CIRCUMCISION OF A BOY, ASSISTED BY TWO MEN.
38th International Congress on the History of Medicine Turkish Medical History, Through Miniatures Pictures Exhibition (Drawn by U. Erke, Organizer and Editor Nil Sari), Istanbul 2002.
A K P-NESS: The Condition of Being AKP (27 October 2009)
For reasons unknown, Istanbul has been dubbed the 2010 European Capital of Culture. And guess who is in charge of the year-long celebration? The AKP-controlled Istanbul 2010 European Capital of Culture Agency, that’s who.
The AKP, the Islamic ruling party in Turkey, the Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi, the Justice and Development Party which brought to Turkey neither justice nor development--
The AKP, seven years in office spent worrying about whether a woman should touch a man’s hand, and calling itself modernity--
The AKP, seven years in office, squeezing the heads of women into headscarves, covering their bodies in bed sheets, and calling it freedom--
The AKP, seven years in office with a prime minister who has grabbed responsibility for both women’s ovaries and men’s testes (and use thererof) by encouraging at the top of his lungs the production of at least three children in each family, and calling it democracy--
The AKP, seven years in office, still banning thousands of websites, in the name of freedom of speech--
The AKP, seven years in office, still spewing nonsense that the reason Turkey was spared epidemics in the 16th century was due to the Islamic religious ablution five times a day--
The AKP, seven years in office, and its education ministry still distributes maps to students that depict Armenia, Bulgaria and Georgia residing within Turkish borders--
The AKP, seven years in office, falsely imprisoning doctors, journalists, writers, businessmen, former military officers, and labor union leaders for their dissenting political views and depriving them of the constitutionally guaranteed rights—
The AKP, seven years in office, and now picking a mindless quarrel with Israel to satisfy its egomaniacal cravings—
The AKP, seven years in office, conducting stealth foreign policy initiatives under the direction of western puppet masters that lead to alienation, humiliation, and embarrassment for the Turkish people, and the Turkish Army—
The AKP, seven years in office, resulting in fabulous wealth to party members, their families, and their special friends--
The AKP, seven years in office looting the nation and trashing its culture, and calling it development--
And now this same AKP is preparing for the big cultural event of next year by continuing to do what it does best... the P-word...PLUNDER!
Of surprise only to those who have spent the last seven years at the North Pole watching the polar ice cap melt, the Istanbul agency in charge of next year’s culture fest is being charged with corruption. Big money is missing. And, as is usual, no one knows what’s going on. Bear in mind that this money comes from another sweetheart deal, this one a hosing system that the AKP-controlled parliament approved two years ago. And it’s a beauty. Every time a long-suffering Turkish citizen buys gasoline a few kurus are siphoned off to feed the “culture agency.” The opposition party, the normally inert CHP, claims that this could amount to 250 million lira a year, adding that it smells a lot like the Deniz Feneri swindle that reaches, according to German Prosecutors, the highest levels of the Turkish government. But in typical AK-Plunder-party style that investigation has been delayed, deferred, and otherwise quashed. But one thing remains absolutely clear; when the public’s money goes missing, the AKP-Plunder-party is involved. Playing with Erdoğan’s immortal words uttered in Davos to the Israeli president: AKP, about plunder, you know stealing very well.
Beyond money, what has also gone missing is brainpower. It seems that the center piece “cultural” project Istanbul 2010 European Capital of Culture extravaganza focuses on yet another p-word: the penis. In particular, the penis of Prince Mehmet who had his prepuce removed to great and long acclaim in 1582. The prince’s father was Murad III, whose reign was described in My Name is Red, the book by the relentlessly self-promoting Turkish author, Orhan Pamuk, another P-word. Pamuk also got money from the culture agency—750,000 lira. Pamuk will use the money to open a museum—the Innocence Museum—the name of his latest book. For certain, connected and cooperative Turks, the rich get richer. And Yaşar Kemal, a lion of a man and Turkey’s greatest writer gets exactly what? Nothing, that’s what. This is also AKP-ness. But now back to the princely prepuce.
It seems that back in the good old days of 1582, the celebration for paring the prince’s prepuce lasted a record 52 days (some sources say 55, but who’s counting). By any measure, that’s a long time to celebrate a teeny-tiny piece of skin from a wee pup of a boy. Moreover, it seems a rather weird event to play such a huge role in any representation of Turkish culture, even by rock-bottom AKP standards. But maybe I’m missing some subtlety in Turkishness. Of course, there was much pomp associated with the prince’s penis, considering where it came from and who it emulated, that is, from the sultan and of the sultan. (The boy’s mother seems to have played an uncredited role in the original production.) In this case, certainly pomp is important. Just examine politics and politicians for example (two more P-words). Thus one should pay notice to, and take heed of, the various and sundry processions, gift presentations, and celebratory performances that lasted so long. All this will be staged and dramatized, animated and filmed, documented and published. It will be like living in the 16th century, precisely where the AKP is bringing the country. In a somewhat penetrating article, the Turkish Daily News reported that the cultural commission’s project about the princely penis would not last the full 52 days. Instead, it would be a “shortened performance.” Indeed. Whether this wording was meant to be tongue-in-cheek was not immediately apparent. Nevertheless, even the “shortened” re-creation of Mehmet’s circumcision ceremony is estimated to cost Turkish automobile drivers 12 million lira. And that’s a whopper of a price to pay for anyone's prepuce.
All of this sent me scurrying to my archives to find how some costs might be cut. Perhaps the actual cutting scene can be cut? Perhaps a cast member can be cut? Perhaps? Perhaps? I leave the reader to judge. As luck would have it, right next to my copy of NUTUK I found my copy of Jarrahiya Ilhaniye a tome about royal surgery by 15th century surgeon Serafeddin Sabuncuoğlu. It deals with everything one would want to know about Ottoman surgical techniques, particularly as applied to circumcision, more sharply applied to Prince Mehmet. I have read the details of the actual procedure. It might be sufficient to just peruse the following and decide for yourselves whether this event is worth all the time and millions of lira.
The author, Dr. Sabuncuoğlu, suggests a scissor with slightly curved blade tips. He also recommends that two ligations be made for health and safety. No argument from me. He advises that “the surgeon cut the perpetual skin between the ligatures so that there will be no flow of blood and the glans won’t be wounded.” Again, this sounded like good advice to me. But then he began to discuss a complication that often occurs. Oh-oh, I hate complications, particularly…well…okay, it’s about…never mind, I’ll let the doctor tell the story.*
(Note: The bold-faced comments in brackets are mine and were recorded on a listening device located in the prime minister’s office while I was reading Dr. Sabuncuoğlu’s book. I thank the prime ministry for the use of the tape. Such understanding people.)
“If a part or whole layer of the foreskin slips from your hand” [YIKES!], Sabuncuoğlu cautioned, “and is inverted during the operation [INVERTED? HOW…? LET ME OUT OF HERE!] draw it out immediately with a hook or a crochet [A HOOK? OH MAMA! ANNE! İMDAT!] and make your incision before the place swells.” [WHAT INCISION? WHAT PLACE? WHAT SWELLS?]
Sabuncuoğlu seems unusually calm about such things. He adds, “If you fail to do this, let it be.” [LET IT BE? WHAT KIND OF A DOCTOR ARE YOU?].
Not to worry says Sabuncuoğlu. [I’M WORRIED! I’M WORRIED! IT’S MY PENIS FOR ALLAH’S SAKE!]
“Allow the swollen part to subside, and then gently peel the skin.” [SUBSIDE? PEEL? WHAT AM I? A PATLICAN? PATLICAN MIYIM?].
“Be careful not to cut the tip of the penis,” warns the doctor, “but if it is cut there is no harm done.” [EASY FOR HIM TO SAY!ALLAH KAHRETSİN!HE SOUNDS LIKE ERDOĞAN AND HIS TEĞET ECONOMIC POLICY!]
“Dress the wound with flesh-generating powders.” [WHAT WOUND? YOU QUACK! ŞARLATAN HEKİM!]
“Should the foreskin be cut away more than needed and the skin is wrinkled up that will do no great harm either.” [AAAGH!!! LANET OLSUN!!! AHMAK! DANGALAK!!!!]
But perhaps I overreacted.
Nevertheless, this great leap backward by the AKP, typical as it is, should be thwarted on the grounds of defamation of the character of the Turkish people. We live in a dangerous, difficult age. And that’s the point. We are not Ottomans who kept their women enslaved beneath the veil and behind the lattice, and kept the masses ignorant and illiterate. Our cultural reference is not their dark-mindedness. We, all of us, are modern, vital citizens of Turkey. Our cultural reference point is the Enlightenment not the corruptions of the Ottoman Empire. That’s the message that should be conveyed to Europeans, and indeed, the world. But first we need to convey it to ourselves. It is far, far better thing to light a candle than continue to curse the darkness. And that is the one sure way to dispel the murk of AKP-ness.
Cem Ryan, Ph.D. İstanbul 27 October 2009
* Consult the below address at MuslimHeritage.com for more ceremonial details.