Misogyny peaks in Turkish daily life
Belgin Akaltan - email@example.com
Our highest court, last week, lifted penalties on an imam and a couple who conducted a religious wedding ceremony without first conducting an official, civil wedding. Four of the decision-making judges opposed the annulment while 12 voted in favor; all of the opposing and consenting judges were male.
Actually, this opinion piece might just as well end here. Full stop. There is no need to say anything else.
Anyway, this has been tried before. The same demand was rejected in 1999 by unanimous vote at a time when Ahmet Necdet Sezer, the 10th president of Turkey, was the head of the Constitutional Court. It was rejected, stating that the official marriage mechanism in the Turkish Civil Code was designed to empower women and children. It was for the public well-being that the negativities arising from a “religious wedding only” were eliminated.
I don’t know why, but an image of the “Whack a Mole” game appears in my mind. The one you play in amusement parks. You take the mallet and BAM, you hit the first mole that appears. Then another one peeps up. BAM. Then two of them; BAM, BAM. Then again, they come, this time attacking all together. BAM, BAM, BAM. Then the power goes out at the amusement park and the system collapses…
Well, so much has changed from 1999 to 2015 in Turkey that even though 16 years have passed, we have travelled back a few centuries in the official mentality. The justification of this amendment this time is that the practice is against equality. While couples who live together without any official or religious matrimony bond are not punished, a couple who is living together with only a religious wedding is penalized. Thus, this situation was against equality.
Let us all take a five-minute break here to finish laughing bitterly and also for the sour feeling that has captured our souls to go away – and also so that my blood pressure returns to normal…
Now, having regained our normal limits of stress, blood pressure and extreme sweating levels, let us discuss it with a cool head. All other equality issues of our beautiful and lonely country have been solved, and it was only the equality between live-in couples and religiously wed couples that was left. With this decision of the high court, this has been solved. Bravo.
One other justification for the verdict is that this practice was against the freedom of religion and conscience and also the protection of private life…
Yes, yes; this was our only missing link on our path to equality and liberty. Thanks to the high court, from now on, the pressure on religiously wed couples has been lifted…
Now, the imams are free, women who were under so much pressure for not being able to perform only and only a religious ceremony without an official one are free to go ahead; those women who want so much to be the second, third or fourth wives of men who are sometimes older than their fathers or in some cases older than their grandfathers, are free now…
Shall we take another five?
This new equality concept of the Constitutional Court is not what it is. It is a twisted approach. It does not really come from defending the rights of couples living together without any marital bond. This same official mentality will crush young couples living together at the next opportunity they find once the dust on this one has settled. Have you forgotten the storm when they attacked young students residing together in co-ed dormitories or apartment units? This has nothing to do with equality; it is the officialization of misogyny.
It is as if these decision-making judges of the Constitutional Court do not live in Turkey; it is as if they have landed here from the moon.
I mean in Turkey, misogyny is everywhere. It is at home, at schools, at workplaces, in courts, on the street, in public transportation; it is in rural regions and small towns.
Hypocrisy and misogyny are the milestones of the conservative half of Turkish society. Let me give you an example of my friend, a low-income mother of four from an eastern province.
She spoke on the phone with her sister and that was how the story came up. She told me her sister does not speak any Turkish. She can only speak Kurdish because she never had the opportunity to attend school. Let’s call the sister Saime, for practical purposes.
This is a true story; the proof of it is that, even if I wanted to, I cannot make this up…
Saime was a “child bride” because she was “offered” to another family to prevent feudal killings.
By the way, the concept “child bride” is misleading in itself. There is nothing called “child bride.” It should be called pedophilia and it is a psychiatric disorder, a sickness.
Anyway this child, the bigger sister of my friend who we are calling Saime, was given to another family to settle a family dispute. Their father threw a stone, my friend explained, by accident, and killed the other family’s father. For the other family not to kill anybody else from their family, Saime was given as a bride to the other family. She was 13 or 14.
Saime has been battered ever since she stepped foot in the house. Everybody hit and beat her whenever they wanted because she was the “daughter of our enemy.” Somehow she survived. She now has grown-up daughters and sons that are married with children and mostly living in Istanbul. Because she wants to be away from her loveless marriage, her husband and her village, she comes and visits her children and grandchildren often.
There is an ongoing situation in the village that she wants to avoid. Her husband is cheating on her with the young wife of his nephew. The nephew is working abroad. Saime’s husband visits the house of the nephew regularly, like once a day to have sex with the young woman. He enters the house with many excuses like to drink water, to perform ablutions, to perform his daily prayers (namaz), to drink coffee, etc. It is his relative’s house anyway.
My jaw dropped.
I asked my friend question after question, I mean: How big is this village? Don’t people see? How long has this been going on? Can’t Saime defend her case? Adultery is one of the biggest sins in Islam and Turkish conservative (and also modern) social life. How can this ever be tolerated?
The answers: It is a small village. Almost everybody in the village knows what is going on. It has been going on for years. Whenever Saime mentions the case, her husband beats her, calling her a liar. Saime, in black humor, is very positive, that the last child of the young couple is from her husband because she looks very much like him.
What about her parents? The husband when he comes home from abroad? Nobody takes Saime’s word, they treat her like she is lying and a jealous old bitch, but the house visits continue…
Saime has found her solution by staying with her grown-up and married children living in Istanbul. She spends most of the year in Istanbul.
I mean, yeah, this time, I really have nothing to add to this…