Riada Asimovic Akyol ’07 recently wrote a powerful editorial, “How Islam Can Fight the Patriarchy,” which was published in The New York Times.

Akyol denounced Turkey’s recent bill proposal to absolve individuals who sexually abused underaged girls if they agreed to marry their victims. While the ruling party’s socially conservative agenda has often been met with outrage and protests, she remarked that, “this time something was different.” In other words, this time, public opposition was effective in stopping misogynistic legislation.

Five days after the bill was introduced, the prime minister announced that it was being withdrawn. The protests had been successful, but why? Akyol explained, “Opposition to the government’s bill was widespread, but a large amount of credit must go to open-minded Islamists—in particular, Islamist women.”

about Riada Asimovic Akyol ’07

At Hamilton, Akyol majored in both French and world politics and was a member of French Club, Model EU and Model UN. She earned her M.S. from the University of Buckingham and is currently a Ph.D. candidate at Galatasaray University in Istanbul.

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Akyol identified the Women and Democracy Association, a nongovernmental organization, as a necessary force in changing the government’s position on the amnesty bill, as well as female Islamist opinion writers. As a result, “not only was the bill withdrawn, Parliament also voted to increase sentences for sexual abusers.”

For Akyol, this sequence of events represents a valuable lesson: “One of the most effective ways to address the scourge of statutory rape and child marriage in Turkey—and perhaps the broader Muslim world—may be to use Islamic arguments to show why they are inhumane and ill suited for today’s day and age.”

Her article called for action through interpreting Islam contrary to misogynists’ archaic interpretations. “Islam must be a part of the solution,” she wrote.

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