In almost 9 years in Ankara, as a freelance journalist, I have participated in many different receptions with high protocol, be they meetings in embassies, offices of European Council agencies, the Prime Minister or the Presidency.
As a journalist, as a woman, as an Albanian, I have always felt privileged and highly respected more than anywhere else.
Lately, in a meeting in Ankara, the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, who, being of the same rank, are sitting together in their chairs (which I myself have seen from close, and it is not from gold as trumpeted through the malicious media that want to portray the presidency as a place steeped in super luxury). As the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen sits on a sofa even more comfortable and luxurious than the chairs in question, in front of the Foreign Minister Çavuşoğlu (who is not shown in the photo because it was intentionally cropped).
As for some analysts, from thousands of miles across the sea, this kind of gesture has been interpreted as a “protocol blunder (sofagate)” But from here, from Ankara, the presidential spaces of which I have personally visited dozens of times, I can say with full conviction that, as in any country in the world, the presidential staff does not act alone. Meetings of this level are always held in the presence of the protocol officers of both parties, who agree in advance on the whole “ritual” of the reception, and the host never acts alone and without the approval of the guest party.
Those who know little or nothing about history, let alone the Ottomans, have commented the gesture in question as a “typical act of the time of the sultans where women had their place in the harem.” Smart people, who have at least basic knowledge in history, know very well that in the Ottoman period women were leaders and policy makers, including sultans with Albanian origin (such as Safija from Dukagjini). There are endless books, publications, scientific papers related to the topic, one just have to google the keywords “Women Leaders during the Ottoman Empire”. Such sources can also be found on the issue of the harem, a concept too complex to be understood by Turkophobic illiterates who know only the language of anti-Turkish and anti-Erdogan hatred.
On the one hand, the Commission has asked the spokesman Eric Mamer to comment on the incident, who among other things stressed out that the meetings were carried out under the supervision of the staff of the European Council. This was also confirmed by the Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu. The European Council, on the other hand, did not comment publicly on the incident, but unofficially declared for the Politico.eu that from their point of view the protocol was respected, as Michel deserved the spot on the “golden throne” as he was the highest European official present during that meeting.
Then why does Von der Leyen have to oppose the protocol, named “idiotic” by the Turkophobes? Von der Leyen is not Merkel, who has been photographed many times in that “golden” chair. So this whole hysteria has been created on an issue that has nothing to do with gender but with rank: counterparts sit next while people of a lower rank (male or female) sit next to each other.
To those apparently feminists who feel so heartbroken for a meeting that took place in the middle of Ankara, let them try to first promote gender equality by meritocracy and not by reclaiming positive discrimination on the grounds of gender. If Ms.Von der Leyen were to turn a protocol meeting into a scandal to urge a positive discrimination then she would be fulfilling the prejudices that emphasize the stereotype of hysterical women who want to achieve things with emotion rather than logic.
The pictures accompanying this article clearly show that in similar cases men are sitting at the table and explain that instead of hysterical calls for supposed gender inequality it is better to do some research for similar meetings to get a broader picture of how diplomacy works.
Commenting a diplomatic event “a deliberate misogynistic act” is an open slander, instigated by both Islamophobic and Turkophobic perspectives, composed of a toxic mix of prejudices turned into hysteria to attract attention and gain points from the party that promotes Islamophobia and Turkophobia as a fuel to feed their ideologies.