For the last two days, Turkey’s social media has been dominated by discussions about the family life of Hilal Kaplan, a famous pro-government pundit known for her objections to feminism and fear mongering over increasing divorce rates.
The discussions started after a web site broke the news that Kaplan got married for a second time last week.
Kaplan was previously married to Süheyb Öğüt, with whom she led the establishment of Bosphorus Global, a think-tank that has its headquarters in a four-storey Bosporus-side townhouse in Istanbul. The think-tank is also known as the Pelican group, the group that derives its name from a document it released in April 2016 that was named after the “Pelican Brief” political thriller by John Grisham. The document listed points of contention between Erdoğan and Ahmet Davutoğlu, then prime minister, who resigned a month later.
Kaplan and Öğüt divorced nine months ago and Kaplan married Tevfik Emre Sarı, a columnist for the Islamist newspaper Milat.
After the news broke, many started discussing whether the marriage is legal, questioning whether Kaplan complied with the rules set in Turkey’s civil law.
According to Turkish law, a woman has to wait at least 300 days (10 months) to marry again, unless she obtains a medical report indicating that she is not pregnant.
However, the debates on social media took an unexpected turn after a Twitter account belonging to Asuman Karaca, the ex-wife of Kaplan’s new husband, started making some allegations about the newly wedded couple.
Karaca implied in her posts that Kaplan’s relationship with her new husband started when both of them were married. Karaca also shared a message sent to her by Kaplan.
“You are defaming a Muslim woman, who is mother to two children. You have no right to do that. I do not know what you have gone through, but I will seek my legal rights,” Kaplan wrote in her message.
Karaca later called on Kaplan to stop her husband from calling and threatening her.
Some other accounts claimed that Sarı used a pseudonym for his column, as his name was cited in some court documents related to the Gülen group, a religious group Turkey accuses of orchestrating a failed coup attempt in 2016 and labels as FETÖ (Fethullahist Terror Organisation).
Meanwhile, Kaplan shared a statement on her Twitter account.
“We do not have to share our privacy on social media. Because of the earthquake, we married at home in the presence of our families and friends. There is no previous or current FETÖ investigation about my husband @EmreEfser. All other allegations are slander. We will seek all of our rights on legal basis,” Kaplan wrote.
What otherwise would be regarded as a private problem by the general public in Turkey, sparked a heated debate because of Kaplan’s well-known opinions.
Kaplan, a staunch supporter of family values, previously claimed that family values in Turkey were in danger and called on authorities to take measures to decrease divorce rates and to protect the institution of marriage.
She published a book in 2021 titled “The Family Has No Name: Or Why I Am Not A Feminist”, in which she explained the importance of family with citations from Islam’s holy book, the Quran. In her book, Kaplan claimed that a Muslim woman cannot be a feminist and dismissed the criticisms of women’s groups against the government on Turkey’s withdrawal from the Istanbul convention, the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence. The book also included Kaplan’s opinions on the gay rights movement and its impact on family values.
“Did you also get divorced because of Istanbul Convention,” many asked Kaplan ironically on Twitter, recalling the Islamist objections against legal measures to protect women.
As social media posts targeting Kaplan and her new husband piled up, some, like Canan Kaftancıoğlu, the Istanbul provincial head of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), criticised the reactions.
“To those who ask me why I do not write something on Hilal Kaplan: Since nobody’s private life is Hilal Kaplan’s business, Hilal Kaplan’s private life is also not my business and I do not think I have the right to comment. Otherwise, it will cause me to align with Hilal Kaplan’s position, which I would prefer not to,” the politician wrote on Twitter.
However, the majority on Turkish Twitter opposed such comments, saying that the issue is not Kaplan’s private life but her hypocrisy over family values and divorce. Recalling that Kaplan on the one hand advised women to hold on to traditional values and refrain from divorce, while enjoying secular civil rights herself, many users argued that they had every right to question Kaplan’s double standards.