Senal Sarihan

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Senal Sarihan
Nationality Turkish
Occupation lawyer
Organization Contemporary Women's Association
Known for human rights activism
Awards Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award (1997)

Senal Sarihan is a Turkish attorney, feminist, and human rights activist. She won the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award in 1997, sharing it with fellow attorney Sezgin Tanrikulu. An award given each year to an individual whose courageous activism is at the heart of the human rights movement and in the spirit of Robert F. Kennedy's vision and legacy.[1]

Originally a teacher, Sarihan was active in the Turkish Teachers Association, joining its executive committee in 1967 and writing pro-union articles for its newspaper. She was sentenced to twenty-two years in prison for these writings in 1971, but was released following a 1974 change of government. After her release, she began work on a law degree, graduating in 1976. She specialized in human rights cases, defending activists and intellectuals. In 1980, she was again imprisoned for "espousing antistate views" in her newspaper writing, this time for thirty-five days.[1]

In 1986, she founded the Contemporary Lawyers Association, becoming its president. Ten years later, she founded the Contemporary Women's Association to protest for women's rights.[1] In 1998, she led calls for the resignation of cabinet minister Isilay Saygin after she defended the practice of virginity testing in an interview.[2]

Sarihan was an active opponent of several proposals of the Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan government, arguing that they were attacks on women's rights. She opposed an anti-adultery law in 2004, stating concern that it would primarily be used against women;[3] In 2007, she led protests against his party, expressing fears that it would seek to institute Sharia law.[4] the plans were later dropped.[5] The following year, she organized a rally of around 40,000 people to protest the lifting of a ban on head scarves in universities.[6]

Beliefs of Senal Sarihan[edit]

Senal Sarihan believed in human rights.She fought for human rights for many years, and she got arrested for about three years as a result. She believed that women can participate in politics.Her appointment with the Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz's Cabinet in June provoked some protests, but the campaign for her removal began in earnest after the publication of an interview she had with an Istanbul newspaper. During this interview, she was also asked if virginity testing is fine with her. She said, "that doesn't bother me, so i will do whatever our people do in terms of culture." She also said, "Educating children is the duty of the father and mother". In 1997, she has received the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award in 1997 and is one of the human rights defenders at Speak Truth To Power ceremony.[7]


  1. ^ a b c "Senal Sarihan". Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights. Retrieved 6 July 2012. 
  2. ^ Stephen Kinzer (8 January 1998). "Turks Clash Over Defense of Virginity Tests". The New York Times. Retrieved 6 July 2012. 
  3. ^ "Turkey still weighing anti-adultery law". MSNBC. 2004. Retrieved 6 July 2012. 
  4. ^ Emma Ross-Thomas (4 July 2007). "Turkish women gain voice in fight to stay secular". Reuters. Retrieved 6 July 2012. 
  5. ^ "Turkey signals U-turn on adultery". BBC News. 14 September 2004. Retrieved 6 July 2012. 
  6. ^ "Head scarf: 40 000 Turks protest". South Africa Times. 2 February 2008. Retrieved 6 July 2012. 
  7. ^ Eddie, Adams,Political Rights. April 24, 2013</>