The key to survival in an irrational state

The key to survival in an irrational state

The “I Run Iran” marathon took place in Iran on April 9. This was the first marathon to ever take place in Iran. Of course, women runners were banned from participating, but local video journalist Bahar Shoghi tweeted that she had seen two women racing unofficially.

I used to live in Saadat Abad, one of the new neighborhoods in northwest Tehran. The residents were mostly young couples, singles, and small families. There was a small park close to my apartment. Tehranis love spending time in parks and they enjoy long walks. 

Badminton is one of the most popular sports among Iranians and you can see people playing badminton in the parks. Women and men can play together - there’s no problem in that. But when it comes to running, things are different. When I was a newbie I used to wake up very early to go running in the park. But one day a middle-aged gentleman came up and warned me politely. He told me that if I continued running like this every day, I would eventually be warned by the police. Apparently according to Islam running is not appropriate for women. So I quit. It seems that walking is the Islamic limit for women.

A teacher in Turkey’s Malatya recently expressed his anger about a folkloric dance by locals on social media. “Girls and boys holding hands. This is not a folkloric dance, it is an improper dance. What sort of a father wants his 16-year-old daughter to hold hands with a boy or dance shoulder to shoulder. Traditional clothes alone do not make a dance traditional. This is not suitable for Islam,” he wrote. 

I don’t want to go back to the famous Iran-Turkey comparison: The unending questions about which country is going to turn into the other. I am just trying to suggest that once rationality within a system is lost, irrationality spreads to every social stratum. 

In Turkey we are seeing a sort of idiocrasy gaining traction. Success-seekers are busy trying to sound as fundamentalist as possible. One can sound stupid and inappropriate, but it does not matter as long as what is said is as traditional and religious as possible. 

With the summer 2013 Gezi Park protests and the Dec. 17-25, 2013 incidents, when Erdoğan and his ministers were accused of corruption, Turkey has learned that one of Erdoğan’s features is that he does not abandon “his guys.” He did not fire his ministers who were accused of taking bribes. He did not fire the police chiefs who let hundreds of protesters get hurt by tear gas or plastic bullets. 

As a bureaucrat or politician, as long as you “walk” with Erdoğan you are untouchable. There are some key words to sounding as “Erdoğanist” as possible. Mentioning Islam often; stressing from time to time that men and women are actually not equal; and complaining about the West and Western values is a simple strategy. When assessing daily matters, ornamenting your words with conspiracy theories and demonizing the U.S. and Germany is of course a must.  

So the silliest remarks coming from ministers and bureaucrats are not a coincidence. I actually have doubts whether many even believe what they say. This is the key to survival in the “new” Turkey. To keep your position or to get a promotion, this is the only way. The rules are set: Either you’re in the game, or you’re out.