Although Hughes tried to emphasize common ground between the US and Turkey on issues such as women's rights and the war against terror, the activists at the meeting criticized the American occupation of Iraq and challenged Hughes' assertion that the war had improved the situation of Iraqi women.
The participants at the meeting included human rights activists, feminist leaders, and academics. Many of the women argued that the war was a feminist issue and pointed out that the violence in Iraq was harmful to women's rights there.
Professor Serpil Sancar of the Ankara University Women's Center told Hughes, "We can cooperate on the topics of freedoms and everyday life, but not on the subjects of war, violence, and weapons."
Hidayet Sefkatli Tuksal of the Capital Women's Platform told Hughes that the war in Iraq meant America's positive efforts in the region were amounting to nothing. Feray Salman, a human rights activist, criticized the idea of trying to impose democracy by means of war. Hughes thanked the women for sharing their opinions honestly.
Hughes' visit to Turkey was part of a five-day tour of the Middle East in which she also met with women in Saudi Arabia, who criticized her for assuming that women in the Middle East necessarily want to live like American women.
Hughes also spoke with Turkish political leaders and held an "interfaith dialogue" with leaders of various religious groups at Topkapı Palace in İstanbul. (EA)