Sunday, March 7, 2010


Dear Aliye Hanım,

I found out today you go by your middle name. Please forgive the error.

In my previous letter I said you had a reasonable-looking face. I hereby retract that statement. There's nothing reasonable about you. You're a nutjob, just like the rest of your colleagues. Not like I didn't know that already, but I now regret having said something nice.

I changed my mind because of today's Hürriyet, and the comments you managed to slip into the middle of that silly interview about your upbringing and taste in fashion.

"Aliye Kavaf, "Ben eşcinselliğin biyolojik bir bozukluk, bir hastalık olduğuna inanıyorum. Tedavi edilmesi gereken bir şey bence" diye konuştu."

Aliye Kavaf said, "I believe homosexuality is a biological disorder, a sickness. I think something should be done to treat it."

What exactly, Aliye Hanım, do you propose should be done to "treat" homosexuality? I would love to hear your opinions about this because you clearly are such an authority on the topic. Does your "treatment plan" involve electricity or religious intervention? Perhaps you've seen A Clockwork Orange. It worked in the movie, maybe you arrange could try it on some folks here?

Then there's this, from a couple weeks back.

Also in today's Hürriyet was a report that 4 in 10 Turkish women have been treated violently by men. So it's good to know you're out there riding the gay-bashing train.

Priorities again. Well done.

This is you.


Nomad said...

It is a sad fact that, like so many things in this country, the superficial appearance of modernity is more important than actual advancement. Despite her attempts at looking very modern, her views are direct from the Victorian age. The moment she speaks and is asked to declare clearly her opinions, all those carefully crafted illusions fall away.

seamus said...

I am astonished that only 4 out of 10 women have been the victims of violence by men. I would have thought nıne out of ten if not ten out of ten.

Nomad said...

Wife abuse in a male-dominated culture is normally under-reported, second only the child abuse. The question normally comes down to: what constitutes abuse and what constitutes the rights that society allows a husband in regards to the treatment of his wife? I mean, technically, if the traditions and culture allow a man to beat his wife to a pulp every night, it is theoretically possible to have 0% "reported" victims of violence by men. Such abuse would merely be considered a part of marriage.

This is why educational programs for women are so important. The government can, then, obtain the true figures and begin setting up help centers for wives in danger, start counseling programs and helping to draft legislation designed to protect the rights of women. All the truly beneficial things that this minister should be doing.

Stranger said...

Not just wives. Also girlfriends, daughters, granddaughters, sisters, nieces...

It's not just the women that need to be educated about it. Law enforcement is not somewhere an abused woman can turn to for help. The girl who was buried alive had gone to the police 3 or 5 times to report her grandfather, and they just sent her home. Presumably, they either thought it was a private domestic issue (domestic abuse was treated like this in the West until rather recently), or they told the girl to go home and stop doing stuff to make her grandfather hit her.

As for shelters, I once tried to track down Mor Çatı online to make a donation (they're the only ones I've heard of here), and I couldn't find any contact info for them. I've read mentions of women's shelters here, but never the names of the organizations. How could a woman with limited resources even begin to help herself?

Nomad said...

From what I have seen- and I admit I could be wrong- law enforcement tends to back the religious conservatives in most things. So, it should be no great surprise that women or gays or transsexuals who suffer abuse should expect no support from officials.
One time years ago, I was standing at a bus station in Kusadasi and I happened to be near a young woman and a policeman. Suddenly a taxi driver screeched to a stop, jumped out, grabbed the woman by the arm and started to slap her her face. I was more than startled. Meanwhile, the policeman simply stared and said nothing. That was a life lesson I won't soon forget.

seamus said...

Why is it here that people either dont know their rights or not want to know?

MİL left FİL 4 or 5 years ago and lived with us while we were abroad. I offered to pay for her to see a lawyer and pleaded with all and sundry that she needed to get legal advice as the house was in her name and she has suffered 40 years of beatings and drunken abuse but no -no lawyer -why pay a lawyer was the response. Anyway they got back together-he promised to drink less. While they were seperated-SIL went round twice a week to cook clean and wash for him and that is after growing up with the most apalling abuse-he even held a gun to her head as he ripped off her jewellery and sold it for drink and that is just one of his numerous antics.

Perhaps the policeman in your story knew the hopelessness of getting ınvolved.

Bulent Murtezaoglu said...

Nomad I think you're right that the about the correlation between the behaviour of law enforcement and religious conservative thought. It is likely that religious conservatism as a movement takes the prevailing set of attitudes and repackages them under its own brand. The cops simply think and act like the vast majority (eg you didn't see anyone giving the cop grief about his inaction either). If the cop didn't think those two were related in some way he probably would have intervened. Did the woman call for help?

Stranger, I have noticed many NGOs here either get funding in mysterious ways or turn their face to the West and chase EU funds (and in the process produce material and work that appeals to EU people rather than the locals). I noticed elsewhere on the net that there's even an NGO of NGOs dedicated to making it easier to get gov't money here (tax breaks and such) and from abroad. I am unsure if this is good, because it probably gets visibility for a particular kind of people and tilts the playing field in favor of folks somewhat disconnected from the public they serve and, more importantly, individual donors.

There are exceptions like foundations for the disabled (eg they tell you how much a wheelchair costs and ask you to donate one if possible), CYDD and Mehmetcik Vakfi but I could't, for example, find out how much it costs to put up a woman in a shelter for a week in the Mor Cati site. And then there are the cemaats of course, with their intricate funding schemes and their willingness to swallow you whole.

As for helping Mor Cati, they do have a bank account you can transfer money to. They also seem to take donations of clothing and furniture. I clicked around some but couldn't find any specifics about the costs, goals, statistics about women helped etc. Judging by the somewhat leftish tone of the rhetoric on that site, I'd say they are probably regarded with suspicion by the cops -- not exactly the kind of relationship one'd want for a foundation like that. A pity really if so, and if this is typical because it doesn't look like a good idea for well-meaning folks to be forced to pick between organized religion and organized left as their options for helping others.

Nomad said...

Perhaps, Seamus, but their job description is to preserve and protect. In fact, I am more of the opinion that men in this country have a gentlemen's agreement. A kind of private club for men only, whether they be policemen or taxi drivers or lawyers or imams, and a patriarchal religion only reinforces this mentality. That perhaps is the greatest tragedy of this particular minister, mentioned in the original article.

Bulent Murtezaoglu said...

Ok, I have clicked around some more. As usual eksi sozluk has some info (including some statistics and gossip), here.

pisipati said...

Why is it that when western folks hear the patriarchal word about a soceity they immediately think ''Dude,it must be OK to beat your wife here''.No,it's not,it is a shameful,dishonourable act,a sign of weakness.In Turkish tradition men must protect women,not beat us.All of my unmarried or married male relatives or friends think this way.As for my observations,none of the women I know around me have domestic violence experiences including my relatives in Afyon's village.They are a happy bunch.Trust me I can understand a woman who is abused by her husband/boyfriend,when I see her.They are ordinary folks,some are university graduates,some are high school graduates,some are just middle school gradutes.Most of them are middle class,but some are poor.I've never heard domestic violence voices in the apartments I lived (so far 3 apt.) and I've never seen a woman beaten by man on the street.Of course there must be a domestic violence problem in this country too.Especially as a woman,if you don't work with a decent salary,or you don't have a strong family that will support you all the way,then it must be really hard to escape from an abusive marriage.That's where Akp Lady is needed.In stead of talking gibberish,she must coordinate government and municipalities in order to create more resources,establish more women shelters and free counselling,help finding jobs for these women.When it comes to domestic violonce in South-eastern community,tribalism and tribal traditions plays a big part.If sociologists of Turkey and the world come together and can find a solution to tribalism in Muslim world,I'm sure we can even build a modern Afghanistan much sooner,it's that complicated.By the way it's a shame in Turkish tradition to be seen drunk by your wife and kids especially kids.The husband that Seamus mentioned deserves a long jail time.

Bulent Murtezaoglu said...

OK here are the gov't figures from 2008 about violence against women. I am linking to the English version of the site. They have it broken down by region with maps etc. too.

Nomad said...

In the USA, my neighbors across the hall from me would have some knock-down drag-out fights. These tended to escalate as time went on. It was amazing how people would acknowledge what was going on but would do nothing about it. Finally it got so bad that the police had to be called. And believe me, in the US, (at least, in this case) they do not fool around with cases of domestic violence. They came three at a time and pounded on his door and said,"Open the door, now!" And he actually told them to go away. And they counted three-not slowly either- and kicked down the door. I nearly jumped to the ceiling and stayed there. The husband was handcuffed and taken away. Within minutes, after the police had examined her for injuries, a women's group called the wife and asked if she needed a place to stay, somebody to talk to. In this type of case, if the police see any evidence of abuse- anything- they have the right to arrest the spouse even without the partner's request. This low level of tolerance for abuse by law enforcement and judges took a long time in coming and for many years, it was purely a matter between husband and wife.

Stranger said...

Lots of comments to catch up on... The boy's been home sick for the last three days, which means no trains of thought longer than a few seconds for me.

Pisipati, your comment about patriarchy struck me. For one thing, people in the West live in a patriarchal society as well-- it's just a matter of degree. As you say, most people believe abusing women is wrong, stupid, dishonorable, weak, whatever else. Yet it still happens. The problem in a country like Turkey is that, even though people believe abusing women is unacceptable, in practice there is not much anyone can do about it, which then implies that it's acceptable, no? If I beat my wife and the cops come over and say, "Hey, keep it down. You're disturbing your neighbors," then there's no reason for me to quit. If I press charges against my husband for beating me and he goes to jail for 8 months or whatever then gets out and kills me, why would I press charges? The girl that got buried alive had the balls go against everything she knew to report her father and grandfather several times but the police just went to her grandfather and said, "Hey, your girl keeps reporting you for beating your women, you should do something about that." Those cops will never be punished and what's worse, they probably still think they were in the right.

The Turkish tradition that men should protect and take care of women is, to me, the flip side of the abuse coin.

The need to protect women implies they can't take care of themselves. Which, in Turkey, is often true. Seamus's MIL is a prime example (what a sick, tragic story). She stayed with that man for 40 years not out of love, but because she had no other choice. Her family (who should have been protecting her, presumably) must have known about the drinking and abuse, but they didn't help. They also didn't help the daughters when their father was hurting them. What choices does the woman have then? No job, no education, children to look after and no family support. There is a similar situation in BE's family. He described his aunt as "stupid" for staying with a man who spent all their money on booze, smacked them around, and cheated on her shamelessly. Did it never occur to anyone that this woman has a 5th grade education and no skills? Even if she could envision another life for herself, how can she possibly have the tools needed to make it so?

I don't know much about custody here, but I would think women in that position must also be afraid of losing their kids (and I'm sure the husbands threaten this).

Women like her suffer even in Western societies where there are laws and institutions to help, but, as pisipati points out, the people who should be doing that here are too busy complaining about TV.

As for seeing abuse on the street, I've never in my life seen as much as I've seen here-- shoving, smacking, hair pulling, kicking, men screaming at women who are cowed or crying... Then there's all that stuff that's supposed to be "in good fun" and everyone is laughing, but which is nothing but dominating behavior from men and boys-- hands around a woman's throat as a joke, grabbing a woman by the sides of her face and forcing her head back and forth, gently pulling her head back by the hair, pinning her arms so she can't get away, playfully smacking her face and ass or groping breasts in a public place so everyone can see... All of these things that young women seem to accept from their boyfriends but it must be making them nervous because what is it telling them? And don't get me started on that that insane jealousy crap men here pull, where so many girls seem to think a man doesn't love her unless he's crazy jealous and forever accusing her or whatever.

Nomad, your gentlemen's club description is spot on.

Bülent, thanks for the great links.

pisipati said...

''As for seeing abuse on the street, I've never in my life seen as much as I've seen here-- shoving, smacking, hair pulling, kicking, men screaming at women who are cowed or crying... Then there's all that stuff that's supposed to be "in good fun" and everyone is laughing, but which is nothing but dominating behavior from men and boys-- hands around a woman's throat as a joke, grabbing a woman by the sides of her face and forcing her head back and forth, gently pulling her head back by the hair, pinning her arms so she can't get away, playfully smacking her face and ass or groping breasts in a public place so everyone can see''
Stranger,I've never seen those kind of behaviours in public(on the street or other type of public places) and I visit all kind of neighbourhoods in Istanbul all the time.I'm not saying this things are OK if it happens behind closed doors,but really where did you witness all of this things?Were alcohol involved in this situations,did you see this abuses in bars or clubs(I've never been to that kind of places,so I don't know,again I'm not saying it's OK)?What kind of girls or women are they?Do they have self respect?Are they coming from some low class families that maybe this kind of behaviours are much more acceptable?Who needs boyfriends like that?None of this kind of behaviours are OK for me.I don't understand,really.I'm not implying anything,I'm just asking.I'm curious

Bulent Murtezaoglu said...

I'm curious too, where is all this publicly visible abuse going on? It is possible that I don't notice it.

It is also likely that foreigners here deal with crowds that Turks who can communicate in English in blogs usually don't. For example when I read that jealousy bit, I mumbled the equivalent of 'what kind of trash is Stranger dealing with?' Likewise about breast-groping and horseplay in public. I'm sure it happens and now that I have forced myself to visualize it I seem to remember seeing it, but it tends to be one of those things that the natives choose to label as marginal and blank out of their memory. I noticed that one of my nieces -- who I assume would deck any boy who tried to pull what Stranger summarized -- tends to call some folks "third page people" meaning people whose lives and bizarre-to-us stories appear on the third page of the dailies. So there's some acknowledgment that such lives exist but are lived by "those others."

Pisipati, I'm not a regular drinker but I have been to (traditional) drinking establishments around Beyoglu/Taksim and European part of the Bosphorus and haven't seen the scenes Stranger describes. All I can say is that the 'meyhane' crowd now includes more women than it used to.

I have no idea nor do I have any real wish to find out what goes on the newer clubs, weirder bars and such. Once again, foreigners most likely go to places even someone like me who has no problem being in drinking establishments would avoid out of habit or conscious choice. There are multiple subcultures here, and I/we cannot claim to know all of them.

Stranger said...

I don't by any means think of all of this as "usual" behavior in Turkey. It's just that ı've seen more in public here than I have at home. Probably because, as Bülent points out, I lack the instinct about what should best be avoided here.

Speaking of the third page (perfect description BTW), did you read today about the guys who got shot by their goat?

Hmmm. So where did I see most of this? Bakırköy, most likely, where I lived for the first 3 years I was here. To be fair, I saw an awful lot of men beating on each other there too. Bakırköy. 'Nuff said, right?

Then I've seen a lot of unpleasantness in Taksim/Beyoğlu at night, and most of it outdoors rather than inside some seedy establishment (and admittedly I've been to some of the seedier ones, heh). It's hard for me to pin down social class or anything like that, to answer your question pisipati. I can make very general distinctions based on outward appearance, but most poor Turks dress better than a lot of rich Americans and I don't pick up nuances of accents or speech beyond the very obvious. The men clearly were all assholes, which is all I can say for sure about them, but I'm guessing not all of them were lower class. Nor were the women, though I'm sure a few were prostitutes or something like it.

Let's see. Somebody upstairs from me gets pretty violent several times a week. There are 5 floors above us so I can't say who it is. I don't know if he hits his wife, but he sure screams at her and throws things. Even if I knew he was hitting her I'm not sure what I would do. I'd be afraid having the cops come would make it worse for her.

For the more playful but also threatening behavior, I see that all the time, particularly with older teenagers and people in their 20s. Groping was more of a Bakırköy thing, but the pretend threats I see everywhere, from people who appear to be all classes.

That jealousy thing is also more from young people who perhaps are playing at being in love more than actually having a relationship, but again, it spans the social classes. I've had lots of female students (otherwise intelligent, self-assured young women) say that jealousy is a way of showing love and I've read crap like this in the newspaper in silly celebrity interviews. I've sat through few dreadful evenings with BE's single friends who've spent the whole time on the phone arguing with a "jealous" girlfriend (so it's not just the boys doing it), and it's all very silly but jealousy can get scary. But perhaps I'm reading it wrong and it's just part of a "script" young people follow that I don't recognize as such so it makes me uncomfortable.

Nomad said...
An overview of the situation

This report features cases of individual women who have suffered violence at the hands of their family. It outlines a pattern of abuse and discrimination which can start from birth when families barter their newborn daughters and force young girls into early marriage. The report reveals a culture of violence that can place women in double jeopardy, both as victims of violence and because they are denied effective access to justice.

A study of domestic violence in Sivas in particular

Domestic violence against women: A field study in Turkey

I don't think it is necessary to base our opinions only on anecdotal evidence. After all,I have not encountered a drug addict on the street but studies have proven they exist and society is being harmed by denying it. I couldn't say,"Oh, none of my friends take drugs and I have never seen anybody taking drugs therefore you must be imagining or exaggerating things."

One of the most important steps is accepting that a social problem actually exists. This is the first but most important step to any problem and rather than making a country weaker by this admission, it tends to be the only path to real progress.