August 17, 2010 Special Dispatch No. 3175

Twitter Campaign in Turkey Emerges Against Prime Minister Erdogan's Advisor Who Plans to Take a Fourth Wife

August 17, 2010
Turkey | Special Dispatch No. 3175

A controversy has erupted in Turkey after it became public that Ali Yüksel, an advisor to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has three wives and plans to take a fourth.

Yüksel's first wife has said of her husband that he "treats us equally... He does divide the day by three, but spends the night with a different wife every day. He does not skip or spend two consecutive nights with any of us." Ali Yüksel said he did not consult his first wife when he took his second and third wives. "They would say no if I asked," Yüksel said. "Besides, I do not have to ask permission."[1]

In the ensuing controversy about Yüksel's multiple wives, blogger Emine Aslaner has launched a Twitter-based campaign to denounce Ali Yüksel's polygamy. Her website can be found at, and the campaign's Twitter page can be found at Ms. Aslaner, who wears a headscarf, writes about modern issues and Islam.

Emine Aslaner's Twitter page (

The following are excerpts from English-language reports in the Turkish daily Hurriyet about the Twitter campaign:

"No Harem"

An August 6, 2010 article in Hürriyet stated: "A campaign called 'NoAliYuksel' has been launched on the social networking site Twitter in protest against the prime minister's adviser, who has three wives. Emine Aslaner, who wears a headscarf, started the campaign, which has also drawn support from men. 'NoAliYuksel,' meanwhile, has now made the Twitter trend list.

"'No harem. Women with headscarves are uncomfortable'; 'If you don't send off people like Ali Yüksel, we won't say "yes'"; 'You can't trick us with laws. We look at the life you live, the decisions you take and we don't believe you'; 'European Turks are uncomfortable'; and 'The ruling party, which is advised by a man who represents Islam in Germany with his harem, could only increase its harem' [are messages that] members of the group have posted on the site.

"Yüksel, who was appointed as an adviser to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has been highly criticized for his polygamy, which first emerged after a book interview. Fehmi Çalmuk had interviewed Ali Yüksel for his book 'Girls who Draw Attention,' which was published in 2004. In the interview, Yüksel said he had three wives and his intention was to marry a fourth.

The story apparently went largely unnoticed by the media until this week, when it was picked up by the daily Radikal and the daily Birgün, among other news outlets."[2]

This Affair is Like "Ankara's Version of the American Television Show 'Big Love'"

On August 5, Sevil Küçüksokum wrote in Hürriyett: "The government is facing a firestorm of criticism over a recently appointed adviser to the prime minister who many say has taken the ruling party's 'family values' rhetoric to an unacceptable extreme. He has three wives.

"Ankara's version of the American television show 'Big Love,' which features a polygamous Mormon man juggling multiple households, was brought to Parliament's attention in May by an opposition deputy who questioned the appointment. The story apparently went largely unnoticed by the media until this week, when it was picked up by [the] daily Radikal and [the] daily Birgün, among other news outlets.

"In June, the government confirmed that Ali Yüksel, a man who has married three women in religious ceremonies and considers himself a 'Sheikh al-Islam,' a title of superior authority in religious issues, is employed as an adviser to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

"These kinds of religious marriages or other connections with more than one woman are not perceived as a problem in the Justice and Development Party [AKP]. The ruling government legitimates polygamy within its community,' sociologist Yıldız Ecevit told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review on Thursday in remarks critical of the appointment.

"Yüksel's polygamous lifestyle became a topic of public interest in 2004, when he was quoted in an interview for Fehmi Çalmuk's book 'Merak Edilen Kızlar' (Girls who Draw Attention) as saying he had three wives and intended to marry a fourth.

"Some interpretations of Islam hold that the religion allows a man to marry up to four wives as long as he can provide for all of them and he treats them equally.

"'We know that some AKP deputies are already polygamous. This contradicts efforts to achieve equality between men and women. This practice challenges women's rights,' Ecevit said. 'They don't call it adultery. They justify polygamy with Islam.'

"In 2004, the AKP considered inserting an article banning adultery in the criminal code being revised for compatibility with the Copenhagen Criteria, but pulled back after receiving criticism from the European Union.

"Key AKP officials have expressed a variety of conservative stances about marriage and family, with Erdoğan urging all Turkish couples to have at least three children and State Minister responsible for women and family affairs Selma Aliye Kavaf expressing vocal disapproval of kissing scenes in Turkish soap operas.

"Lawyer Yasemin Öz from the AMARGİ Woman Academy pointed out that although bigamy is banned in Turkey, there is no punitive sanction for those with multiple spouses. She said engaging in polygamy through religious marriages is inappropriate and should not be allowed to become a precedent, since those marriages usurp women's rights.

"'There should be sanctions. For instance, there could be arrangements in the law for civil servants bringing disciplinary action in those cases. Or there could be arrangements in the criminal code,' Öz said.

"Polygamy was officially criminalized in Turkey in 1926, although it is still practiced in parts of the country. Mayor Halil Bakırcı of the Black Sea province of Rize, who was elected from the AKP, recently drew flack for suggesting polygamous marriages with Kurdish women from eastern Anatolia as a way to 'solve' the Kurdish issue without resorting to military means. He has apologized for the comments, which he said were misconstrued, and the ruling party has launched an investigation."[3]


[1] Cumhuriyet, Turkey, August 4, 2010, as cited in Hurriyet Daily News, Turkey, August 4, 2010. Originally reported in the MEMRI Blog,

[2] Hürriyet (Turkey), August 6, 2010.

[3] Hürriyet (Turkey), August 5, 2010.

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