Topless and pious vacationers in the same frame

Topless and pious vacationers in the same frame

In addition to the municipal swimming pools where women and men are not allowed to swim together, a new debate has been aroused on “separate Olympic pools for women and men.” There are people who perceive this separation as being necessary for Islam and morality. 

However, the beach culture of the conservatives is gradually changing. I have just spent five days in the eastern Black Sea region and another five days in the Mediterranean, after the Bayram (religious holiday). We started the journey from Batumi, a small Georgian coastal city, where we ran into Turks at every step of the way. No, I am not talking about the men who go there just for the debauchery. Most of the Turks were conservative families from the Black Sea region who had come over by car. With their kids, they wandered in Batumi’s giant shore park and swam all together, people in bikinis and hasemas (the Islamic swimming suit for women that covers the whole body and head) side-by-side. 

Conservatives in Batumi

Batumi is an independent and European costal city. Women walk around the city with shorts and pareos. Nobody looks at one another, nobody disturbs one another. Everybody is out late “with women and men together.” Turks reach Batumi through the Sarp border gate after waiting many hours in queues that grow kilometers long. I think conservatives come in bus-loads, because they want to see a foreign country and have a holiday without thinking about “what anyone would say.” 

There is even a beach at the border gate in Georgia. But once you cross over to Turkey, this lively crowd is replaced by the beach-less, people-less and thus colorless Black Sea Coastal Highway. 

The situation is not different in the Mediterranean. The conservatives, who would previously not have left the hotels that provide separate spaces for women and men, or who would only choose deserted bays, now use the same beaches as the “half-naked people.” 

I have known Fethiye-Ölüdeniz since the 1990s; the last time I was there was six years ago. This time I was there, it was the first time I had seen so many women in hasemas sharing the beach with topless people, on the Belcekız shore and Butterfly Valley (“Kelebekler Vadisi”). Butterfly Valley is one of Turkey’s most bohemian and sacred bays.

I think the women-and-men, and hasema-and-bikini togetherness is the normal way. Through the increase of such environments, both “sides” could learn how to live together, respecting and not disturbing each other.

“Women’s beaches,” or forcing separate swimming pools for men and women, are not only artificial and ideological, but are also policies that increase division within society. 

Those who wish to wander in a bikini can do so, and can the one who wishes to wander with a hasema. Who would mind, as long as they do not disturb each other? 

Come here my girl, there are men over there!

* The following drew my attention in Thailand and India: Hindus and Buddhists swim in the sea with a t-shirt and shorts that cover their shoulders and knees because of their beliefs. They do not have separate beaches, they are together with the other tourists.

* The Black Sea Coastal Highway did not only slaughter the environment and result in enormous amounts of money being spent, but it also ended the beach culture and socializing areas of the shores. 

* Places to go swimming along the highway, which goes on for miles and miles, are incredibly limited and insufficient. I guess that is why Turks invade Batumi for holidays. 

* The Ölüdeniz lagoon that is administered by the General Directorate of Nature Conservation and National Parks is nowadays mostly full of conservatives. Thanks to the old women who shout “Come here my girl, there are men over there,” they “protect” the women and girls from men!