What to expect when you’re expecting, in Turkey?

Apparently not just a baby, nowadays.

Turkey’s conservative government -only to be called “conservative” if your idea of conservation is advocating Islamic lifestyle rather than the conventional definition of guarding and protecting the traditional institutions- has gained speed and aggression on its policies which will ultimately result in social exclusion of women from the urban life.

For more than a decade now, Turkish Prime Minister and his “minions” have been actively carrying on a propaganda to discourage women from work and daily life by making statements concerning various subjects via different channels, including the internet, daily newspapers, magazines, and even the state television (TRT) all with a common purpose; social exclusion of women.

It was only a few months ago when, all of a sudden, the whole country began to discuss WOMEN’s right to abortion, where the government had no hesitation showing its anti-abortion colors, linking it with its religious background. Following the “Gezi Clash”, which was merely about the preservation of a public park in the beginning,  the prime minister and his entourage criticized and used abusive words against the protesting crowds, yet again based on their looks, their religious beliefs and even their drinks(!) instead of the cause they have been standing up for; regardless of its righteousness.

More people from the government, encouraged by their commander(!)’s hateful speech, and the media, mostly associated with the government, have taken up this habit of weekly verbal assaults againts women, againts political oppositions and even againts people from different regilions/orders.

Breda, Netherlands - 2010

Captured on September 4, 2010 shows pregnant women posing for a photographer in Breda, during a protest claiming better circumstances for mothers worldwide.

In June 2013, during a talk-show named Ramazan Sevinci (Ramadan Joy) on TRT (Government TV) a religious scholar named Omer Tugrul Inancer, claimed that it is inappropriate for pregnant women to walk around the streets, and it should be considered insolent and shameful. He also added, that it does not look good (in an aesthetic aspect) and if the pregnant women “need some air” they need to take a joy-ride alongside their husbands; instead of walking outside, by themselves.

So basically, as a woman, you are expected to give birth to AT LEAST three children, have no abortions, no walking around after six months of pregnancy, no showing-off your baby belly. And you are not supposed to drive, your husband will take you to a city-tour only if that becomes really necessary.

Of couse all of these above only applies if you are a decent(!) sunni-muslim woman with a headscarf; otherwise you could just drop dead, since you are ineligible to live in this country in the eyes of the government, that is holy and mighty.

Long story short, expect the worst, when you are expecting in Turkey.

Street Harassment and Sexual Assaults Targeting Foreign Women in Turkey

I have read an article in Washington Post a few months ago, about the “constant” street harassment in Istanbul. Even though the article itself was weak and based on simple observation (therefore biased, and lacking any background and/or research of any sort) it has received a lot of attention, and quite a lot of feedback, including mine.

So I believe the author should consider her mission to be accomplished, as it got people to talk in a kind of matter that people strictly avoid to speak of.

Photograph: Alamy

Well, it got me to think at least. And also got me to write down a few words about the constant harassment and sexual assaults that foreign women have been suffering Turkey. I have also put this online on the Turkish social platform named ek$i sozluk.

So these are my toughts on;

Street Harassment and Sexual Assaults Targeting Foreign Women in Turkey

There are several determinants in a society which prevents men from simply harassing women on the street; most common ones are, in order of effectiveness, conscience (namely empathy), morality (shame) and the last of all, the government authority (or simply, the police forces). Ninety percent of the time, men who assault women are lacking the first two, and therefore there is only one element left to stop them from committing such crime; the government authority.

In a typical, modern society, the government authority and the collective conscience is intimidating enough to prevent men with lacking moral and conscience to assault women. However, in Turkey, things are a little bit different.

Unlike Western societies, the police has passed on its role, being the last resort for women, with the traditional Turkish family. Consequently, the law and its enforcement is much less intimidating whereas “the family” is a lot more threatening.

Women in the street are considered to be the honor, or let’s just be honest, “the Chastity” of their respective families, therefore expected to be treated accordingly. Any assault to women (with words or violence) will be taken as an insult to the family and will be punished(!) directly (and swiftly) by the family itself, instead of reporting the matter to the police or legal authorities in general.

At this point, unless the women who has been assaulted is not a member of the law enforcement, it is obvious that a potential sex offender is being obstructed by the intimidation of the traditional Turkish family that the lady in the street belongs to, rather than the police. It seems to be okay, even though it is not, for Turkish women with a family background in the society; but how about a foreigner?

In the attacker’s perspective; there is no consicence, no morality, no family nearby to be threatened by, and don’t get me started with the law enforcement. So basically, foreign women are the easiest targets for these lowlifes on the street.

Assuming that we have no control over the consicience or morality of someone, at least in the short run, and since we can not ask Turkish families to adopt foreign women (not funny, i know) we must
directly improve the law enforcements’ approach to such incidents.

And the real national shame here is, in the end, rather than the harassment or assault itself, do our male dominant society really willing to change the way things are?