ISTANBUL Hundreds of Turkish women posted pictures of themselves laughing on Twitter on Wednesday to protest comments by Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc, who had urged women not to laugh in public to "protect moral values".
Melda Onur, a lawmaker from the main opposition party CHP, said on Twitter that Arinc's comments portrayed laughing as a dishonourable act and left women exposed to violence.
Arinc criticised the media on Wednesday for taking his comments out of context and focusing on a small part of his speech, in which he said he advised both men and women to adopt "ethical behaviours".
"Some people criticise me by picking up only a part of an 1 1/2-hour speech. What a baseless and disgusting claim. People who have listened to all of my comments have realised this," Arinc was quoted as saying by Hurriyet newspaper.
"I believe I have made a useful speech," he said. "If I had only said women should not laugh then I have done something irrational. But my speech was about manners and moral rules."
Opponents accuse Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's government of ruling in an increasingly authoritarian manner and meddling in people's private lives, which has long been a source of conflict between the country's secularists and Erdogan's conservative supporters.
Erdogan is running to become the first directly elected president of predominantly Muslim Turkey.
Arinc, one of the co-founders of Erdogan's AK Party, said this week at a celebration of Eid al-Fitr, marking the end of Ramadan: "The woman should have chastity ... She should not laugh in front of everyone and not be inviting in her behaviour. She should protect her honour."
One women's organisation said it would file a criminal complaint against the deputy PM.
His comments, in which he also criticised television soap operas for promoting decadence, drew criticism from opposition presidential candidate Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu as well. He tweeted: "Our country needs our women to laugh and to hear everyone's joyful laughter more than ever."
(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by Larry King)