher told girls they “deserve to be raped” if they forget or refuse to wear Muslim hijab. The teacher also allegedly scolded students who had attended a remembrance march for murder victim Özgecan Aslan, who was killed in an attempted sexual assault in February.

Aslan, who was 20-years-old when her body was found burned after being reported missing, has become the focal point for many of the nation’s grievances with a string of Islamist thought that has targeted the freedoms of women. On March 8, thousands of Turks marched to observe International Woman’s Day holding signs in Aslan’s honor and demanding the government act in the face of a steep increase in the number of violent attacks against women. Today’s Zaman details the rise in numbers, referencing Turkey’s Human Rights Association:

The Human Rights Association (İHD), in its 2014 human rights abuse report released on March 5, revealed that 335 women died and 789 women were injured in incidents of domestic violence and abuse over the last year in Turkey. A total of 296 women died during the year as a result of domestic violence, rape and sexual assault. Additionally, 585 women were injured after being subjected to a variety of types of violence; 191 women were injured after becoming victims of rape and sexual assault; and 289 were forced into prostitution in 2014.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has made several public statements bringing into question his commitment to strengthening the role of women in Turkish public life. In November, he raised eyebrows in a speech in which he claimed treating women as the equals of men “is against human nature.” He later claimed he was referring to a specific Soviet program in which women were forced to engage in strong manual labor usually reserved for larger men. He has also referred to women’s use of birth control as “treason” against Turkey.