‘Lady in red’ image from Turkey protest goes viral

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An image of a lady wearing a red dress has gone viral across social media networks as being an iconic symbol of this week’s violent protests in Turkey, bringing up a debate on women’s freedoms in a country led by an Islamist government.

The image of the woman, who appears to be attacked by police aiming a teargas canister at her, has become a leitmotif for female demonstrators.

"That photo encapsulates the essence of this protest," Maths student Esra at Besiktas told Reuters news agency on Tuesday.

In a city where East meets West, the photo of the “lady in red” has sparked a debate involving Turkey’s political history.

Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan branded the protesters on Monday extremists "living arm in arm with terrorism," a description that seems to sit ill with the image of the woman in red.

Erdogan recently designated new abortion laws, which involve a restriction to only having three children. They have been seen by women as an appeal to draw back their rights in the name of tradition and religion.

Social identity has been discussed as one of the themes of the protests, with debates revisiting Turkey’s history and dating back to the era of the first president of Turkey Mustefa Kamal Ataturk.

During his rule, Ataturk had put emphasis on women’s rights to freely work and dress as they wish. Western perspectives were also encouraged to be applied through work and social life without the restrictions of religion. His single party regime lasted without interruption until 1945.

"I respect women who wear the headscarf, that is their right, but I also want my rights to be protected," says Esra to Reuters. "I'm not a leftist or an anti-capitalist. I want to be a business woman and live in a free Turkey."

Nowadays, Erdogan is known to many as the most dominant Turkish leader since Ataturk.

It has been stated that although he has been strongly supported by the working class since 2002, they have also recently joined the protests as an important factor towards empowering women’s rights in Turkey.

Meanwhile, women are now becoming increasingly engaged in the protests.

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