Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan‘s contempt for women is not surprising; as an Islamist he believes they are inferior to men and their place is at home. But the European Council President Charles Michel came across as lacking in civility and good manners when he left the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen stranded without a chair in the ornate meeting room of the Turkish President in Ankara last week. And images went viral on social media.
Even if Erdogan had provided a chair only for himself and Michel, the latter, civility and good sense demanded, ought not to have plonked himself in the only other chair without first arranging one for his European colleague who, incidentally, has the same status in the EU protocol.
To her credit, Von der Leyen stood her ground, literally, and instead of throwing a tantrum attended the meeting, ironically, to discuss women empowerment and equal rights, sitting on a sofa from across the Turkish foreign minister. Hair-splitting by Michel after he got a lot of stick in the European media for his boorish conduct about his status as president of the EU Council does not condone his churlishness.
Let us remind him what a famous American diplomat had said in a similar situation. “I will always get up for god or woman whatever the occasion,” or words to that effect. It was not misogyny. It was EU divisive politics which happened to take a bad anti-woman turn. And who bothers about Erdogan who in any case has taken Turkey out of the Istanbul Declaration aimed at preventing violence against women?