women’s rights

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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The “epidemic” affecting the women of western society: A Rant

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Women of the west have been taught
to love themselves,
to respect themselves,
to stand up for themselves,
to be independent,
to think freely,
to stand firmly with what they believe in,
and to hold their own.

Independence and free will have been ingrained in their beings.

They are told that they could be anything that they want when they grew up and they believe it.

The role models:
Harriet Tubman
Marie Curie
Eleanor Roosevelt
Mother Theresa
Frida Kahlo
Rosa Parks
Margaret Thatcher
Toni Morrison
Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Hilary Clinton
Olympia Snowe

They prove that “girl power” does exist
and they tell women that they are
invincible,
unstoppable,
and uninhibited.

As a woman of the west, I believed this

…and then I went to university.

Seriously, what the hell happened?
A strange phenomenon occurs at the bars, the clubs and the parties:
Insecure girls can simply check their inhibitions at the door,
drop their responsibility off at the coat check,
and leave their self-awareness at the bar.
Yes, girls, you can drink to your heart’s content,
you can be stupid, ignorant, and dumb,
and you can dance up on bars;
you can make-out with strangers,
you can go home with different strangers,
and you can even wake up the next day and not have to take ownership for any of it!

Ladies, this is a huge problem.
I have observed this type of conduct in the contexts of western female students (especially those being of American and British cultures).

Today, U.S. president Barrack Obama made a speech calling sexual assault a “college campus epidemic” where 50 percent of sexual assaults in America occur in universities and where 90 percent of all sexual assaults occur when alcohol is involved.

In these same American institutions where there is an “epidemic,” there are flyers advertising the following sentiment:
“My rapist doesn’t know he’s a rapist.”

Here’s where I am throwing up a flag and calling out obstruction–
If you go to the bars, the clubs, and the parties,
if you drink to your heart’s content,
if you’re stupid and make bad decisions,
if you go home with strangers,
you will wake up the next day feeling full of
disgust,
shame,
and regret.

It’s called cause and effect.

Face it:
Did you like the fact you had willingly taken 10+ shots with “your girls”?
Did you like that you purchased your own double shots at the bar?
Did you like that you accepted multiple shots from your best friend, your study buddy, or that random guy from                       down the hall?
Did you like that you had embarrassingly danced on the counter and showed complete strangers your panties?
What about blacking out, did you like that too?
And what about stumbling over to the other side of town after the club closed for the after party?
How about falling down the stairs at a party at an unknown flat?
How did you like being pressured into drinking hard liquor instead of beer?
How’d you like wandering into bed with a stranger that was more intoxicated than yourself?
And how did you like feeling dirty in your worn, soiled clothes from the night before?

Did you like it?
NO!
So, you freaked out.

What could you possibly say to attempt to justify your behavior?
You didn’t want to say anything, so you have no excuse but to take it all back.

Do you remember that you were drunk?
Yes.
Do you remember that you flirted with him?
Yes.
Do you remember that you were the one that initiated the make-out sessions with him?
Yes.
Do you remember that you whispered to in his ear, “hey, let’s get out of here.”
Yes.

Yes, you remember, but you feel
low,
guilty,
and ashamed
after it’s all said and done.

You feel so badly about yourself that you deny it and take it all back because you know that in “the girl that cried rape,” it’s your word against his and the media has shown that the girl always wins.

The mantra of the media echoes a challenge to your faded conscience:
“It’s not your fault.”

So, you lie and cry.

The law states that those who are incapacitated cannot consent to sex.
^What does “incapacitated” mean?
Stumbling?
Slurred speech?
A gibberish text?

If simply being “incapacitated” is the dividing line of consented sex and rape, why isn’t there intervention?
Why aren’t there police officers or security guards standing outside of bars, clubs, and parties?
Why don’t girls exit from one side and guys must exit on the other?

ATTENTION LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, PLEASE KEEP YOUR HANDS TO YOURSELF AND WHERE I CAN SEE THEM.

Phew! No more one-night-stands and no more walks of shame.

Reality check:
What is the real line that cannot be crossed?

In western society, it has become socially normal and culturally acceptable for young persons of the female persuasion to
one: get drunk,
two: make bad decisions,
and three: lie and take it all back.

There is no
ownership,
responsibility,
and acceptance of one’s own mistakes.

Why?
So they can feel better about their actions?
So they can feel better about their “numbers” (which don’t mean anything anyway)?
So they can feel better about
the poor choices,
the stupid decisions,
the mistakes,
the regrets,
the “I shouldn’t haves,”
the errors,
the misjudgments,
the “uh-ohs,”
the shots,
the kisses,
and the (dare I say) SEX?

Oiiiii, I just do not understand.

Isn’t it sad that the western culture of today tolerates and accepts both regret and unaccountability?
Don’t the “girls that cry wolf” realize that they are mocking the real victims of sexual assault and consequently taint society’s perception of women’s credibility as a whole?

No? Forget about yourselves and think of the real victims–
the women that didn’t willingly take a shot from a stranger;
the women that didn’t drink excessively to incapacitation;
the women that didn’t drunkenly climb into bed with a strange guy;
the women that were violently attacked.

When you regret the things that you did when you were under the influence of alcohol and try to erase it all by “crying rape,” you distort the credibility of the real victims in the eyes of the media, police officers and district attorneys and, consequently, you discourage them from speaking up for themselves and for justice.

In “crying rape,” the world’s perspective narrows and sees all females as victims and all men as attackers—
this is completely and utterly false and actually strengthens the argument of gender inequality.

The gray area:
Is there something that stands between rape and a consensual one-night-stand where not every drunken hookup is the result of a violent attack?

This, most certainly, does not imply that girls can go into a situation knowing what is going to happen, and then take it all back the next day.

No, it does not work this way.
Hey girls–
Remember when you were children that you were taught that you can be anything that you want to be when you            grow up?
Remember that you are strong, independent, and fierce?
Remember that you do not have to be ashamed of your sexuality just as much as you are not forced to hide it?
Remember that you can play with the boys and act like them too?

If you remember this, then why are you running from equality?

If you make a stupid decision, you, and only you, are responsible for your own composure, choices, and conduct–
That’s how it is, period.

You don’t get to arbitrarily take the things that you regret back.
You don’t get to be stupid and then be blameless.
You don’t get to be held unaccountable for your actions.
Doing any of the above only sets you back, as an individual and as a society.

It’s time to stop “crying rape” and playing the “blame game.”

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)

The significant impact of psychological dispositions and personal traits on political ideologies

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Of course, the world is filled with 7 billion souls with different ideological orientations– where the western and progressing majorities fall mostly somewhere on the traditional measuring continuum of liberal and conservative orientations. By inhabiting one of the biggest cultural hubs of the world, I became very interested in understanding different approaches and methodologies of political life as well as of citizenship. In Istanbul, I have had the pleasure of  exploring a cultural experience as well as conducting independent studying and analyses of identities from both psychological and sociological perspectives. It may come as a surprise to some, but psychological dispositions and personality traits may have a much stronger influence on political ideology than any other means regarding factors of intelligence, religion, or even the interpretation of political facts.

The following are various characteristics and personal qualities that greatly affect one’s outlook upon worldview and ideology.

1. Openness to Experience

A person’s openness to new experiences (as well as to “foreignness”) is a personality trait that has been measured by several respected personality tests. People who are more open tend to be more adventurous, thrill-seeking, and novelty-seeking. They also tend to be more likely to change their minds when given new information. While there are certainly thrill-seeking conservatives, people who are open to new experiences are much more likely to be liberal. This may be because liberals tend to favour progression and lean towards changing traditions That which is thrilling and exciting to to some is absolutely irrational and terrifying to others. Conservatives, by contrast, favor predictability and order, which accounts for their desire to maintain traditional, pre-existing beliefs.

As a corollary, people who have had a wide variety of novel experiences are more likely to become liberals. Many conservatives lament the liberalising of university students, but this phenomenon may be due to the fact that university tends to open people up to novel experiences and perspectives. This phenomenon occurs frequently in the west, but has an interesting occurrence in Turkey. The majority of Turkey in old world conservative based on a vast historical background and a focus of preserving the traditions and values of such. The exponential development and growth of Turkey in the past decade (by the conservative AKP) has consequently creating a rising class of young Turks growing with liberal and western sentiments but are being pulled back by their conservative creators.

2. Respect for Authority

People who respect authority tend to value rules, law, and order. Respect for authority is a powerful predictor of conservative political beliefs. Interestingly, an authoritarian personality (one which seeks respect and obedience) is also a predictor of conservative political beliefs. While conservatives are certainly capable of questioning authority, liberals are more likely to prioritise this behaviour as both a political and personal objective.

Religion is a huge source of authority. Turkey is a highly religious nation. Religiousness, piousness, and spirituality are popular tendencies in both  liberals and conservatives. However, the divide comes for conservatives are more likely to fully accept religious authority, whereas liberals may question religious authorities and challenge beliefs.

3. Compassion, Empathy, and Equality

A study published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin (2010) found that liberals (as a group) are more likely to value qualities such as compassion, empathy, and equality and, therefore, tend to vote for candidates whose political platforms give these values primary importance. Contrasting this sentiment,  conservatives are more likely to value ideals such as justice and individualism. The liberal emphasis on equality may help to explain why liberals are generally more likely to see inequality. Liberals have a strong desire to uproot inequality, which gives them a motive to seek it out.  On the other hand, conservatives strongly value individual autonomy and are more likely to attribute success or failure to individual characteristics.

4. Sex

Views on sex greatly impact political ideology. In voting trends, some citizens primarily based on issues of sexual morality and sentiments regarding roles of gender.  In western contexts, a liberal might support a candidate solely because he is pro-choice, while a conservative might choose a candidate who opposes gay marriage. These correlations are more extreme in amplified in a progressing, Islamic state (such as Turkey). Like conservatives of the west, they tend to be critical of unusual sexual practices, but the modesty of the women in the public realm as well as their domestic roles in the private, family sector of society are one of the biggest elements of Islamic-influenced culture and social infrastructure. Turkish liberals share the western tendency to view sex as an important path of human expression as well as sentiments of gender equality. Views on gender significantly separate the two approached to critical thinking and of politics for liberals prioritise the abolition of gender traditionalism, while conservatives support traditional gender roles. This often affects voters’ support for political measures that affect women’s equality as well as sexual privacy.

5. Dominance

While both liberals and conservatives have supported and started many wars, conservatives are generally viewed as the more hawkish political group for they are keen on prioritising “hard power” (force, coercion). Contrasting this sentiment, liberals tend to put importance of “soft power” that being of diplomatic measures as well as persuasion and libertarians frequently wish to avoid intervening in international affairs entirely. Highly dominant personalities (those who tend to resolve interpersonal conflict by force) are much more likely to become conservatives. Similarly, other dominant personalities also tend to be less tolerant of conflict between groups and consequently are more likely to view another person’s behavior as threatening. This individual trait can affect a person’s perception of the threats posed by different ideologies and beliefs of other individuals, groups, and countries.

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)

The Bridge of Arta

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Forty-five master builders and sixty apprentices
were laying the foundations for a bridge over the river of Arta;
they would toil at it all day, and at night it would collapse again.
The master builders lament and the apprentices weep:
<<Alas for our exertions, woe to our labours,
for us to toil all day while at night it collapses!>>
A bird appeared and sat on the opposite side of the river;
it did not sing like a bird, nor like a swallow,
but it sang and spoke in a human voice:
<<Unless you sacrifice a human, the bridge will never stand.
And don’t sacrifice an orphan, or a stranger, or a passer-by,
but only the chief mason’s beautiful wife,
who comes late in the afternoon and brings his dinner.>>
The chief mason hears this and falls down as dead.
He quickly sends to his wife, with the bird as his messenger:
<<Let her dress slowly, change slowly, and bring the dinner late,
let her come to cross the bridge of Arta!>>
But the bird ignored it and gave her a different message:
<<Hurry, dress quickly, change quickly, and bring the dinner early,
go quickly to cross the river of Arta!>>
So she went and appeared at the end of the white lane.
The chief mason saw her and his heart broke.
From far she greeted them, and when she came near she spoke:
<<Greetings builders, and greetings to you apprentices.
But what’s wrong with the chief mason that his looks are so dark?>>
<<He lost his wedding ring, it fell into the first chamber.
Who’ll go down here and up again to find the ring for him???
<<Master, don’t worry, I’ll go myself to fetch it,
I’ll go down there and come up again and find the ring for you.>>
She had hardly descended, hardly went down into it,
when she called: <<Pull me up, dear, pull the chain,
I’ve looked everywhere but can’t find anything!>>
One comes with the spade and one with the mortar,
and the chief mason himself goes and throws a big stone.
<<Alas for our fate, woe to our destiny!>>
We were three sisters, and all three star-crossed.
One of us worked on the Danube, the other on the Euphrates,
and I, the youngest, on the river Arta.
May the bridge ever shake, as carnations shake,
and may those who cross it ever fall down, as leaves from trees.>>
<<Girl, take that back, make a different curse,
because you have your only dear brother, lest he happen to pass by.>>
And so she took it back and uttered a different curse:
<<When the mountains shake, then may the bridge shake,
and when the wild birds fall from the sky, then may those who cross it fall.
For I have a brother abroad, lest he happen to pass by.>>

Domestic Violence in Turkey

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In a recent survey conducted among men by the Happy Kids Association (Mutlu Çocuklar Derneği) and Kırıkkale University’s Application and Research Center for Women’s Problems in the seven major cities of Turkey, Turkish men were asked the question:
Is violence against women tolerable?

Possible answers:
Yes.
No.
Sometimes.

The results:
34 percent of Turkish men believe that domestic violence is ok sometimes; in fact, they believe that violence against women is “occasionally necessary.”
Another 30 percent of the men polled believe that  violence “with a cause” is acceptable in a survey conducted in the seven major cities in Turkey.
About 28 percent said that violence could be used to discipline women.

The objective of the survey was to identify both the perspectives of men and women on domestic violence in Turkey. It was the first of its kind conducted  solely on men, not women as stated by Dolunay Şenol, who is the department chair for sociology at Kırıkkale University.

Another survey, the  “Nationwide Survey on Violence against Women,” consisted of men and women over the age of 18 in which the participants were interviewed to identify their perceptions about violence against women. The survey was carried out in Adana, Ankara, Istanbul, İzmir, Erzurum, Trabzon and Malatya, and each city was represented by 500 men and women.

The main sentiment that came from this survey was the idea of a “good enough reason” to act violently against women. According to this survey, 34 percent of men said “violence is occasionally necessary,” 18 percent agreed with the statement  that “the man is the ruler of the house and is free to use violence when necessary,” 30.9 percent of men think that violence with a cause is acceptable, 37.6 percent expressed that some principles (such as honor, decency and discipline) render violence necessary, 23.4 percent of men say that violence is acceptable if women “provoke it,” 11.5 percent of men declared that they have the “right to use violence,” and 11.8 percent found it absolutely necessary to punish women when they cross their husbands.

Şenol expressed the need for both men and women to be educated to prepare for a harmonious marriage, not only women. “Individuals must go through training on communication within the household and domestic violence. The family comes for counseling and training only after experiencing a problem; however, it is very difficult to change the relationships after [such a problem].”

The call for education in order to reduce to high rates of domestic violence in Turkey, yet the execution of such has not been adequately addressed. What is the result of the neglect to act?

The New York Times did a story that highlights the effects of the negligence to resolve this problem through the interview of Gokce, a 38 year old domestic violence victim living in a women’s shelter in Istanbul with her two children. Gokce has been on the run from her obsessive and abusive husband for 16 years. Her story includes her husband tracking her down, breaking down her door and shooting her in the leg six times for refusing to return to an unhealthy, hostile home as well as stories of her husband kidnapping her mother and stabbing her brother as a makeshift form of blackmail to reveal his wife’s whereabouts.

“Our state is the #1 enemy of women. I was 14 when my husband started to abuse me, and now I am 38 and I am still living in hear for my life despite all of my cries for help.”

As reliable statistics are difficult to obtain (especially regarding the fact that experts in Turkey suggest a sense of serious under-reporting of domestic violence crimes), many equal rights groups have pointed out major, high-profile attacks to sound the alarm that Turkey is backsliding on women’s rights. This culture war that entails women’s roles in society that mirrors the greater tensions in a predominantly Muslim country in which the state’s official secularism clashes with an ascendant class of far-right, religious conservatives. According to statistics, the rise of such party has caused men to appear to be increasingly acting with impunity against women with an increase of 207,253 reported cases of deliberate injuries to women across Turkey from 189,377 reported the year previously (official data collected by the National Police Headquaters in Ankara).

Other reports, such as a recently published U.N. report, indicate that the incidence of domestic violence against women in Turkey have topped the percentages in the U.S. and in Europe. This report was based on data from a study conducted by the Turkish government that interviewed 12,875 women across 12 regions. Of this study, 39 percent of Turkish women had suffered from physical violence and hostility at some point in their lives (this is compared to 22 percent in the U.S. and between 3-35 percent in 20 European countries).

There has also been a shocking increase in the number of reported murders of women: from 66 in 2002 to 953 in just the first half of 2009. In 2002, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s party of the Justice and Development party came into power with the main objective for Turkey to become a member country of the European Union. With this, women’s right were made a priority and all laws that discriminated against women were banned as well as new laws with the objective to protect women (such as criminalizing rape within a marriage, and making harsher sentences for those guilty of “honor killings”) were created. Since Turkey has been accepted into the E.U., women’s rights are now waning and are put on the back burner.

The conservative parties of Turkey, especially the governing party, claim to be advocates for social conservatism in terms of pro-family traditions and values. Debating this, a senior analyst at the European Stability Initiative (Nigar Goksel) conducted a majour study in Turkey and found that the rising domestic violence rates combined with women’s low participation in the work force (28 percent which is less than half the average of the E.U.) reflects that “family integrity” was valued more that “women’s individual rights.” Goksel went onto say in an interview that “the government started off as an unlikely feminist, but it has dropped the ball. Equally, the Arab Spring is pulling Turkey in a more conservative direction.

This is a huge debate. While there has been recent laws passed into legislation that are advocating women’s rights (such as a law that forces husbands that have been deemed “abusive” by authorities are legally obligated to wear electronic monitoring devices) as well as the issuing of proper training of police officers in regards to protecting women, this does not falter the fact that legislation (no matter how well-intentioned) cannot change deep, aggressive mentalities within a patriarchal society nor can it ensure that the new laws will be adequately implemented.
For example:
Every municipality in Turkey with more than 50,000 members is required (by Turkish law) to have at least one shelter for women. The current number of shelters nationwide is only 79- this is incredibly low for a country with a population of 80 million. A local government official in Ankara was reported to have told a conservative women’s group that opening more women’s shelters was “ill advised” because they enabled women to leave.

Finding legitimate protection is proving to be elusive.

Azru Yildirim was murdered. She was shot eight times by her partner in the middle of a busy street in Istanbul. She filed for legal protection against the man more than ten times. A copy of her last letter of complaint was found among her remains.

Where does the façade end and when does the real call to action begin?