Volume 12, Number 25
18 April 2006

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This Week

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Two Faces of a Beautiful Medallion

I've had the opportunity to listen to many writers, singers, actors, actresses and politicians since I've been at Bilkent (especially as an active member of the Yeni Ufuklar Club). As a general rule, it's probably been a successful event if the applause is greater at the end of the lecture than at the beginning--it indicates that the audience is even more eager to show its appreciation of the speaker after they've heard what he/she had to say.

On the basis of this rule, I can state that Elif Şafak's lecture (organized by the Center for Turkish Literature) was a very, very successful one. Dr. Şafak's appearance and her way of addressing the audience were as powerful as her style of writing. And I could see that I wasn't the only one who thought this. She's only 35 years old, but it was as if she were radiating something magic: everyone seemed to respect her the way they would respect someone with 135 years of experience and wisdom.

The lecture marked a complete victory for a woman in a society which believes that a beautiful woman who cares about her appearance can't be an intellectual. But everything was not so positive for Turkish women that week.

Three days before Dr. Şafak's example showed us how wrong it can be to prejudge a woman's identity based on her appearance, the İstanbul Security Directorate staged what it called the "Barbie Operation." Over 15 women were taken into custody, and their names were immediately revealed to the press. Anyone who watched TV or read the news on the internet could see a list of the names of these women, who were accused of prostitution. However, none of them were tried in court.

Because some of them are very well known, no one seemed to have felt the urge to stop and think for a moment. If she's a model, and accused of prostitution, why should we need any further proof, right? But were there any proven crimes? No. The only things we were aware of was a list of names and the mysterious evidence that the police claimed to have.

It's hard to understand why they made this list public. Why didn't they think about the effects such an action would have on a woman's life? No one made the effort to point out that these individuals hadn't been proven guilty. The majority seemed to have completely forgotten that the possibility of these women's innocence should have been reason enough for the police to have staged the operation quietly, without revealing their names. Even if there were only one innocent woman on the list, this should be enough to make those responsible ashamed of how they've ruined someone's life.

While I was listening to Elif Şafak that day, I was trying to imagine how many women lose their self-esteem and their belief in their plans for the future just because they want to look feminine. I was trying to make myself believe that we don't crush the hopes of tens or hundreds of Şafaks because of our cruelty and prejudices. But I couldn't fool myself. Truth hurts.

İsmail O. Postalcıoğlu (POLS/III)

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