Şenal Sarıhan

Şenal Sarıhan (born 17 February 1948) 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 Tanrıkulu. 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]

Şenal Sarıhan
Şenal Sarıhan.jpg
Member of the Grand National Assembly
In office
7 June 2015 – 24 June 2018
ConstituencyAnkara (II) (June 2015, Nov 2015)
Personal details
Born (1948-02-17) 17 February 1948 (age 75)
Known forHuman rights activism
AwardsRobert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award (1997)


Originally a teacher, Sarıhan 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 Işılay Saygın after Saygın defended the practice of virginity testing in an interview.[2]

Sarıhan was an active opponent of several proposals of the Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan 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] She is a member of the Republican People's Party (CHP).[7]

She was removed from the CHP candidate lists for the 2018 Elections.[8]


  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". NBC News. 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. ^ "Şenal SARIHAN". Retrieved 1 Oct 2014.
  8. ^ "CHP'de kadın aday isyanı".