In Istanbul, another typical sunny day greets me as I open my eyes. This city’s vibrant yet highly chaotic harmony never ceases to fascinate me. Similar to all big cities, people are always in a hurry here. They have families to care for, bills to pay, and dreams to fulfill. Each person has a life to live and a story of their own.
The refreshing breeze of the Bosphorus embraces me as I travel by ferry. How old is the history of this breeze that gives me goosebumps, I often wonder.
In almost every corner of Istanbul, there is a fight between the nostalgic texture of the old and the dynamic energy of the new, or an attempt to blend these two. Very few of these attempts, however, seem to have succeeded.
Supermarkets have replaced local markets. The pastoral silhouette of the city has disappeared due to improvidence. Now, tall residences, enormous shopping malls, and expensive bridges are considered to be the landmarks of Istanbul. Being conscious and smart with our purchases has been replaced with a never-ending cycle of consumption; one that’s centered on how we look to the outside world.
Many are fooled by the women on the famous streets of Istanbul who are financially strong and thus, free. Free to live as they wish.
But what about the women who have no money, no education, and no courage?
The types of prejudices and hardships these women—the so-called “other kind” according to Turkey fundamentalists—go through tend to be ignored. Glance at the news and you’ll see that the cute and sweet image conjured by Turkish delight is not very sweet up close.
How much self-awareness and spiritual growth is possible in a society where women’s safety and rights can’t be guaranteed?
Those who easily and tactlessly express their thoughts about a woman’s body are preventing her from her most fundamental right: to think and question. Where did I come from? Where am I going to go? What have I done so far?
Women need to ask these questions and live as fearlessly as men do. It’s a necessity; a matter of being human. It’s about self-discovery and self-realization.
Turkey has constantly had a discriminative approach towards women, especially over the last two decades. This has made it more difficult for women to concentrate on their personal growth. The role and value given to women in Turkey is revealing of the society’s values. It shows that politics, values, and morality are declining in this beautiful country.
But even faced with oppressive practices, the women don’t give up. No matter how suffocating it has been for them, they keep assembling and fighting for their rights in Turkey. Especially after the Istanbul Convention’s exit. The women continue to challenge this corruption tirelessly, knowing that to exist and write their story needs nobody else’s validation but their own.
What has been done to women is often ignored, and violence and abuse are treated as normal.
Those who hold power to govern measure the modernity of Turkey via how many shopping malls and fancy stores they have built so far.
Skyscrapers are being built. Women are being harassed.
Global luxury brands are opening branches in Istanbul. Women are defying gender discrimination in the workplace.
The latest cars circle the streets of the city. Women are being praised by politicians and ministers for childbearing and choosing appropriate husbands.
Not a day goes by without hearing the news of women being murdered, raped, beaten, and even put behind bars for having their own thoughts and opinions.
In Turkey, being a woman means being born into a rusty, monstrous system that’s been fed with social hypocrisy.
Therefore, one day you wake up knowing that you have to dare to fight.
Although the politics and social pressure continues to try to control them, Turkish women are determined not to let it. And their honorable efforts will continue until a new approach that does not objectify and exclude women is implemented and becomes the norm.
I would like to crown my words with a quote from Bell Hooks, whose wisdom and perception has inspired women worldwide:
“Imagine living in a world where there is no domination, where females and males are not alike or even always equal, but where a vision of mutuality is the ethos shaping our interaction.”