Turkey, the country where woman come after the oxen

Turkey, the country where woman come after the oxen

BELGİN AKALTAN - belgin.akaltan@hdn.com.tr
Turkey, the country where woman come after the oxen

Özgecan Aslan. DHA Photo

This is from Nazım Hikmet’s poem, “Our Women”: “And women, our women, with their magnificent sacred hands… our mothers, lovers, wives, who die without ever having lived and whose place at our table comes after our ox…” 

Like all his work, this is an incredible poem, full of correct observations, describing the place of women in the mind of Turkish men. It was written in 1922.

However, facts on the ground are far from poetic.

Here, in Turkey, what we have to go through is the opposite of being poetic. It is vulgar, difficult to talk about, embarrassing and impossible to accept.

Here, the moment we Turkish women step outside the door - God forbid if we have dressed up for an occasion - anyone, anybody on the street with a male genital organ can harass us. That person could be a seller of simits (a Turkish bagel covered with sesame seeds), a construction worker, even a young boy…

You may be on your way to a job interview. A bad word from a bad person on the street wipes away all your self-esteem, your preparedness for the event. I wonder how many men had to go through all this, or planned ahead to avoid such experiences before something very important?

Actually, this is the light side of the story. The brutal side is the murders of Özgecan, Kübra and Hüsne. We do not know the real dimensions of the daily domestic violence going on inside houses. We only hear about these when they are reported to the police. We see extreme forms of misogyny in this country, which seem to be manifestations of a much deeper hate.

There is a sick mentality we have to fight against and try to change. But instead of that, instead of teaching people to be nice, to be kind, to be helpful to each other, the most important women’s issue that occupied us for years was the headscarf, which is actually part of the mentality that leads to these situations. 

I want to say out loud, “Please don’t kiss my feet. Please don’t reserve any place for me in the heaven.” All I want is equality, freedom and respect as a human being. Just leave me alone, that’s all I need.

My first encounter with sexual abuse was when I was a child when the whole family was traveling on a crowded İETT bus. My mother had found a seat, my father was right next to me, but somehow there was a hand on the back of my skirt. There was also heavy breathing, a kind of dirty smell. I could not understand why a man’s hand was on my skirt. I was just a child. This went on for a short while before I told my father that somebody was holding my skirt. The pervert must have disappeared immediately, because I don’t remember any argument or anything happened later. Of course, my parents embraced and held me and they were as surprised and disgusted as I was. I felt bad. I never thought I was so grown up to become aware of such “grown-up” risks. I was a child. I hated it. I felt dirty.

As the years passed by, I developed many tactics to avoid molesters while travelling on İETT buses, minibuses, or any public transportation. I would use my school bag, change position, or sometimes get off the bus completely. At some point, somehow people got better and there was less molestation. Either the quality of people improved or the buses were less crowded. However, somehow they are now back again, especially in buses and metrobuses. (I’m not saying anything about the AKP; I’m not.)  

I felt safer when I lived abroad. The streets of Istanbul are not safe for us at all. Neither are the streets of Mersin or any other city. I’ve also noticed that streets in Turkey are not safe for foreign women either. When I’m walking with my foreign friends in Istanbul or other cities, the trouble multiplies. Molesting men see foreign women as an easy target; they have no boundaries… I’m addressing my foreign readers: Please, be double careful.

I was also, at a very young age, the victim of a near-rape attempt. I will write about it when I feel like it.

Every rape or rape attempt is not only rape. It involves hate and contempt. It is mixed with revenge or retaliation. That’s why we need to fight the mentality that causes it, rather than discussing inhumane punishments.

The Turkish Sexual Health Institute Association (CİSED) said the reason for the Özgecan murder was “sexual sadism.”

Everything starts in the family, they wrote: When sick people get together, they raise kids in a sick family environment. In such a family, the child is inevitably abused physically and emotionally. After this, feeling worthless, inferior and unloved, the child becomes a sick product. These sick products long to inflict sadistic actions on others, to inflict physical and psychological pain on others.

Sadistic people feel guilty after they attempt to rape. By killing their victim they destroy their guilt. They enjoy the pain, the fear in the victim while they are torturing them. This dominance somehow makes them feel like God. Being able to punish makes them strong, wiping away the worthlessness and inferiority. It doesn’t matter what the victim is wearing, where she is, or why or when she is there. The reason that women are victimized by sexual sadists is not their beauty, their clothes, their laughter or their seductive acts.

These sick criminals do not pick their victims according to a mentality or criteria. If that were so, then a place like Iran would be crime-free. CİSED calls for an end to questioning what women wear and their behavior, but instead scrutinize the mentality of the “powerful” and the men.

Well, I am just remembering back in my life. From the most recent to the earliest incident… It did not matter what age I was. The place did not matter either: It could be the city bus, the schoolyard, the company shuttle, a friend’s house, a doctor’s office… It could come from a business acquaintance, a doctor, a total stranger, a celebrity “healer,” a colleague-friend… It could come in the form of an elbow on your breast, a peculiar medical examination, a forced kiss, a physical attack tearing off your clothes…

I know I am not alone in this...