I like the way a counselor expressed it when I asked him about abuse problems in Turkey. His initial reply was that it seems to be like an elephant in the living room -- nobody talks about it.
In the article “Patriarchal patterns persist in Turkish society” (Jan. 2, 2011, Sunday’s Zaman), by Şerife Tekdal, concern was expressed about how, as a society, stories of abuse of women have been marginalized. Tekdal wrote that the Turkish community has become so familiar with the idea of a man killing in the name of honor, love, jealousy or pure hatred that we tend to act like the three wise monkeys. We haven’t seen anything, we haven’t heard anything and we don’t say anything. Tekdal says that Turks should be aware that in an ever-changing, contemporary Turkey, a woman’s freedom and lifestyle are in her own hands, and until men with abusive tendencies understand this concept and fully abandon ideas based on patriarchal patterns of thought, there will continue to be more bloodshed.
I regularly receive letters from women who either have a very jealous and controlling boyfriend or an abusive boyfriend or husband. Here is just one of the letters that I have received from a female Today’s Zaman reader:
“Dear Charlotte: When I met my Turkish boyfriend he seemed open-minded. We met in England and then moved to Turkey. He is like a different person here. Now when I come back to England I sometimes like to go with my friends and spend an evening going to a few bars or even a club maybe and have a good time. I should point out that this may happen once a week or once every 2 weeks. I am not going out every night or anything. After all we were in a bar when we met and he didn’t seem to have any problem with it then!
“I get the feeling that he doesn’t really like it when I go out and seems to have a problem with it. For example a while ago I was in a club with my friend just having a good time and he was calling my mobile phone...He knew I was out with my friends. I couldn’t hear my phone ringing because of the music and poor reception. Anyway to cut a long story short I checked my phone as I always do to see if he had text me and I noticed I had some missed calls. I left the club and called him back...he went crazy saying why didn’t I answer my phone etc. He suspected that I was cheating on him. I would never do that! We had a huge fight and it was horrible.
“We are fine now but I am still really concerned about going out again since then because I don’t want him to get upset. But I do not want to lose contact with my friends. Basically I want my freedom back and to be able to chill out without the worry. From: Jan (UK)”
Dear Jan: Your letter reveals points that are concerning. Any relationship that is possessive and controlling can lead to different forms of abuse. It would be wise to set your boundaries and if your situation worsens, seek counsel and help. Sometimes some men have control issues that need to be addressed. Having said this I want to point out that this is true around the world, but there are other countries that have more help and counseling in place for those who are victims of bad relationships.
In Turkey, I believe there is a need for more places like Mor Çatı (Purple Roof), one of the longest-established shelters for women suffering from abuse. More effort needs to be made to develop a greater awareness of this problem. Here are just a few simple, but necessary points to begin with:
To bring an ugly issue to light
To break bad behavior
To equip organizations like Mor Çatı to help the hurting among us in society
To understand the bad dynamics behind abuse
Foreign women living in Turkey are more prepared to admit the problem and try to get help, but what about the hundreds of thousands of Turkish women who suffer in silence, feeling they have nobody to turn to and no way out of their problems? Now is the time to think of more creative ways to relieve the secret suffering of women in the privacy of their own homes.