‘Women should not laugh in public’: This is what Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc declared at a celebration marking the end of Ramadan on Monday, July 28th.

Additionally, he insisted in the importance of women’s chastity and fiercely criticized the ‘moral corruption’ occurring in Turkey. In response to this, thousands of Turkish women have posted pictures of themselves laughing and smiling on Twitter and Instagram. In one week, hundreds of thousands of social media comments were generated with the hashtag #kahkaha, meaning “laugh out loud” in Turkish.

Whereas women in Europe used to take the streets to defend their rights, today’s protests take place on social media networks. Over the past few years, Twitter has become a serious organizational tool and a space for self-expression in this country. As of July 2014, 72% of Turkish internet users own a Twitter account and 94% are on Facebook. Turkey has more than 38 million active social media users (47% of the total population), compared to the global average of 26%*.

VIMN´s research confirmed the high level of social media usage amongst Millennials in the country. The Turkish population is super-connected with 34.5 daily digital conversations vs. the global average of 18.5. 10 is the average age to create his or her first social media account. 80% consider that ‘having internet access is a basic human right’ compared to the global average of 68%.

´The Power of Laughter´– a recent international research study from Comedy Central – discovered that a large portion of users´ online consumption is focused on comedy.  Over the last few months, we have seen an explosion in the amount of online outlets whose purposes are to provide fun and laughter.

The study also found that laughter is a powerful force to be reckoned with. Laughing is beneficial in every aspect of people’s lives – emotional, social and physical. Emotionally, laughing helps create a happier state of mind and increases optimism: 83% of those who laugh frequently have a positive outlook on life, compared with only half (55%) of those who laugh less often. From a social aspect, laughing helps people become more influential, have more friends, become opinion leaders and overall are more outgoing. And last but not least, in terms of physicality, 80% of those who laugh frequently agree ‘their health improves when they laugh more’.

At the risk of displeasing Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister, everybody should have the right to laugh – whatever their gender, in private or in public. This is what women in Turkey have proven this week by using an intelligent, impactful, and positive way of protesting: a smile can go a long way…

*Source:  US Census Bureau, GlobalWebIndex (2014), The Next Normal (2012), Comedy Central Power of Laughter (2013)