Showing posts with label terror. Show all posts
Showing posts with label terror. 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. 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

'Backwards Day' in Istanbul: a news junkie's paradise

I have a Kurdish friend, now of European citizenship, who says, "when I lived in Germany, I tried to be interested in everything happening there but it was all so boring. It just wasn't engaging." Having lived in Istanbul for a couple years now, I completely understand.

The Levantine area is a news junkie paradise. There is more absolutely fascinating news happening in any one week here, than in a year somewhere else. This last week had to be THE MOST fascinating week since I first came here in 2010.

Indeed, it felt like an event teenagers often create called "Backwards Day." The teens do everything backwards for one day from wearing their clothes backward to saying the opposite of what they usually do. The news that happened last week was so unexpected and so "backwards" of what one normally hears and it all happened in the same week!

An Israeli apology

The Mavi Marmara
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apologized to Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for the Mavi Marmara incident. As an American citizen, I frequently feel that if a US citizen ever has an opinion that is contrary to the Israeli point-of-view and they publically express that view, they will be bullied into silence. The American media never has an honest dialogue about Israel and it rarely explains to Americans that Israelis are settling on land that belongs to someone else in violation of international law.

So when Israeli military forces boarded the Mavi Marmara and shot Americans and Turks at close range, killing nine of them, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan demanded an apology.

An apology never seemed like an unreasonable request. Erdoğan's been demanding an apology for three years. He sought justice for the Americans and Turks killed much more vocally than my own government did.

This week, Erdoğan got that apology when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called him up and expressed regret. Apologies are so powerful! It was like hearing Netanyahu and his nation say "we accept responsibility for this. We were wrong." It was the exact opposite of what a bully would do.

Backwards Day.

The PKK declares a cease-fire

The PKK, declared a terrorist group by both the Turkish and American governments, declared a cease-fire with the Turkish State. This opinion piece from Friday, March 23rd,  "Hurriety Daily News" explains just how different this is than the normal course of events in Turkey.

Backwards Day.

The Patriarch of the Orthodox Church attends the Ordination of the New Pope

When something happens for the first time in 959 years, that's amazing. Such was the excitement with the Istanbul-based Patriarch of the Orthodox Church was welcomed so warmly by the new Pope Francis when Barthalomew went to the ordination. Just even the idea being expressed that various strands of the Christian Church could be reunited is fascinating. Also worthy of note, Turkish newspapers expressed not one iota of anxiety over this. In America, if there was specualtions about Sunnis and Shia reuniting in some future generation, it would send Islamaphobia anxiety into overdrive.

Backwards Day.

Cyprus Decides to Give Bank Depositors a Hair Cut

The Flag of Cyprus
Holy Cow, what a fascinating story. It was incredible to watch it unfold and of course, it's still unfolding. If you need any proof that one should never trust a government that says "your deposits are insured" this is the story. The depositors in Cyprus banks, who had thought their deposits were insured up to 100,000 Euros, were told instead that there would be a tax on all deposits held in Cypriot banks because of all the bad loans these banks made to Greece. The depositors didn't make those choices, the bank's owners did!

As Planet Money put it, "it is like your car insurance company, like Allstate, running up to your Suburu, smashing the window, and stealing your stereo."

The odd place this put this Cypriots with their money is beautifully summarized here.

The EU was supposed to make the Cypriots feel safer.

Backwards Day.

Does this mean I want drama in my own domestic news? It does not.

I agree with Rolling Stone Magazine writer Matt Taibbi (who is so eloquent on all things financial-crisis related) who wrote this about the American budget sequestration:  "The whole situation reminds one of a family so dysfunctional that its members can't communicate except through desperate acts."

 I want my domestic news to be boring. That means there are adults in the room, taking care of business, and the citizens can spend their time creating, discovering, and solving problems in a way that moves the economy forward and not worrying about stuff like whether or not their money is safe in a bank.

In case anyone hasn't noticed, those Germans with their boring news, are kicking everyone's butt economically.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

Monday, November 1, 2010

I Saw a Suicide Bombing in Istanbul Yesterday

Police work quickly to clear Taksim Square

Yesterday, I witnessed a bombing in Taksim Square in Istanbul.   I was seated on the third floor terrace of Simit Saray restaurant, enjoying traditional Turkish tea and simit with a friend, when a very loud boom and explosion silenced everyone in the usually bustling Taksim Square. We were about 100 meters from where the bomb went off.

The fiery explosion was about the size of a airport shuttle bus. It occurred right in front of where the Istanbul police park their dolmuşes (transport buses) to get out and assemble for duty along Istiklal Avenue.  There was a small car parked there and several police dolmuşes.  The bomb blast seemed aimed at the car.  When the explosion happened, it didn't appear as if anyone in the car reacted.  Maybe they were stunned or hurt.  There was a few short bursts of gunfire, maybe 10 shots.  I could not tell which police officer was shooting or at whom.  I merely heard the gunfire. It wasn't very much.

My friend and I crouched down but we felt relatively safe behind our balcony wall. We could see the situation unfold. "I don't think it's an Al Queda bombing," he said.  "Al Queda usually doesn't attack the police. If it were them, there could be a second bomb.  Al Queda usually bombs in twos. It could possibly be the PKK (Kurdish separatists) or a leftist group." Hearing him analyze potential bad guys, for some reason, made me feel safer. My Turkish friend had already lived through an Al Queda bombing in 2003 that claimed the lives of three of his colleagues.

The mother in me ached for those police officers as I watched them respond. I had nothing but friendly feelings toward these fine young men who graciously protect the many colorful protest marches that parade down Istiklal Avenue every Sunday.

All of my female friends with sons in the military flashed through my mind.  I remember feeling gratitude that my friends who had sons in service were not hearing the voices of the police officers react.  It could haunt them.

The police had a completely undefined, chaotic situation.  You could hear the terror they felt in their voices as the tried to clear the Square as quickly as possible. Taksim Square is an incredibly insecure area with streets jutting into it from several directions and a huge open plaza where another bomb could potentially have been planted. Taxis continued to barrel into the Square and the Police seemed to bang on their cars in a "haven't you heard?" sort of way.

Some people helpfully ran away, while others poked along in ways that seemed completely unconscious of what just happened. People seemed oblivious of the policeman's responsibility to get each one of  them the heck away from danger. Not only did the officers have to worry about another explosion potentially taking place, you could hear in their directives to people what I thought was anguish and anger over their fallen comrades. I could feel their vulnerability and their humanity.  Thank you, Istanbul police officers, for suffering on our behalf. You were heroic.

I counted four wounded: 1) a businessman in a suit with a red tie who had been propped up against a light post, unable to put weight on his legs.  He was later lifted and carried over to a bus kiosk. 2) A police officer with an injured left hand who kept working to clear the Square  3)one person laying down who looked seriously hurt and another one(?) whom I couldn't see.  I could only see his police officer comrade race on his behalf to the ambulance seeking immediate help for him.

 I did not know it was a suicide bomber until I read the news reports.  I didn't see any dead body laying around, but this bomber presumably was on the far side of the car from where I was seated.  I was surprised to read so many people were injured and I speculated when I read the numbers that there may have been police officers who had been between the dolmuşes where I wouldn't have been able to see them.  I have no idea how the higher civilian count happened.  I didn't see that many people injured.

In case there was a second bomb, we decided to exit Simit Saray and go down Istiklal Street to a safer place. The staff lifted up the metal roll-down door so we could leave.  Istiklal Street had been cleared of people for approximately 400 meters back.  We ran as quickly as possible to get behind police lines.

We stopped to have tea and listen to news reports at a restaurant off of Istiklal and then decided to go to the Kurdish restaurant of my friend's friend. "What could be safer than a Kurdish restaurant?", we joked.  I couldn't help admiring Turkish people's lack of hate toward their Kurdish neighbors both when I was up on the balcony and when we went to the restaurant.  Turks and Kurds live side by side in Turkey, the Kurds have a terrorist group aimed specifically at creating terror in Turkish people, and yet the Turkish people don't hate them. I admire that.

"I don't feel terror," I said to my friend. He said, "neither did I the day the first incident happened.  It's the next day when you start thinking about it that the terror starts.  The feeling lasts about a month." The other bombing my friend had lived through was much worse than this one and he had been directly involved in helping get people to safety. 

No group has claimed responsibility yet for this decidedly pathetic act. There was no logic to it and it didn't seem destined to have any lasting impact.  And for what purpose? None, that I could see. Indeed, if anything, this attack made the Turkish people "look good" because their hearts are large enough not to hate.  Whomever the perpetrators are can only look less admirable as people in comparison.

When I came back through Taksim later that night to go home, it was if nothing had happened.  People got off and on the funicular and climbed up the Metro steps into the Square.  Life moved on.  Thank you, God, for letting mine move on. Don't think I don't appreciate it.

Click on my title to read the New York Times account of the bombing and here to see CNN International amateur video of the event. The viewpoint in the video is the opposite side of the square from where I was sitting.
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