Seventeen seconds of exceptional importance

Seventeen seconds of exceptional importance

Belgin Akaltan -
Seventeen seconds of exceptional importance I wish I could write about these incredibly important 17 seconds, the time frame the Russian jet violated the Turkish airspace. It flew in and it flew out of Turkish airspace in 17 seconds. Wow. And it was shot by Turkish war planes. Yes. 

You know what: I think Putin will make us pay for these 17 seconds, one by one; all of us... 

Anyway, I have a career, I have a future and I have a life. I have a child and a husband. So, I have no desire to write about these 17 seconds… These life-changing 17 seconds… Instead, I will write about the repeated harassment of girls taking place in an Istanbul street in an Istanbul neighborhood. 

Daily Hürriyet writer Ayşe Arman wrote about it first and many others are following up, including several TV channels.   

University students residing in the Atatürk Kız Öğrenci Yurdu, a girls’ dormitory in Istanbul’s Cevizlibağ neighborhood, are desperate because they are being harassed on their way to the dorm. They have drafted a communiqué titled, “Help, Harassment on the Road.” They made a leaflet which they are putting up everywhere; they have started campaigns in social media. They are fed up with minibus drivers and drivers of other vehicles harassing them on the road. But it’s not just drivers; pedestrians are also waiting on the road to harass them.  

It’s been going on for three months. The girls are constantly being irritated and frightened.  

The story is that this facility was renewed and opened three months ago. It is a state-owned and state managed facility hosting 3,500 students. The entrance to the dorm is a ways from the public transportation route, so girls have to walk some 500 meters after they get off a bus. The road is empty and not well-lit. Harassment comes especially from minibus drivers. Not only that, they are also shining laser lights into the dorm rooms and even a drone was flown filming the rooms. The flying of the drone was recorded by the girls in the other block. 

One of the students spoke to journalist Ayşe Arman. She is Bengisu Biray, 21, from Denizli. She is a fourth-year student at Yıldız Technical University, Molecular Biology and Genetics Department.

“The road is very empty. Drivers harass us. Every evening a girl comes and tells a new story of harassment. They saw a guy masturbating on the road the other day. Disgusting. It’s continuous annoyance. We have security at the entrance but the door is in the wrong place.” The director of the facility seems to be caught up in bureaucracy, the girls believe. 

Now the most interesting and horrifying portion of the story, in my opinion, begins here. 

Two women administrators approached girls who were handing out leaflets and told them: “This is Istanbul. So what now? Women are harassed everywhere. You are exaggerating this. As if men are lining up to harass you...” Wow.  

But here’s an even better one: A girl who refrained from giving her name talked to Ayşe Arman. She said when Youth and Sport Minister Çağatay Kılıç visited the facility, a group of girls approached him and told him about the problem. You know what the minister said in reply to the girls? “Well, I also did not like some of the attitudes and conduct of some of your friends on my way from the entrance to here…” 

The minister denied this later. Well, here is another but smaller “wow.”  

My Turkish readers got it immediately; so this is for my international readers: This is the result of the mentality that regards women who do not wear headscarves as “prostitutes” and “easy” women who deserve all manners of mistreatment, including harassment.  I dedicate this whole story to the headscarf-wearing women of Turkey.