Showing posts with label TED. Show all posts
Showing posts with label TED. Show all posts

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Rape and Murder of Turkish University Student Ozgecan Aslan

Ozgecan Aslan
Last week, a bright, beautiful 20-year-old Turkish university student named Ozgecan Aslan was the last person on her shared taxi known as a dolmuş. It's a common form of transportation in Turkey. A dolmuş, much like an airport shuttle van, carries up to 10 people at a time. Everyone in Turkey uses them. It would never have occurred to me to think of one as unsafe. Last week riding in a dolmuş cost Ozgecan Aslan her life. She was raped, stabbed, dismembered, and burned by a dolmuş driver, his friend, and the dolmuş driver's own father.
Turkish Women refused
to let men near her casket
At the funeral, the imam signalled for men to pick up the casket and Turkish women were having none of it. They refused to step away and carried her casket out themselves, a shockingly unusual act in patriarchal Turkish culture. It was an incredibly healthy response of contempt that signalled to the entire nation, this problem of violence against women MUST be addressed. Ozgecan Aslan, and her fate, was on the lips of every Turkish woman with fury and sorrow all week long. 

Turkey, a country famous for its denial of so many of its historic problems, is not in denial on this one. Turkey knows it has a problem with domestic violence and violence against women. The President himself called it "Turkey's bleeding wound." Last year, 281 women were killed in Turkey (that are known of - with honor killings and such you can't be sure of accurate reporting).

A Turkish actress started a hashtag called #Sendeanlat (tell your story), asking women to take to Twitter to tell their stories of how they had been harassed in daily life. Last I looked it had close to 1,000,000 tweets in two or three days. Even though the men of Turkey, know there is a problem,  I'm not sure they care enough to fix it
Murder of females is political
Graffiti about Ozgecan Aslan's murder filled the streets. It wouldn't have occurred to me to think of Ozgecan Aslan's murder as political until I saw the graffiti above that declared it so. Then I couldn't get it out of my mind once seeing it. There were so many ways it could be. Like the victims of so much state violence this year, Ozgecan was both Kurdish (an ethnic minority) and Alevi (a religious minority). Was her death going to be used by authorities to further restrict the freedom of women in the country, the way terrorism is used to justify the end of civil liberties for citizens in the West? Immediately, there were calls for women to be segregated into 'pink buses.' Others pointed to the misogynist statements by politicians that devalued women. The pattern of peeling women away from public life is underway in Turkey.

Our rebellion is for murdered women!

What fascinates me is the similarity of toxic cultures for women -- no matter where they are located. For example, I have always thought of the American state South Carolina as a state badly in need of the fresh breezes of change -- a state still nursing grievances from the Civil War. 

Just the other day, one of South Carolina's lawmakers referred to women as a "lesser cut of meat." It's easy to condemn the lawmaker, but it must be assumed that this attitude represents the population and it sells. These kind of statements diminishing women are common in both Turkey and South Carolina. Diminishing statements about women sell to the masses in Turkey too.

Recently, the Post and Courier newspaper in South Carolina examined how the good 'ole boy culture of patriarchal policy makers contribute to South Carolina leading the nation in dead women murdered by men. Despite another woman dying every 12 days at double the national rate, (and at three times the rate of South Carolina men who served in Iraq and Afghanistan combined), policy makers actively ignored a dozen initiatives to do something about the problem.

Who matters more?
The woman or the dog?
You'd be surprised --
or maybe not.
According to the Post and Courier, the only policy initiative related to domestic violence that got acted on in South Carolina was a proposal to make sure pets were taken care of when domestic violence happens. Indeed, South Carolina must value animals higher than women as 46 shelters for animals exist (one in every county) in the state, while only 18 shelters exist for women state-wide. According to the reporters who wrote the award-winning Post and Courier series "Til Death Do Us Part," a man in South Carolina can get five years for abusing his dog, but will only have to serve 30 days in jail for the first time he abuses his wife or girlfriend. 

One of the sad aspects to the Ozgecan Aslan murder in Turkey, is that the mother/wife (same woman) of the alleged murders said she had been a battered woman for years. If she had received help, and this battery had been taken seriously in Turkey, would 20-year-old Ozgecan Aslan be alive today? According to the investigative journalism of the four reporters in South Carolina, incarceration saves lives as men are separated from women. That may be, but in South Carolina and in Turkey, there appears to be no interest in helping women in that situation as men choose to view them with morality judgements as "those women."

According to experts quoted in the "Till Death do us Part" series on domestic violence, South Carolina has the most traditionalist culture in the entire nation of the United States, preserving a status quo that benefits the needs and values of the elite. Wow, does that sound like Turkey. And here's what sounds EXACTLY like Turkey, "honor culture:"
"Surprisingly little research has examined the role South Carolina’s culture plays in domestic abuse and homicides, considering the state’s rate of men killing women is more than twice the national average.One often-cited study about violent tendencies in Southern men came from Richard E. Nisbett, distinguished professor of psychology at the University of Michigan.
His research revealed a Southern “culture of honor,” one in which for generations a man’s reputation has been central to his economic survival — and in which insults to that justify a violent response.
“We have very good evidence that southerners and northerners react differently to insults,”Nisbett says. “In the South, if someone insults you, you should respond. If the grievance is enough, you react with violence or the threat of violence.”
In a clinical study, Nisbett subjected northern and southern men to a test. Someone bumped into them and called them a profane term. The reaction: stress hormones and testosterone levels elevated far more in southern men.
“He gets ready to fight,” says Nisbett, coauthor of “Culture of Honor: The Psychology of Violence in The South.”
How does it apply to domestic violence? Men who perceive their women have insulted them — by not keeping up the house, by talking back or flirting with someone else — launch into attack mode to preserve their power."      
 ~South Carolina Post and Courier, 2014 
Here are examples of that same hypersensitivity to insult in Turkey here, and here, and here.

The response of disgust that Turkish women felt and voiced about the murder of Ozgecan Aslan was the healthiest human response to this whole sad story. The challenge for Turkish women and those who love them, will be to turn their social media energy and disgust into real lasting change. Sociologist Zeynep Tufekci describes this inability to make lasting change from social media power in her TED Talk here.

Turkish women took to the streets
throughout Turkey to protest
Turkey's pattern of
violence against women
If the first step, is to drag the whole country out of denial that there is a problem, the women of Turkey, have passed that test with flying colors and not let their nation descend any further (hello, Egypt). Respect, Turkish ladies! You have my total respect!   

May the women of South Carolina find the same strength. According to the journalists in South Carolina who wrote the award-winning series, "Till Death Do Us Part," 30 women's lives and families will depend upon it in the coming year.

What I would want the women of Turkey and South Carolina to know is, you are not in this alone. One billion women across the planet are rising up each year to ask the world to change this paradigm where violence against women is acceptable. Eve Ensler began this movement three years ago and each year it gets bigger and bigger. Luckily, the President of Turkey criticized women for participating so now everyone in Turkey has probably learned what the "One Billion Rising" is all about.  Next year, may the criticisms of women dancing for change sing out across the land! Strike! Rise! Dance! One billion rising! Break the chain!
You may be interested in these other posts about domestic violence and violence against women in Turkey:

#1billionrising in Istanbul

My First Turkish Movie -‘Kurtuluş Son Durak’

You can follow 'Empty Nest Expat' on Facebook, or just sign up for RSS Feed at the right. Care about domestic violence and violence against women? Why not share this blog post to broaden the conversation.

Thanks for reading. Don't forget to Strike! Rise! Dance!

Heaps and heaps of gratitude to the amazing journalists in South Carolina whose journalism will save lives, move their state forward, and result in a more equitable environment for the citizens of South Carolina. 

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Gezi Park Turkish Protests: Where is a "Range of Opinion?"

Protesters doing yoga in Gezi Park
What a fascinating week in Turkey as my friends have risen up and demanded their Turkish democracy be inclusive of their lifestyles and opinions too. I say "my friends" because, like most expats, I have a few friends who support the AKP and hundreds who don't. Most of my Istanbullian friends are broadly secular, supportive of the ideas of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, and are internationally-oriented global citizens. So they are completely unrepresentative of the average Turk, and especially, the average Turk who voted in the AKP-majority government.
A Turkish friend who protests
In story after story about the protests, the range of opinions reported has been very narrow. It is very easy for Westerners in Istanbul to identify with the protesters, because they are asking for things that Westerners consider foundational for a democracy: respect for minority opinion, respect for diversity of lifestyle, respect for the variety of religious expression, and respect for freedom of the press. The protests started with concern about the pace of urban transformation and sense of loss for vital green spaces within one of the world's largest cities. All of these ideas that the protesters are demanding have been ably, bravely, and amply reported. The protesters' voices are heard in story upon story in the English-language press. But you'll notice, there isn't a big range of opinion there. The protesters seem unified around these thoughts.

The views of government supporters and of the government has been very hard to find. I've been trying to find those opinions, because as a library professional, my job and my joy and my mission in life is to share information on all sides of issues. While the protesters are organized in both Turkish and English on social media and are also available in the park for easy interviewing, AKP folks must be talking to themselves on Twitter and Facebook almost exclusively in Turkish. Journalists are flying in from all over the World to cover this story, but with today's news budgets, having a translator is an extra expense some news organizations may not have. I have read hardly anything reflecting the AKP view.
Six Turkish Newspapers
All With the Same Headline
Where is a "range" of opinion
(on either side)?
The Turkish media had six front pages all with the same headline in Turkish to reflect to Turkish people the 'official' government opinion when Prime Minister Erdogan came back from North Africa; this shows there is not much deviation in the AKP opinion either. Even worse for the AKP and its supporters, their opinions aren't being expressed in English.

Even at the friendship level we expats rarely hear these AKP opinions, simply because many AKP people have not taken the time to learn a global language so they can express themselves to the world.
Protest banner decrying police brutality

These narrow bands of opinion seem to be a Venn diagram of two circles, one labeled "protesters" and one labeled "AKP." The circles seem not to have overlapping parts. Because each side seems mostly to talk to like-minded friends there is also the danger of online filter bubbles.

I remember this kind of polarization in the Bush years in America. It's the kind of opportunity Obama walked into, rallying everyone around the center. I don't know if there is a center in Turkey, but it is unoccupied at the moment - unlike Gezi Park.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

"Curious Souls" Gather in Istanbul for Discussion

The extraordinary painting of Setenay Özbek
at Art 350 Art Gallery in Istanbul
Breathtaking Color
Isil Musluer
One of the wonderful friends I have made through Istanbul Internations and my Global Minds Book Club is my Turkish friend Isil. Isil is an attractive, fun, positive and intelligent woman who is always uplifting to be around. 
Me with Curious Souls who were new to me
Mehmet and Tayfun
Isil recently organized a wonderful monthly discussion group through Internations called "Curious Souls." I couldn't help but think that Gertrude Stein, famous for her literary salons in Paris in the 1930s, would have been proud of Isil -- such was the delightful company of this group.
The audience primed for discussion
'Curious Souls' combined many of Isil's friends from Internations, and her friends from Istanbul Toastmasters. Toastmasters as an organization is new to Turkey. It was so fun to see my friend's ability to gather interesting people and create a wonderful atmosphere for discussion. Frankly, I was a a bit in awe of it! 
Petek in deep discussion
 We gathered at Art 350, an art gallery on the Anatolian (Asian) side of Istanbul, right on the main shopping street at 350 Bagdat Caddesi (Bagdad Street). We were surrounded by the inspiring painting of Setenay Özbek.
A discussion in full swing

 Isil invited people with these words:
 Are you fascinated with new ideas and new ways of looking at life? Do you have an insatiable desire to learn more? Do you get immense pleasure in listening to inspirational stories of great minds, and are you filled with appreciation for great talents? In short, are you a "Curious Soul"?  If you are, then, we are getting together once in a month, to watch two or three very interesting, mind-stretching and entertaining TED conferences. After each video conference, we carry a guided discussion and express our own points of view. If you are ready to experience the flourishing of diverse ideas, if you would like to express yourself, expand your horizons and grow together, and while doing these, if you would like to pass an enjoyable time together, then I invite you to come and join us.
Listening to each other
We discussed these videos:

Alain de Botton: A kinder, gentler philosophy of success.
Chimamanda Adichie: The danger of a single story
Neil Harbisson: I listen to color (so appropriate given our surroundings)
Louie Schwartzberg: Nature. Beauty. Gratitude.
 What is the single story told about your country?
I volunteered to moderate the discussion generated by Chimamanda Adichie's "The danger of a single story" since I had read her book "Half of a Yellow Sun" in our Global Minds Book Club. 
That video is the gift that keeps on giving, as a discussion could be had for hours on what is the single story about your country, or your race, or your class, or your religion, or your family, or you. We only had time to discuss what is the single story about your country.
I explained that before I came to Turkey, I didn't even have one single story about Turkey -- I had no stories. I knew nothing about Turkey as a nation, probably because our national histories don't bump up against each other.
I gave as an example the Bosphorus Bridge, a bridge every bit as beautiful as the Golden Gate Bridge, yet I had never seen a photo of it before coming to Turkey. Turkey has a long way to go until the other side of the world has even a single story, let alone multiple stories about it.
The insight I gained from the discussion is that if Turks tell a single story about each other, it's based on where they are from. They ask each other, "what city are you from?" and some decide immediately what someone's values and ethnicity are based on their image of the town.
I've seen that happen quite a bit actually; I've even had friends asked "what city is your husband from?" in job interviews. I could completely identify with this problem coming from Iowa, which generates the single story of "flyover country" if it generates a story at all.

 I felt trusted

It felt great to lead the discussion there; I felt trusted. Here we were discussing something so close to Turkish hearts in a language foreign to them. Out of the 30+ people there, only two of us were from another country. Could you find 30 of your friends able to discuss a topic all in the same foreign language in your home country? I could not.
Not a single person brought up the Turkish "single story" that used to drive Turks crazy for years as recently as five years ago: the story told in the movie "Midnight Express" about an American imprisoned for drug charges. I asked a woman about it later and she said "I thought about it though!"  That old single story about Turkey, while new to me, has been left behind, which I am sure, cheers the Turks. Their story is much, much bigger now.
Another great discussion
led by Alper Rozanes
generated by Alain de Botton's video
"A kinder, gentler philosophy of success"
 You know the discussions are good when you almost hate to see the next video start up.

Another insight I had from the combination of videos watched that day is how there seems to be a dominate "single story" about what constitutes success around the world: career success and wealth. How useful for the world's corporations.

Yet, there are many other ways to be successful, each an expression of human excellence. Think of success in marriage, or as a caregiver, or as a parent, or as a creative. We too often care too much about that dominant single story of success, rather than listen to our own drummer.

Isil's idea of a 'Curious Souls' discussion group would be an inexpensive idea to replicate anywhere in the world, wouldn't it? It's exciting the range of content available on the Internet.  It's no longer necessary to settle for what's on TV. We can skip the violence and go straight to intellectually uplifting.
 One last glorious painting by Setenay Ozbek

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Discussing Books with the Istanbul Global Minds Book Club

I was proud to moderate
George Orwell's brilliant book
"Animal Farm"
at Global Minds Book Club
One of the Istanbul-based groups advertised on the Internations expatriate social network that attracted my attention was the fairly new “Global Minds Book Club.” I love reading and discussing books and have belonged to several book clubs over the years. The organizing mission of this group was to read books from all around the world and discuss them with people from all around the world who were currently residing in Istanbul.
Sinan, second from left,
moderated our discussion
of Harper Lee's
"To Kill A Mockingbird"
Global minds discussing global books: what an exciting idea! That was different than most book clubs organized in our home countries which feature friends of similar demographics discussing titles that are often targeted at that demographic. Those can often be a “great minds think alike” club.

I knew it would be a different type of book club when the first meeting I went to started with shots of melon liquor. While we may not have educational diversity (many members have graduate degrees) we do have national, religious, racial, ethnic, tribal and sect diversity.
Stalwart members
Matt and Işil
For the Turkish people who come to the meetings, it is often their first book club experience as there is no tradition of book club discussions in Turkey. There are many reasons for that. Widespread literacy is less than 100 years old in Turkey due to the change in alphabet. Stories in this part of the world are often shared orally rather than on the written page. The idea of discussing art, culture, politics, and life in a good-natured way with all kinds of different people that one doesn’t know very well is often considered a new and very foreign idea, especially when the premise is that the discussion takes place over a book. I tip my hat in appreciation to people of all nationalities who come to the club to discuss a book in English, frequently their second or third language.
Clarence Nartey, Founder
Global Minds Book Club
leading our discussion of
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's
"Half of a Yellow Sun"
Clarence Nartey, the man from Ghana who started the “Global Minds Book Club” is uniquely suited for the role.  As a marketing manager for a multinational corporation he has traveled all over the globe in his professional roles with visits to 20 countries (Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Togo, South Africa, Singapore, Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia,Vietnam, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, India, Turkey, UAE, France, UK , Spain and Israel), sometimes living in a country for a month at a time, and other times living there for a couple years. I remember when I got my first emails from him detailing how the group was organized, what we were reading, and when. I thought “this is MBA-level organization for a mere book club.”  Joyfully, our book club is both relaxed - often meeting poolside or in a picnic venue, and organized within an inch of its life!
We met under the gazebo
at my place
last summer to discuss
Haruki Murakami's
"After Dark"
We frequently meet in our different homes. This has prompted our members to travel all over Istanbul and gets us into neighborhoods we would not have a reason to visit otherwise. The club has become so successful that Clarence has considered dividing us into two groups, with a meeting simultaneously held on each continent. There are over 240 people on the email list, with around 15 responding positively that they will come, and a usual 8-10 actually making it. Not bad considering that coming to a discussion can involve up to a two-hour trip each way as people cross continents!
We were supposed to go swimming
after this meeting
but the discussion was so good
we never got in the pool
Clarence says, “what thrills me about reading now is not the act of reading a book, but now reading a book, organizing friends to share it and using the book as a springboard to elicit multiple and diverse perspectives from fellow readers.”  He has done that so beautifully and created such a lively community of book lovers here in Istanbul . Wanting to extract every bit of value from the experience, he has also asked the members to donate the books after the discussion to interested libraries or groups to help them broaden their reading horizons too.

Eventually, even the expatriates we rely on the most, like Clarence, must leave. That’s the nature of the expatriate experience – a short time together of meaningful intensity.

He has told the Global Minds Book Club that within a month or two he will be transferred to the continent of Africa. He is excited about returning to his home continent, but oh, will we miss him! In keeping with his tradition of stellar management, Clarence already has his replacement “Global Minds Book Club” organizer lined up. 

Our reading list to date:
Global Citizens - Mark Gerzon ( non-fiction)
Little Bee / The Other Hand - Chris Cleave (fiction)
Tipping Point - Malcolm Gladwell ( non-fiction) I joined here
Life of Pi - Yann Martel (fiction)
To Kill a Mocking Bird - Harper Lee (fiction)
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close - Jonathan S. Foer (fiction)
After Dark - Haruki Murakami ( fiction)
The Gambler - Fyodor Dostoevsky( fiction)
Animal Farm - George Orwell (fiction)

The White Tiger -Aravind Adiga (fiction)
Catcher in the Rye - J D Salinger (fiction)
Shah of Shahs- Ryszard Kapuscinski (non-fiction)
Half of a Yellow Sun -  Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (fiction)

 This book is easily my favorite discovery through the club!
Future Titles:
New York Trilogy - Paul Auster (fiction)
Cairo Modern - Naguib Mahfouz (fiction)
Sammarkand - Amin Maalouf  (fiction)
Homage to Catalonia - George Orwell (non-fiction)
Do you have an expat book club? Or a book club devoted to reading international titles? What has made it fun? Do you have a book recommendation for our club that your group enjoyed?

You may also like these posts:

Making Expat Friends Through Internations

Africa Day @ Global Minds Book Club

All my posts on books


Thursday, July 14, 2011

Hanging out the with Expat Harem at the Istanbul Simulcast of the TEDGlobal 2011 Conference

 Me with fellow expats
Catherine Bayar and Anastasia Ashman

This week I attended the Istanbul simulcast of the TEDGlobal conference live from Edinburgh, Scotland. If you're not familiar with TED, I can't recommend it enough. The original organizational idea behind TED was to bring together innovative thinkers to share ideas worth spreading from three worlds: technology, entertainment, and design. There is a yearly TEDGlobal conference, offshoots like TED Women, and local versions organized by locals held globally called TEDx. Every year, one exceptional individual is chosen and awarded $100,000 to make happen "one wish to change the world."

Our simulcast was held in a beautiful facility, complete with a gigantic screen, provided by Turkcel, a local Turkish telecom. The day's events were a wonderful opportunity to meet up with American expats living in Istanbul whose work I have long admired: Anastasia Ashman, internationally bestselling author of The Expat Harem, and Catherine Bayar, a former product line designer for Nike and Adidas, who is currently deeply involved in Turkish handicrafts, especially those made by Turkish women.

Anastasia was profiled just this week in the Istanbul Daily Newspaper, Today's Zaman. She always has some project going.  During our short break for lunch, we headed down the street to the Istanbul Culinary Institute where the students of the Institute test out their cooking creations on the public. While dining over grilled octopus, she told us about the current book she's writing, a forensic memoir.  Sounds intriguing. You can watch her blog for details.

I was especially interested in comparing notes with Catherine about her old blog, Tales from Turkey, on the Google blogspot domain.  I say, old blog, because like mine, her blog was censored by the Republic of Turkey. Since the censorship went on for what seemed like months, Catherine moved her blog to Wordpress, named it Bazaar Bayar, and she is presenting some of the most exquisite photography of Turkish handwork on her site for you to enjoy. The work featured really is breathtaking and it helps local women.

I could tell you all about the talks I heard and how intellectually stimulating it was but I can't do that better than another fabulous blogger whose work I love: Bulgarian Maria Popova. Maria has built a mammoth following with her Brainpickings Blog, and here is her rundown of Day #2 of TED Global, the day of talks I heard through the simulcast.

If I had one criticism of the conference, each presenter could have enhanced their talk by deciding what it is they wanted us to do with the information. What is their "call to action" for the listener? Even if a scientist is sharing her exciting news that she has been able to double the life of an organism, why not tell us who the funding body is and ask us to support continued scientific research? I bet people would be able to see the value of increasing taxes if they knew it helped support research that could double the length of life of living organisms!

You can access all of these talks through the TEDGlobal website as they are loaded. I thought the presenter who did the best job of sharing an idea (and frankly, scaring the heck out of me) was a young scientist from Tasmania named Elizabeth Murchison who is working to prevent the Tasmanian Devil from being the first species on the planet to become extinct through contagious cancer.

The moment that touched me the deepest was Cambodian anti-torture activist Karen Tse, who broke down why torture happens in over 90 countries.  It's not just what we all assume (the presence of evil), and when you hear her talk, torture all of a sudden seems very solvable.

The moment that made me most proud was when the Chinese founder of the "China Lab" and the "India Lab" at MIT, Yasheng Huang, was explaining why China was the Michael Jordan of economic development and India, as a nation, was not quite to superstar quality like China and Michael Jordan.  India, as a nation, was still amazing in terms of economic development, though, because they were still able to "make the NBA" (metaphorically speaking).

"It comes down to literacy. Literacy in China is defined as being able to read 1500 Chinese characters.  Literacy in India is defined as being able to write your own name in whatever language you speak." If you compare the literacy rates of China and India (mid 60s% vs mid 30s%), especially of Chinese women compared to Indian women, it makes the difference."

Literacy rates helped bring about twenty years of double digit growth for a billion people. I am so, so, SO proud of being a librarian. Here then, is my call to action.  Wherever you may live, I'd like to ask you  if your nation is helping school and public librarians help citizens achieve literacy and economic growth? Please support the work of your local libraries and librarians with enthusiasm.
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