If Turkey continues on its current peace-in-the-neighborhood trajectory – think, Mr. Rogers meets improved relations between Turkey’s regional countries and its ethnic Kurdish minority – living in Turkey may very well be the safest it has been in over 30 years. The economy is stable and growing and somehow Turkey has managed to be friends with Israel while impressing the rest of the Middle East with its edgy sitcoms. It is a marvelous feat that even the village conspiracy theorists can’t quite wrap their heads around.
But as it is worldwide, there is still one group that regardless will look over their shoulders when they walk down the road: women. After witnessing gross sexual assault scandals from my former homes in the US to Europe to Japan – more and more I am convinced that neither religion, economic status, nor geography are great indicators for whether or not women live in fear of sexual assault or harassment. This kind of discomfort is everywhere and it can happen to anyone.
I am writing about Turkey and my experiences here because this is where I live and it is what I know. I am writing because the more horror and humiliation I live through, the more civility and bravery I experience, the more I think I have a small handle on what I can do to confront this enormous injustice that all of us face in one way or another.
Let’s start with a few stories from the last few weeks.