Showing posts with label domestic violence. Show all posts
Showing posts with label domestic violence. 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, February 15, 2013

#1billionrising in Istanbul

"Everyday Five Women Are Killed
through Domestic Violence"
Yesterday was so delightful. The enormity of Eve Ensler's imagination blew me away. It was just glorious to participate in the largest global happening on the planet to date. Turkish media was 100% there for the event. Many newspapers featured it on their front page the day it was to happen and the day after. My local neighborhood municipality actually sponsored a rising themselves and offered people free dance classes. I wasn't able to go because it was during the day but the joy of those who did attend is self-evident! The anthem was perfect as it created and communicated the joyousness of the feminist tsunami circling the world.
New friend and fellow protester
Betül. She was a delight!

I thought there was a rising at 6 p.m. in Taksim Square, but when I got there, the square was empty. I looked around and guessed who would be the most likely to be attending a rising that night. I guessed exactly right on my first try. The young German lady said, "yes, my roommate has organized the one in Kadikoy on the Asian side at 7 p.m." I guess it's been all those years of guessing who speaks English to ask questions that helped me pick the right female to ask! We gathered a Canadian friend of hers and took the ferry over to Asia.

There were all kinds of people there, at least 500 if not more. One young woman had hand-lettered signs on both sides with magic marker and gladly shared them with people she didn't know. I marveled at the time investment, but hey, I had done the same in my own way, with non-stop promotion of #1billionrising in the weeks prior to everybody I could think of.

I realized when I got there, that this was an event that was tailor-made for Turkey. Most Turks dance with abandon and they have wonderful, wonderful folk dances that are easy to learn and enable people of all ages to participate. We started doing the halay in a big circle and gorgeous young women would make that ululating sound as loud as they could with incredible joy. It was FABULOUS.
 Someone translated this to me that night as:
"Hallelujah, the women are united!"
The administrator in me started thinking "well, if I had done this promotion, I would have done this different and that different, starting with designing a dance as easy to learn as the Turkish halay so it could go viral and all ages would dance it up." The official #1billionrising choreography was intimidating to nondancers as a time investment. It looked like it would take multiple rehearsals to learn. That makes it hard for folks to identify with so that they join in up until the last minute. I would also would have waited for a year to do this when Valentine's Day fell on a Saturday so the maximum number of people could join. Had it happened on a weekend, I would have just gone to risings all day, one after the other.

I also wish the President of the United States had given #1billionrising a shoutout in the State of the Union speech the night before. I mean, it's not every single day that 1 billion people decide to organize themselves into mass action. A single "I hear ya!" would have sufficed.

The State Department, which prides itself on social media saavy, seemed like complete nonparticipants on Twitter. I would have thought Hillary Clinton's State Department would have had risings organized at all embassies and consulates. Women's rights were supposed to be hallmark of Hillary's time as Secretary of State. The United Nations, the UK Prime Minister, and the Australian PM were all over #1billionrising on V-Day. America missed a wonderful opportunity to brag about all the work it has done on behalf of women over the last four years. This could have been the capstone event!

It was amazing how hard it was to know about all of the aspects of this. I didn't realize you could order a T-shirt. I didn't know that my municipality was organizing their own rising. I didn't know that there was a #1billionrisingIstanbul Facebook page (the ladies of Izmir, Turkey had over 4,000 likes on theirs). I didn't understand how there would be #1billionrising when @eveensler only had around 22,000 Twitter followers and @vday only had 23,000 followers. There is a Twitter account called @obr that seems to be owned by a very non-active Norwegian, not One Billion Rising. Had information on all the groups organizing been more centralized, it could have been even exponentially larger.

But then I just remembered to myself the wonderful quote by Teddy Roosevelt. "It is not the critic who counts, but the man in the arena." My suggestions are mere quibbles.

Eve Ensler created something of immense power and beauty. My hat is off to her. I can't wait to sift through all of the incredibly diverse videos and take them in. I loved hearing this NPR Talk-of -he-Nation interview with her from the Congo where she expressed her optimism for the future. Most importantly, she talked about when she started with the Vagina Monologues, it was with a theatre of 100 seats. She had no idea the power of her voice. None of us do - all we have to do is take the first step. In my opinion, Eve Ensler deserves the American Medal of Freedom for her service to America and all humanity.

This is one of the most powerful #1billionrisings videos I've seen so far: #1billionrising in jail.

You may be interested in my earlier posts about #1billionrising:


 



Thursday, February 14, 2013

I rise to break the chain as a part of Eve Ensler's #1billionrising!

Today is the big day!

Eve Ensler, the creator of the Vagina Monologues (which has raised $80 million for domestic violence charities globally) has organized what I believe to be the largest coordinated event in the history of the world. One billion women, and the men who love them, will be rising to change the worldwide paradigm about the acceptability of violence against women.

Here’s an example of how violence against women is often not taken seriously. When I was a branch manager of a public library branch in Colorado Springs, we were located in an upscale, gorgeous neighborhood full of expensive homes nestled under the mountains. It's the Rockrimmon neighborhood.  It was not the kind of place where you would expect violent daylight attacks against women. 


 That’s exactly what happened though. The lady in the dry cleaning business next door to our library branch was brutally raped, and had her skull bashed in. It was 3 in the afternoon, with grocery store shoppers and library users using the parking lot without a realization of what had happened. I had the responsibility for the 15-20 person female staff that day and believe me, I felt it!

A couple days later a man was arrested. What would have proved or disproved his guilt was a DNA rape kit. Colorado had passed laws by then requiring them, but the processing of them was not funded to keep up with the need and there was a six-month backlog of rape kits to be processed.

I never found out if that man was actually guilty or if he had been arrested to “calm the population down.” If he wasn’t the guilty party, how unfair it must have felt to him as he waited. How sad for the neighborhood too, if the real perpetrator was still on the loose.

It’s my guess that if you check, most American states also has a huge backlog of rape kits to be processed.  My friends in Colorado tell me nothing has changed - the backlog remains. This lackadaisical attitude about stopping violence against women must change. It's not just in that one place, it is global.
Here are a few things you can do to participate in this worldwide revolution:
1) Attend a rising. There will be flash mobs happening all over the world. There is a choreography video on the #1billionrising site. If you don't have time to learn the dance, your presence is enough. You can sway. Here's where to find an event. Global events will be livestreamed all day.
2) Share with your friends in person and on social media what #1billionrising is all about. Make sure your friends know that there are 100 million missing women from the planet. Of those that remain, 1 in 3 is touched by violence or violation, which adds up to 1 billion people around the world. Find a video on the #1billionrising website that is personally meaningful to you to share. Imagine for a moment, how the world would be different, if those women weren't violated and left dealing with shame and humiliation.
3) Make your FB cover photo reflect #1billionrising for the month of February. There are plenty of banner cover shots on the site. Help #1billionrising become a global trending topic on Twitter.
4) If you live in America, make sure you understand why the House of Representatives is voting against the Violence Against Women Act. It is not a budget buster, indeed, it is at a funding level 17% less than the last time it was renewed. Here is one video and another video that help explain why Republicans are against renewing it. Are those reasons not appalling? How is your Representative voting?
5) Feel the joy of your actions. You are personally making a difference for future generations to follow. Here's a video from San Francisco of a rising to help you feel your joy. Your actions don't end here. The work of the 21st century will be to achieve equality for women and girls. We will have more work in the future. Thanks for caring!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

VDay 2013: One Billion Women Rising Globally & .... Dancing!

Istanbul cast of the 2012 English-language version
of "The Vagina Monologues"
What a delight it was to gather one last time with my fellow cast members of the 2012 Istanbul English-language "Vagina Monologues" and meet their families, boyfriends, and friends at our cast dinner. We reunited at an Indian restaurant near Taksim Square in the Tamirhane area.
Musafir Indian Restaurant
in the Tamirhane Neighborhood
Near Taksim

This doesn't strike me
as an evil eye, how about you?
Surprisingly, our beautiful waitress
was not Indian,
she was Turkish.
Fooled you, didn't she?

Harika and her beau were off on a
photography safari of Nepal after the play.


We enjoyed delicious Indian food. Most importantly, we enjoyed each other's company and discussed what was next for each of us. Harika was off to photograph Nepal. Tara was leaving for scuba in Egypt the next day. One cast member was flying back to Rome where she lived full-time. I must admit, the more I read about Eve Ensler and her cause the more involved I wanted to become in the future. I wasn't ready to let go of the VDay cause.

"The Vagina Monologues" is coming up on its 15th anniversary next year. It makes a statement, it has been produced in over 140 countries and raised money for local charities (over $100 million since it was first written), yet still the world if full of violence against women. If anything, it's become worse. What will change the paradigm, Eve asks? What would make everyone in our buildings, on our streets, in our cities, in our nations wake up and not take it anymore? To demand a safer world for all women? Something even bigger, even bolder is needed! Listen to her yourself (prepare yourself, its an awfully tough listen):

Eve Ensler
on Democracy Now
discussing "1BillionRising"

Eve Ensler says:
"V-Day is calling the 1 billion survivors of violence on every continent of the planet to join and RISE. On February 14, 2013, we are inviting, challenging, and calling women and the people who love them to walk out of their homes, schools, jobs to strike and dance. To dance with our bodies, our lives, our heart. To dance with our rage and our joy and love. To dance with whoever we want, wherever we can until the violence stops. We know our brothers, husbands, sons and lovers will join us in the dancing. Imagine 1 billion women and those that love them dancing. Imagine us taking up space, expanding our borders and possibilities, expressing the depth of our desire for peace and change. Dancing, 1 Billion Dancing. The earth will surely move and violence against women and girls will end. Because it can."
Imagine trying to organize one billion people to end violence against half the population of the world! I love the scope and breadth of her ambition. What audacity! I can only ask myself "what can I do to help make this happen?" I ask you, is there something you can do as well in your corner of the world to help Eve reach her goal? Can we help Eve make the earth move together?

Here is one thing we can do immediately:

 follow #1BillionRising on Twitter

Here is a second thing we can do immediately:

 sign up to receive email about her goal

Here is a third thing we can do longterm:

 organize some sort of dancing for February 14, 2013

And lastly, on VDay 2013 we can DANCE!

C'mon. It will be fun.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

My First Turkish Movie -‘Kurtuluş Son Durak’

One night I was invited to a gal's night out with about six Turkish married women. My friends were organizing themselves to see a new Turkish movie with an all-female cast called ‘Kurtuluş Son Durak.’

I hadn't even yet seen the inside of our local movie theatre and was pleasantly surprised by the deluxe leather or leather-like Lazy-Boy style chairs. It was a beautiful theatre and very, very comfortable. I bought a giant popcorn to complete the experience and sat down not knowing what to expect. I didn't even know what the movie would be about.

This movie, a comedy with a theme of domestic violence, was adorable! The story starts when a glamorous woman, recently dumped by her boyfriend, moves into an Istanbul building. All of the other ladies in the building are, of course, curious about her but she resists their friendship.

The women all have their own struggles. One woman has devoted her life to her bedridden father; another has resigned herself to daily beatings from her husband so long as he doesn't touch the kids; another is facing the reality that her Mafioso boyfriend won't marry her, a young teenager hates seeing her mother beaten. Eventually, the ladies unite through their struggles, and become empowered to solve their problems. Most importantly, they have adopted a motto to "oppose all forms of violence."

The movie showcases
six skilled Turkish actresses
What I loved about the movie is that it showed absolutely beautiful parts of Turkish female culture. A Turkish woman will never let anyone starve. If food could cure cancer, there would be no cancer in Turkey! Even if a Turkish woman doesn't do the cooking herself, she has immense pride in her country's cuisine and is always quick to offer it. Turkish hospitality is awe-inspiring. They eventually wear down their new neighbor with their amazing food!

Typical Turkish Dinner with Rakı
(Turkish anise-flavored liquor),
good fellowship,
and good music
Secondly, Turkish women, actually Turkish people in general, are quick to share joy through music and dance. Have I met a bad Turkish dancer yet? I have not! Since childhood, folks in Turkey have been learning about music and folk dancing, belly dancing, and traditional dancing from their elders.

This movie was written by a man named Barış Pirhasan and directed by his son Yusuf Pirhasan. I need to give special appreciation to them as a viewer for creating this hilarious, uplifting script. Domestic violence seems like it wouldn't be a good subject for a movie, because it could seem so hopeless and dreary. There is a real accelerating problem with domestic violence in Turkey with domestic murders of women up 1400% in the last seven years. This movie seems like such a healthy way to create conversation about the problem and eliminate denial about the topic. Isn't that what is great about artists? They are always challenging us to do better, notice this, address that! Kudos, gentlemen.

This movie was a fun playful revenge fantasy similar in spirit to Dolly Parton's, Lily Tomlin's, and Jane Fonda's "9 to 5," the American movie about the glass ceiling women encounter at work. I didn't need much help during the movie to understand it since it was about the universal theme of relationships and friendship. The creators should be invited to appear at film festivals everywhere! Click on my title to visit the film's website.
 
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