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The Maastricht Diplomat

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The Chair Crisis

Last week, Europe and Turkey faced “The Chair Crisis” when the President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, met with the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, and the President of the European Commission, Ursula Von der Leyen. When the trio entered the conference room, only two chairs were placed for the leaders. Erdogan and Michel went ahead to sit on their assigned seats, while Von der Leyen was left standing. To address her discomfort she said “Ahem”. However, no changes were made within the seating arrangement, and whilst the two male leaders were seated at the main chairs, Von der Leyen had to sit on the couch.

The question stands, “Did this happen to Von der Leyen because she is a woman?” According to the Dutch Euro MP Sophie in ‘t Veld the answer to this question was yes. She mentioned that since Turkey lacks equal treatment within its own politics, it was no coincidence that the only person disrespected within that room was also the only woman in the room.

The incident was also linked to Turkey leaving the Istanbul Convention, a treaty that protects women’s rights and fights against domestic violence. The Turkish Government, and especially President Erdogan, makes it clear in their speeches that they do not believe in gender equality. In fact, President Erdogan has stated in a previous speech that gender equality does not exist and the mere idea is against creation. Thus, it would not be surprising if he took a stance against Mrs. Von der Leyen simply because he does not see her as his equal, not because of her achievements and her career, but simply because she is a woman.

Recently, Mrs. Von der Leyen declared that she deeply regretted not doing anything to stand up for herself, that she could not sleep for many nights after the incidents, and that she would never let such an event happen again.

Perhaps, the male leaders should accept the fact that their female counterparts do possess the same amount of power as they do, and that the competence to govern does not come from our genders, but from our intelligence, education, and discipline: something that can be found in both genders.

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