respect

Turkey: The life of a battered woman

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Turkey: The life of a battered woman

Turkey is one of the world’s worst countries to be a woman. Between 2002 and 2009, the murder rate of women skyrocketed by 1,400 percent. An estimated 28,000 women were assaulted in 2013, according to official figures. Of those, more than 214 were murdered, monitors say, normally by husbands or lovers.

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Saygı · Respect

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I grew up with respect– undeniable, unconditional respect. Our humble house was rich in morality, integrity and respect. It was an equal opportunity household and, if I asked a question, I would always receive the truth; even as a child and if the answer was too complex for my understanding, my father would always respond with the answer. There was no fake, sweet-talking, superficial bullshit (with the minor exceptions of both Papa Nöel and the Easter bunny), it was authentic, genuine and real. My parents (and the notable mention of select mentors in high school: Madame Marsden, Donna and Dave Inglehart, Anna Skeele, and Jane Gagnier) surrounded my siblings and I with this concept of raw, no-nonsense truth during my entire upbringing and helped to develop me into the strong, compassionate, respectful person that I am today.

This mentality and dynamic had many positive, humanistic correlating attributes that are ideal traits, yet they have also proposed ironic ignorance in comparison to other worldviews and cultural norms. It may seem quite odd to some, but there have few instances in my life where I have actually felt “gender.”

The first time I felt my gender was when Lonnie Taylor’s dad kicked me off the baseball team for being a girl. Oh yes, how could I forget the day where my aspirations of playing in the MLB as the starting shortstop for the Boston Red Sox were extinguished? I remember that he got my hopes up: he allowed for me to try-out with all of the other guys. I was a fast, energetic, up-stoppable shortstop with such passion and dedication that I would fearlessly dive and hurl myself to stop every ball from ever getting past me. I was a lunatic on the baseball diamond and wasn’t afraid to get down and dirty or muddy and bloody. I was fast as hell (not proven but if our team had raced, I believe that I would have come out on top because I was wicked fast and I know that I wanted it more). At the try-outs for the Raymond majors, I knew that my performance was better than half the guys there. I was one of the boys, confident in my talent and I was nearly certain that my abilities had gotten me a spot on the team. Almost. My heart stopped beating for a moment when I was informed that, “baseball was too competitive for girls” and after 10 years of growing up and rough housing with the boys, I was forced to quit baseball and “try softball.”

This was the first time in my life I had been labelled as being a girl.

 

Since all those years ago when my dreams of going pro were burned, I still never quite learned how to be a girl (Side note: I immediately wrote an editorial  in our class newspaper, the Estey Times,  entitled “Battle of the Sexes” where my fury of gender inequality was first borne in type). The role of being a girl was forced upon me and it made me feel very uncomfortable. I never really had any girl friends (besides the occasional fellow tomboy) because I never had much in common with them. In my nature, I embrace the facts that I am aggressive, competitive, intense, fierce, and that I am an athlete at heart with a strong mind; a warrior. Girls were, and still are, a foreign concept to me. At the moment I was first called a “girl,” I was made to feel like I had to play a role for society that I virtually knew nothing about and I tried so hard to own it. For a kid hitting puberty, this turned out to be a massive identity crisis.

From this, I struggled with insane confusion and depression. I had known who I was, but I suddenly found myself tossed off the plank into the rough seas of identity and being forced to swim to a fabled shore to find my inner “girl” without drowning first. Bitter with a mouth full of salt, this journey was tainted by an idea implemented by a misunderstood conception of social norms. A wave of hostility attacked my psyche and, as I have always been my own hardest critic, I beat myself up and considered myself to be freakishly abnormal. I was not like other girls, but somehow I was supposed a “girl”? I was a tomboy (hell, I even looked like a boy until I was probably 13 or 14). When it was blatantly spelled out to me that I was a girl, my confidence that I had gained through sport and competition was lost and was instead replaced with sharp sentiments of inadequacy, insecurity and insanely negative sense of self-image.

Society and media drove my confusion and intensified my standards and consequently personal disgust and pain. Girls were supposed to be pretty. When I looked in the mirror, I saw a rugged frame with a muscular, boy-figure covered with scratches, bruises, and scars from over-enthusiasm for sport. The person I saw reflected was not a girl. Girls were supposed to be pretty. The mirror showed a kid with no sense of fashion (because Red Sox jerseys didn’t count) with no pink or purple palettes in sight who inhabited a world where dresses were unheard of. I kept hearing myself yell, “girls are supposed to be pretty!” When I realised that I was supposed to be a girl, I lost everything that made me independent, special, and unique, and I instead focused on everything that made me different from others, especially in comparison to other girls in how I looked. The person I saw in the mirror was the ugliest person on the planet.

I was taught that girls were supposed to be pretty, they were supposed to dress nicely and they were supposed to look good so guys would want them. Childish and silly, but I was made to believe that the greatest success for a girl was to get a boyfriend– not to get straight-A’s, not to learn how to pitch a knuckleball or throw a perfect spiral, not be proud of their musical talent on the clarinet, not to out smart their teacher by doing a science fair project on string theory. Priorities were all disoriented and I felt like I needed to change in order to be accepted and liked by others. It became so intense and overwhelming that I sunk into a deep, incomprehensible depression from the judgements of friends, peers, family and, worst of all, myself.

I was lost.

I was quiet and slithered by in the background, undetected. My depression and confusion of identity lingered through the years, but it only made its presence fully known on occasion. Middle school and high school were filled with sheer self-loathing and consequent self-disrespect that reflected upon all of my relationships, worst of all being the one with myself. I drifted onward like this and I only learned to confront the problem as I entered the “real world” when my experience led me to focus more internally towards rediscovering myself.

I learned to cope with things through experience. In focusing on my passions– sports, running, meditation, yoga, reading, writing, dancing, drawing, music– I regained my creativity and my drive for both life and discovery of insight and knowledge. In this way, I learned that loving oneself requires a courage unlike any other; it requires one to believe in and stay loyal to something that no one else can see that keeps us in the world: our own self-worth. I re-conjured the amazing energy that makes me the unique person that I am. I remembered the spirit of the fearless child I was and realized that the fire within me still burns and it is not dictated or seen by society, gender or any form of social construction– my fire is something that burns in my heart that I dictate, that only I can control, that can never burn out.

Finding the source to my own misery was fairly difficult, but resolving it and learning to master the following mantra has been an developing project that requires active attention and much effort:
I do not need to validate my self-worth through others.

Society both directly and indirectly conditions us to focus our attention on the means that make us perceive ourselves as being “inadequate” or “not good enough.” From this, we consequently find ourselves in the position where we believe that we are only worth something if people like us. We fail to remember that it is not about being good enough, or pretty enough, or skinny enough, or popular enough or liked enough– it’s about liking yourself enough to respect your own existence and to value your own life. It’s about experiencing life, learning, growing, expanding your mind and conscious awareness of yourself and of others, maturing and striving to become the best, healthiest, and happiest version of yourself. No one can choose that for you and no one can dictate who you are or who you will become except for yourself.

This realization has been a mountainous trek within itself. Applying this mentality has helped me overcome my personal battles as well as cope with different social contexts. Dealing with western sentiments regarding gender was difficult enough, but the challenge I face at current is dictated by different trends of social norms.

The second time in my life where I felt gender was in Turkey.

After accepting my image and not considering myself as being limited to a gender and to implied traditional roles, my patience was put to the ultimate test when I entered a non-western context. Patriarchial and male-dominated to it’s his-storical core, what a blast (I swear if only the Turkish and Arabic men knew my defiance and unorthodox nature that they would, for sure, stay far away from me). In this culture, differences between men and women are made clear in extroverted society and affect conduct. Women are seen as inferior for their equality would threaten the traditional means of power structure, social etiquette and conduct, as well as all known ways of behavior and life.

In Turkish society, women are paralyzed by sentiments of domestication ordered by the untrustworthy men in power. Yes, in the past 90 years, Turkey has developed greatly, but there are certain progressive ideas that were never functionally adopted. Turkey is a great advocate for the family and traditional blood ties, but the fear of disrupting or modifying this ancient, primordial tradition keeps the call for gender equality dormant.

I am not a Turkish woman, but I can their implied gender role objectively. I know that the concept of family, in terms of traditional heirarchy and social structure, are intensified here: one does not merely have just the influence from one’s parents, but one is in constant connection and contact with them as well as one’s entire extended family (aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, the works). More influence equals more pressure. Individualism and personal identity is not accepted nor encouraged in the same way it is in the west and one’s perspective and personal goals in life are not truly one’s one for the pressure for pleasing others is great. Due to this, girls are drawn back by invisible chains of past traditional roles where they are preoccupied with filling the future roles of becoming wives and mothers.

Yes, in this age girls can go to university and get degrees but “what for?” I had an extensive conversation with a working professional Turkish woman. Single, at thirty years of age, with multiple degrees and extensive experience, she is perceived as “strange” by Turkish society. Women who choose careers as taking priority over family in Turkey are not seen as pioneers but as disruptive troublemakers.
Oh, she isn’t married? Something must be wrong with her.
She isn’t a mother? She must work extra hours without extra pay so the women in the office that are mothers can spend more time with their families.
She was only thirty and she felt as if her life was over for she had failed to due her domestic duties as a woman.

No, I am not a Turkish woman and I have seen the effects of such through different treatment. Foreign women are prized, not because they are seen as “liberated” or more “free” by Turkish men, but because they are seen as being less conservative and easier sexual conquests (as well as a potential ticket out of Turkey). Traditional Turkish men expect all women, disregarding origin, to follow their cultural norms by accepting that their status is lower to theirs and that they must conduct themselves accordingly.

It is rather difficult trying to balance being comfortable with one’s own image along with putting on a stable mask to play the cultural role in a relatively backwards context. I may not see myself as a gender, but I have to be aware of the fact that others most certainly do. Others expect me to be a woman, to be pretty, to be be proper, to act and behave in a certain way. I never learned the role of truly being a girl and I never wanted to (rebel, rebel). It can be absolutely draining pretending to be a confident woman when I am uncertain as to what that really means in this culture. It is exhausting not being seen as the intelligent, energetic, passionate person that I am and instead being objectified as a sex image in public and a potential wife/mother in private.

Some experiences of being a foreign girl abroad:
I have been attacked (1), nearly assaulted (3), followed (5+), harassed (lost count), been called out for walking alone (lost count), been yelled at for wearing a knee-length dress (2), had a middle-aged man yell at me (reason: uncertain), had a taxi driver slap my girl friend for being drunk (1), have had random guys hit on me (seriously, do not check the “other” inbox on Facebook. Current count: 99+), and countless of weirdos trying to get my number (again, the count is unknown).

My rebuttal:
In the act of self-defense, I have beaten the crap out of a Turkish guy that tried to disrespect my body, I have tear-gassed a few, kicked some nuts, got in some good jabs and cuts to to solar plexus, broke at least two noses, protected my self and other women in defense from unnecessary harm as a consequence of sexual harassment and gender discrimination.

I have learned to respect myself and I refuse to let someone else try to over power and degrade that kindled respect that I have in an attempt to lower me into an object of their perceived disrespected and lowered status. I know me and, unfortunately for them, they do not and they have no idea that they messed with the wrong woman for I am not afraid to stand up for myself and what I think is right.

Impartially, it is an amazing experience to tune into such awareness. I have been through hell in regards to my perception of self where I have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly and I would not trade the pain, growth, and adaptive experience for anything. I have been exposed to different contexts and have seen how one can manage different ideas in an attempt to promote the best for one and all’s existence. There is no set standard for the greatest conduct for accumulating the telos for humanity but, by observing the problems cast by all societies and accepting the desired commonalities of equality and respect, a driving force of acceptance and hope of establishing lasting social change to reorganize and prioritize the purpose for being on an individual/personal level to cultural context, and even higher so to an international level that transcends all borders is presented.

#Respect (in the Ali G voice)

Kan Çeker (Blood Pulls)

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Kan Çeker

From Turkish, this literally means “blood pulls.” Like most Turkish phrases and sentiments, this is deep and loaded with meaning. In an emotional context, this phrase illustrates the idea that regardless of where you are in the world, you are what is in your blood and you act accordingly. You act, whether you are overtly aware or not, with your biological make up (symbolized in terms of blood) through both mental and physical outlets such as your personality traits or your medical situations. From this, there is a lot of pride that gushes out of this sentiment. People can immigrate, emigrate, change location, et cetera, but are they suddenly no longer tied to their roots, heritage, and traditions? Maybe not to you or maybe not to your immediate awareness, but Turks never forget the history (past, present, and future) of their blood.

The Turkish personality is seeping with preoccupations with honor– largely in the context of family and a “tribe.” This sense of eros focuses specifically on the family domain and it is unfathomably strong. The tenets of the Ottoman identity are fluid, highly nuanced, and occasionally contradictory. It is customary to maintain, what the Italians call, bella figura or “a good impression. This is a huge preoccupation with image– both in the physical as well as managing the perception in which they are seen. To Turks, an individual identity in just a small pattern of the entire cloth to which they are sown. According to this precept that is shared by various Middle Eastern traditional customs, one application of this is the belief that one is obligated to show hospitality to all (specially those who are foreigners or strangers). I experienced this more so when I visited a small village in south-west Turkey. As a guest, I was fed, sheltered, and protected. This is hospitality at its finest, most pure form. They wanted to be seen as good by going above an beyond to make me feel welcomed. For me (one who has not been exposed to anything to this degree before), I looked upon it as a show. Do not misunderstand me, I was incredibly grateful for the kindness and appreciative towards their efforts but, as one who studies human nature, I could see the line between what was genuinely real and what was a superficial act. They did not go out of their way entirely to make me feel welcome, but to maintain their family’s reputation and honor.

As a society strongly based upon the conceptions and applications of eros-based honor combined with strong religious ties, there are often extremes. As one could see the extreme pole of kindness in which honor was conducted as a result of actions like hospitality and friendliness. The other extreme of preserving a family’s honor can be executed when a member acts in a manner that is perceived as being disgraceful and shameful. The rationale for punishing such offenders of “honor” in Muslim societies must be subjected into wiping out such shame and insult by being killed, generally by family members (frequently by the father, husband, brothers and sometimes with the helping hand of the mother and sisters).

The traditions of honor derive from ancient desert tribes with a prioritized focus on value for the strength of a community comes from the multitude of its people. In this context, women’s role and value was to marry and carry children. Procreation is incredibly valuable for a society, marriage bonds are considered sacred (for both men and women) for it is their combined duty to contribute their offspring to the tribe. In a condensed formulation, a fertile female’s body is considered to be a commodity and an investment that a male makes towards his honor and standing in the community. Complimenting this idea of male-derived honor, a woman can be perceived as both valuable and honorable to her community if she is healthy, chaste, attractive, and fertile. A marriage is the “purchasing” (via promise of support as well as a dowry) to a female’s reproductive capabilities and the female then becomes obligated to keep her womb exclusive for his children. This exclusivity and monogamous expectations are reserved only for the female, for the male can procreate with as many women he can take care of.
An adulterous female gives her lover what her husband “paid” for and consequently dishonors him and the agreement.
A woman who engages in premarital sex gives up her “value” to a male without the support from a marriage contract and renders herself worthless for it it perceived that she will have nothing to give her husband and she will unlikely marry or procreate.
In this sense, the deeper implications of understanding one’s honor and social value are solely based upon another’s obedience to cultural expectations, traditions, and norms which consequently creates strong need for dependence. Men, as guardians of female “value,” are held responsible for the conduct of women for a male’s dignity is closely related to it. With this, men have sought to control female behavior to control their own situation by reducing females to their reproductive abilities.

These basic societal assumptions and trends became fused with religious culture. In the Quran and hadiths, the Islamic faith expresses that sins such as adultery, apostasy, fornication, and homosexuality are prohibited. Offenders of such have been punished through the traditions of Muslim societies that date back to the time of Prophet Muhammad. These traditions call for killing the offenders, in perfect harmony with sanctions of the Quran, Sunnah and the Sharia.

Turkey is considered by the western world as being the only “role model” Islamic country for its economic success and seemingly liberal government. In 2o02, the eight decades of strict secularization promoted by Turkey’s figurehead Ataturk, a more conservative AKP-led Islamist party came to power and allowed for the gates of gradual Islamization to open in Turkey. This has had many negative effects in a social context for Turkey has now risen to be the world’s “number one honor killing country” with a killing rate that is five times higher than that of Pakistan (a nation notoriously known for honor killing).

Today, these traditions have evolved into the conception of honor killings. An honor killing is defined as “the homicide of a member of a family or social group by other members, due to the belief of the perpetrators that the victim has brought dishonor or shame upon the family or community”and it is a traditional practice that occurs in various cultures. The victims of such are murdered for “dishonorable” reasons such as refusing to enter an arranged marriage, seeking a divorce, being in a relationship that is disapproved by their relatives, having sex outside marriage, becoming the victim of rape, having a poor academic standing, dressing in ways which are deemed inappropriate, or engaging in homosexual relations. The is the other extreme of “honor”– its principle behavior that fears the opposite, that is violently executed in the forms of stoning to death, lashing (which frequently leads to death), shooting to death mob-lynching, being buried alive, and being burned and disfigured by acid.

In 2007, a report released by the Council of Europe estimated that there were over 200 women in Turkey that were killed in the name of protecting a family’s “honor” (http://www.voanews.com/content/a-13-2009-05-21-voa39-68815262/363828.html). Less than a year later, another report was released by the Turkish Prime Ministry’s Human Rights Directorate stated that in Istanbul alone there was one honor killing every week. This report went onto address that there were over 1,000 (reported) honor killings executed during the five years previous. It added a sentiment that suggested that metropolitan cities were the location of such violence based upon honor due to growing Kurdish immigration to these cities from the East (http://www.turkishdailynews.com.tr/article.php?enewsid=107834).

2008: A 26 year old physics student was shot after exiting a cafe in Istanbul. Ahmet Yildiz represented Turkey at an international gay conference in the United States that year and became the country’s first gay honor killing victim (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/was-ahmet-yildiz-the-victim-of-turkeys-first-gay-honour-killing-871822.html).

2009: A 2-day-old boy who was born out of wedlock was reported to have been killed for honor. The infant’s maternal grandmother (with the help of six other individuals, one of whom was a doctor who had reportedly accepted a bribe to not report the birth) were arrested for the crime. The baby’s mother was arrested as well for knowing that her family had made the decision to murder the child. The grandmother of the newborn suffocated her grandson in an attempt to protect her family from dishonor, disgrace and shame (http://www.lemonde.fr/europe/article/2010/04/16/un-bebe-de-2-jours-victime-d-un-crime-d-honneur-en-turquie_1335090_3214.html).

2010: A corpse of a 16 year-old girl Kurdish girl was found 40 days after her disappearance. She was buried alive by members of her family because she befriended boys in Southeast Turkey (http://www.montrealgazette.com/Girl+buried+alive+honour+killing+Turkey+Report/2521342/story.html).

2011: Elif was an 18 year old girl who had declined the offer of an arranged marriage with an older man by telling her parents she wanted to continue her education. This was her offense of dishonor to which her father intended on murdering her for, but she was quoted prior to saying”I loved my father so much, I was ready to commit suicide for him even though I hadn’t done anything wrong,but I just couldn’t go through with it. I love life too much.” This helped to reveal the adverse trend of an attempt to decrease “honor killings.” As the government called for harsher penalties such as advocating for life sentences for honor killers, a new trend that promoted “honor suicides” sparked. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/03/27/honor-killings-have-morph_n_179928.html; http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/women-told-you-have-dishonoured-your-family-please-kill-yourself-1655373.html).

2012: An 18 year old woman and her unborn child were stoned to death at the hand of her father and the Imam for having pre-marital sex.This was an unreported incident of honor killing in a remote village in Turkey that was described to reporters from the victim’s sister (http://www.islam-watch.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=984:with-the-islamists-rise-to-power-turkey-became-the-worlds-leading-hotspot-of-honour-killings&catid=65:khan&Itemid=58).

2013: Today, honor killings continue to enjoy public support in parts of Turkey (especially in the Southeast). A recent survey conducted in Diyarbakir found that when locals were asked about the appropriate punishment for a woman who has committed adultery, 37 percent of respondents said she should be killed and 21 percent said her nose or ears should be cut off.

The statistics and reported incidents above all reveal the same basic pattern of behavior. Honor killers resort to self-help tactics by taking personal vendettas that are the result of culturally perceived transgressions and “sins”into their own hands and justify their actions through tradition. This type of behavior is outside any means of formal legal policy and these personal feuds cannot be resolved through normal judicial proceedings. Due to this, families and communities determine the guilt or innocence of the supposed criminals. This is a stacked, informal jury with no just procedure for the accused have no chance to defend themselves nor is there any appropriate legal sanction other than the punishment of death.

Honor killings exist in the traditional realm with religious implications and biases, therefor so few are reported and are properly dealt with. Governmental statistics show that two hundred deaths are reported in the name of honor each year. Not only are these numbers skewed for the negligence of reporting but also are reported as being lower with the corruption in regards to the legal system. The number reported constitutes half of all murders in Turkey A complimentary study reveals that In Istanbul alone, at least one person is reported to have died as a result of honor killing every week. Victims cases are continuing to rise

The AKP-led Islamists growth of power and influence correlated with the increase in violence in the name of honor (especially with sentiments focusing on the family rather than the protection of women). The rate of violence increased dramatically just within a three year span after their induction into power (2002). In 2005, the government was forced to form a parliamentary committee to specifically investigate the underlying reasons for the high rates of honor killing violence (particularly in the deeply religious south-east Anatolian religion of Turkey). Various measures have been undertaken by the government to stem the rising tide of honor killings in Turkey in the past decade. The severe increase in punishment (such as life sentences) to honor killers seemed to have some impact, but this led to alternative approaches and methods to honor killings. As family members began to fear legal punishments if they were to execute offenders that dishonor their name, the encouragement and guilt-tripping of “dishonorable” women to commit suicide commenced and has been uncomfortably popular in recent years.

Through various methods and alternative approaches, the measures in which the Turkish government has attempted to address the issue of killing in the name of honor is not working for the rate of such crimes continue to rise. The reality of Turkey: Where Islamists come, Islam must come too– regardless if it is accepted as being “secular. ” The Islamic influences infused with both cultural and emotional implications result in confused and dated precepts of honor that falsely justify the act of murder.

As Islam promotes the sanctity of human life (Al- Quran 6:151), honor has become an overestimated concept. Honor is an elusive idea that should never take priority over life.

“If any one slew a person, it would be as if he slew the whole people: and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people.” (Al- Quran 5:32)