On December 8, for genuine reasons unknown—but with perfect timing, pious enthusiasm, and relentless execution—the streets of Istanbul celebrated the first day of Kurban Bayram, the Feast of Sacrifice. Countless animals, of the inhuman, harmless variety—lambs, cows, bulls, goats—were slain by piously human Turks. And the waters of the Bosphorus ran incarnadine. Over the ensuing days of the weeklong holiday, the homo sapiens variety of the beast, as is usual, outdid itself, soon turning to killing each other in the other ritual slaughter known as holiday traffic accidents—134 dead, 697 injured (1). It is well that Turkey’s national color is red. Allah must have been tickled deeply pink.
On slaughter day, the lambs are always dispatched easily. The larger beasts, perhaps because of their height, see and wise up quicker. Thus, they at least drag their hooves in token resistance. But none are ever a match for the pious Turks who have Allah in their heads, knives in their hands, and often guns in their pockets. It’s a bullfight without grace and danger. It’s an execution, gangland-style. It’s ugly stuff. What, I wonder, do these summary executioners discuss over their compliant, easily dispatched victims? Do they ponder portentously over the emerging, heavily laden entrails? Discuss cutting technique and wrestling holds? Opine on the tactile efficacy of the serous membrane? Or do they just keep praising the greatness of Allah? Oh, you Turkish people, you husbands, wives, lovers, friends—beaten, abused, cheated, insulted—why do you cower like the sheep you slay? Haven’t you taken it enough? Aren’t you fed up? Haven’t you been bled enough?
In the streets of this populous city, amidst the hoards of the under-educated, the under-civilized, the overly-represented (governmentally speaking), and the over-taxed, a young girl gazes trancelike into the beyond. Does she know that when she begins to bleed she will be treated and dressed just like a carcass? Trussed up like a lamb on a lamppost, there she will hang, a political symbol, the ultimate debasement of her—and humanity’s—femininity. Dear, sweet, red-coated child, the waves of political piety sweeping this nation virtually guarantee it. Just look at the sıkma başlı wives of the prime minister and president of Turkey. Surely you will be covered with one of the seemingly endless varieties of head-squeezings that so besiege today’s Turkish women. Her menstrual blood runs, and shame comes to cover our sweet child. Oh, you women, you reluctant heirs of the revolution, you lambs, why do you allow such rape?
She will be so sorely abused, our little moppet who stares at the heavens. Too harsh to call it rape, you say? I think not harsh enough, for many are the organs and orifices available for the raping. Young, pliant, unfettered female minds raped by absurdly conceived—by men—religious traditions. Beauty and youth raped by the de facto sequestering of women from public life. Despite the Atatürk revolution of over eighty years ago, Turkish women remain slaves to ignorance and inertia. In Diyarbakır, a city of nearly 3 million in southeastern Turkey, 80% of the women are illiterate (2). According to a study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), almost half of Turkish women between 15 and 19 years old neither attend school, nor leave the house. Almost half! And it gets worse with age: 58% for women 20 to 24 years old, 66% for 25 to 29 years old (3). In short, the vast majority of Turkish women are living in the dark ages.
Consider the rape of our starry-eyed darling’s dream for a better life, one rid of blood and knives and bloody shoes and red meat. Who will tell our young beauty who stares at the sky of a better way? The mother and father who will give her to the prepubescent village boy who picks his nose and can’t wait to get his hand around a blade and cut a sheep all by himself?Too harsh, still? Good.
And what if our wondering girl is saucy and pert and gets into “it” with a man?And what if the man brought that “it” along in his own full measure. Why, her family honor has been despoiled. Not his, mind you, for he has become a real man, a cutter of lambs. But she? Our beauty must pay. Expect to die, my dear. It will be quick, my dear. It doesn’t matter if you run away. Your family will find you. But take comfort, my dear, it will be quick. You will not even see the blood, though it surely will run in the street. Your father or brother or uncle knows how to do these honorable things very well, my dear. Death, the punishment of choice, preferred by 40% of those polled in a survey done in southeastern Turkey, finishing well ahead of nose-slashing and head-shaving. Death, such an easy remedy to redeem the honor of stalwart men and their noble families (4).
And what if our lovely young girl is indeed, actually, and absolutely raped. First, she will be blamed for enticing the poor, helpless rapist. And since no self-respecting rapist in Turkey wants to go to jail, what to do? Marry the girl, of course! Yes indeed, no messy family honor problems, no inconvenient jail sentence for our hero rapist. And they live ever after. The streets of Turkey run riot with the blood of women (5).
Women in Istanbul
And who will tell her that upon her first bleeding, our little moppet might end up wrapped in a quasi bed sheet called a çarşaf, black in every sense of the word, with her eyes peering though a slit. For the rest of her adult public life she will walk in her winding sheet, her shroud, her kefen. For the rest of her adult public life, she will breathe no fresh air. Instead, she will stifle herself in the stink and poison of her own exhalations, marinating in her own sweat. For what known reason? For Allah’s sake? No, not Allah, his book is mute on the issue. Then for whose sake? For a Turkish man’s sake? For the craven, American-puppet politicians’ sake?
Covered Women, Istanbul, November 2003
In 1929, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk said: "In some places I see women who cover their heads with a piece of cloth or towel or something like that, thereby hiding their faces, and who turn their back to the men passing by and sit down on the ground, huddling up. What’s the meaning of this attitude? Tell me, gentlemen, would the mother or the daughter of a civilized nation twist herself into this strange posture? This is a sight which makes the nation appear ludicrous. And it demands correction at once." (6)
At once! Correction at once! Seventy-nine years ago! "At once," he said. Some revolution.
So, again, who will tell our sweet child what bodes beyond this annually recurring day of animal slaughter? Who will give her fair warning? How will she escape her blood-ridden fate? Who will tell her? Her father with the flensing knife? Her mother, in blood up to her elbows? The observant onlooking uncles? The politicians who pimp and pander for votes over the abused bodies of women? Who will rescue this little girl? Who?