Sofagate in Turkey underscores gender inequality, von der Leyen says

The Sofagate incident, which saw EU Commission head Ursula von der Leyen without a seat in Ankara, reflects a larger problem with gender equality, the top EU official said.

The incident showed "how far we still have to go before women are treated as equals. Always and Everywhere," the EU Commission chief said on Twitter, as she called for action towards women's rights. 

Von der Leyen was left standing without a chair at a top-level EU meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan earlier this month. The first female president of the European Commission, sat on a beige sofa four metres away after Erdoğan and European Council President Charles Michel settled into the two chairs placed at the centre of the presidential palace in Ankara.

The incident, dubbed Sofagate online has stirred criticism of women's rights in Turkey under Erdoğan and of Michel, who remained seated during the incident.

In a speech to European Parliament on Monday said that she had not been treated in accordance to her status because of her gender ahead of a parliamentary debate on EU-Turkey ties, German broadcaster Deutsche Welle reported.

"I cannot find any justification for (how) I was treated... I have to conclude that it happened because I am a woman,'' she said. "Would this have happened if I had worn a suit, and a tie?''

Ankara has laid the blame on the EU for "unjust accusations" over the incident, with Foreign Minister Mevlüt Cavusoğlu stressing that the protocol at the presidency had "met the demands of the EU side.’’

"The seating arrangement was designed to meet their demands and suggestions," Çavuşoğlu said.