Showing posts with label street harassment. Show all posts
Showing posts with label street harassment. 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. 

Friday, July 19, 2013

After the Trayvon Martin Verdict: Here are Ten People Who Helped Me Expand "My Circle of Compassion"

Trayvon Martin

Sometimes events at home are so dismaying I can hardly bear them. Such as it was with the Trayvon Martin verdict. This blog post is dedicated to him, my fellow American, 17-year-old, unarmed Trayvon Martin, who was killed while walking home by a white, armed, male adult.
President Barack Obama said: 
"... we should ask ourselves if we’re doing all we can to widen the circle of compassion and understanding in our own communities.  We should ask ourselves if we’re doing all we can to stem the tide of gun violence that claims too many lives across this country on a daily basis.  We should ask ourselves, as individuals and as a society, how we can prevent future tragedies like this.  As citizens, that’s a job for all of us.  That’s the way to honor Trayvon Martin.  
One of the things President Obama asked Americans to do to deal with their pain after the Trayvon Martin verdict was to continually work to expand their circle of compassion. By listening to voices different than our own, we may come to understand what it is to walk in another person's shoes.

One of the great things about Twitter is it allows us to listen to voices different than our own in a really non-threatening way. If you're a white American who wants to do as your President humbly requested and imagine other people's realities, here are ten black American voices I would like to recommend for you to follow on Twitter. These people have helped me grow and imagine life in someone else's shoes in the four years I've been on Twitter at @emptynestexpat.

I think we should listen not only as a spiritual thing to do, but as a strategic thing to do. As our nation becomes more multicultural, the better we are able to navigate and understand our differences, the less friction there is on forward motion in the future.

Here they are:

1) Charles Consult tweets at @Charles_Consult. He's a Wisconsin native, attorney, martial arts expert and enthusiast, now living as an expat entrepreneur in the Netherlands.

2) Dr. Blair LM Kelly, an American historian and professor teaching in North Carolina. She's the author of the book "Right to Ride" about streetcar segregation. She tweets at @profblmkelley.

3) Every teenage student should be lucky enough to have a teacher as cool as Brandon David Wilson. Brandon, tweeting as @Geniusbastard, is a not only a role model in the LA Public Schools as a teacher, but he's also a cinephile, activist, and thoughtful commentator on pop culture.

4) Courtney Young is a writer, a Spellman grad, and a board member of an organization I admire called Hollaback (documenting street harassment). She's an enthusiastic book reader (I love talking books with her), and founder of Think Young Media. She tweets at @Cocacy and at @thinkyoungmedia.

5) I can count the number of inspiring American math teachers I know on one hand (in Turkey, it would take both hands and my feet...but that's another post). How about you? Do you know a lot of inspiring US math teachers? Here's one who teaches in the New York Public Schools. He is, as his bio says, "the teacher Gotham deserves." Jose Vilson, tweeting at @JLV is a math teacher, writer, and activist. He hates that it in American culture it is ok to admit math phobia; he works tirelessly to get kids excited about math. Just for that, he deserves a follow!

6) Robin Terrell is a San Francisco diversity expert who has something big in the works called "The Global Mobility Project" that is supposed to debut this summer. I'm very curious what it is, but I enjoy her tweets right here and now at @robinlterrell.
Michael Twitty
preserving and promoting
African-American foodways
7) Somebody I just started following is @koshersoul. Michael Twitty came to a whole lot of people's attention with his open letter to Paula Deen. He's a black, Jewish Southerner and culinary historian who shares food photos that can make a happy expat like me, currently enjoying Turkish kitchen, wish to be right at a Southern table drinking sweet tea, eating barbecue and making room for blueberry cobbler. Michael also tweets at @antebellumchef. Here's what he says is the "best of his blog" for new followers.

8) Tinu who tweets at @blackgirlinprague rarely tweets. I wish she did because she always has something sassy to say. She's the one person on this list I know in person. But maybe if she had more followers, she'd be inspired. She's a tech professional, raised in America, now fluent in Czech, making the Golden City of Prague her home.

9) Someone researching black male performance in American education is Antonio M. Daniels. More power to him. Our education system is failing black males and I'm glad someone is trying to figure out how to fix this. The last American education system I worked in had a 17% high school graduation rate for black males. You can follow Antonio at @paideiarebel.

10) Jennifer Williams instantly telegraphs she is looking out for the next generation of young women who follow hers with her twitter handle @4coloredgirls. That sensitivity, and her desire to shield them from hurt, is something I learn from. She is a writer, professor, feminist and cultural critic in Houston, Texas.

Of course, there are many famous names, frequently in the media, whose bio I won't detail as they're all so easily findable. I learn from @oprah (she's really the founder of this category, isn't she?), @MHarrisPerry, @baratunde, @MsTerryMcMillian, @elonjames, @rebeccawalker, @ashong, @DonnaBrazile, @neiltyson, @ProfHolloway @cornelwest, @tavissmily, @marclamonthill, @MichaelEDyson, @NewBlackMan, @BobHerbert, @VanJones88, @hillharper and @chrisrock.

Truly,what choice do we have but to listen to each other better? Who wants to go through life in a world where we barely tolerate our fellow citizens that differ from us ethnically? Surely we can think bigger as citizens. Our advantage as Americans is that we have the world's ethnicities and cultures living right amongst us. If we choose to only honor people just like us, we're missing the whole point of America.

Dear friends in America, what's one action you can take to help heal America after the Trayvon Martin heartbreak? I invite you to also listen...and learn. Thanks to all the people named above for sharing their thoughts in ways that make me grow as an individual.

You might also like:

Listening to Dissidents

A near spiritual experience at Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas

Why the Obama Presidential Library Should be Built in Springfield, Illinois

What's there to do in Wichita, Kansas? Why not see breathtaking art?

Topkapi Palace , Part Two: Harem Culture Shock

Enjoying Neil Degrasse Tyson at the UW Senior Sendoff

Yes, Empty Nest Expat is on Facebook. You can follow me there.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

#1billionrising rising in Turkey

Today brings the sad news that the Turkish police have found the body of American tourist Sarai Sierra, 33, from New York City. May she rest in peace. Thank you to all of the Turkish and American public servants who worked so hard to find her. I read the police formed a special team to view hours and hours of security camera footage to try and trace her steps. I can't imagine anything more boring that watching all that. I'm grateful they did.

Sarai Sierra's death brings reflection at the vast epidemic of violence against women globally. Global activist Eve Ensler is asking all of us, women - and especially the men who love them, to strike, rise, and dance, rising up to demand an end to the routine daily violence against women.

#1billionrising is the audaciously-named event Eve Ensler has created to demand an end to violence against women worldwide. Can you imagine trying to organize 1 billion people? Have you ever heard of anyone trying to do that before? What an amazing idea. She chose that number because that is the estimated number of women who have been violated by violence worldwide.

As of this writing, there are over 40 events planned for Turkey. The first one starts today at 2 p.m. Participants will be doing this extremely fun Turkish folk dance called the Halay (actually, pretty much all Turkish dance is fun). Here is the list of events for Turkey. Here is where you can find an event in the country you're living in. And here is the anthem, although the many ways people will be dancing is of course, varied and global. #1billionrising!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Female Safety in Istanbul

Sarai Sierra, 33
Missing since January 21st
If you are in Istanbul,
please take a good look at her face
let us all be on the lookout for her.

Recently a young American mother on a photography tour went missing in Istanbul and this unfortunate story made the national news all across America. I pray for the safe return of this young woman.

My friend Joy Ludwig-McNutt wrote an excellent blog post about safety in Istanbul on her blog "My Turkish Joys" because she found the comments of Americans about this case so annoying. It's an excellent post. Click here to read it.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Breaking the Silence on Street Harassment in Istanbul

Sessizliği Sen Boz,
Break the Silence
about Street Harassment

Street harassment is a human rights issue. It's also a business issue because street harassment costs businesses big money. I haven't felt harassed on the streets of Istanbul. I know, however, that I am not the target demographic as most young people harassed are ages 16-24. I have young friends who have experienced both rude, disgusting comments and groping.

If you think about it, street harassment is probably the number one reason women would not contemplate becoming an "Empty Nest Expat." It's an informal ghettoization of women that keeps them home: whether it be in their actual dwelling, their city, or their country because exploring their world looks too scary.

While fear of harassment has not kept me from exploring my world, street harassment still effects my spending decisions, which is why I emphasize the business consequences of street harassment in this post.

In 2011, I wanted to go to a New Year's Eve party at a friend's flat in the central Taksim area of Istanbul. When my Turkish male friends heard this, they resoundingly said, "you absolutely must not go." Why?

They said, "on New Year's Eve all the village yokels come into Istanbul. They've never seen a foreigner, they are drinking, they assume all sorts of things, and our news the next morning is filled with foreigners who were treated inappropriately on New Year's Eve because of this. Your smiling foreign face would be misunderstood by villagers."

So two hours before I was to leave, I made the decision to stay home and miss my friend's party. Between taxis and hostess gifts of wine and such, the amount I would have spent that night had I gone adds up to about $100. I am just one woman. Think of that decision multiplied by thousands of women. It becomes very easy to see what street harassment costs an economy.

In many ways, Istanbul is benefitting because street harassment is so much worse in other places. One of my friends recently moved here to Istanbul from Cairo. My friend, a highly educated and successful Arab author, said after living in Cairo for two years that it feels completely lawless. She would never move about Cairo proper using a regular taxi. It had to be her regularly-used taxi service, because a woman couldn't even trust licensed cabs in Cairo to keep her safe.

Another story of Cairo street harassment that stunned me comes from one of my favorite blog writers on Islamic spirituality. What are the business implications for a country like Egypt with so little control of its own streets?

For starters, a lot less tourists. At one time, Turkish and Egyptian populations and economies were roughly equal. But now, Turkey receives more than double the tourists Egypt does even though Egypt has the sphyinx and the pyramids and the Nile to offer.

There's a website called Hollaback! that works to document street harassment all over the world so that women know places to avoid within a city. It is also localized to document cases within Istanbul itself so people can see where most harassment occurs.

Avoiding places is a 20th century solution. Women won't settle for that anymore. Women deserve, demand, and will work for safe streets all around the world. We are half of the world's population. We aren't going to remain silent anymore.

Tourist and retail business people should appreciate and fund activists like the Istanbul Hollaback! team because they are working to create an environment safe for people and frankly, local businesses, to thrive.

Click on my title to check out the Istanbul Hollaback! website. You can share your story, check the map of harassment locations, and learn Turkish to help defend yourself. You can also learn how you can be a badass bystander who helps diffuse situations!

It's exciting to see tools like this develop to help women go out and explore their world. We didn't have something like this when I was in my twenties. A worldwide network of Hollaback websites helps give women courage. Set sail, explore, see parts unknown! Don't let street harassment keep you from exploring beyond your street, your city, or your country just like anybody else.
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