Friday, March 9, 2012

International Women's Day in Istanbul

It was International Women's Day yesterday, something that I'd only vaguely heard about at home in the US but which is a BIG deal here. Which is surprising in some ways, as I don't think there's a lot of respect for women here (although perhaps it's the same as in other places, but just manifests itself in different ways).

Anyway, my first sign that International Women's Day was going to be a big deal was when we came home on Tuesday night to find two wrapped carnations in front of our door, a gift from the district we live in. (Unfortunately, though, since they hadn't been in water for who knows how long, they were pretty wilted and not worth bringing in.) Then, on Thursday, the actual day, I received another carnation from the Turkcell girls at the Metrobus station. At work, all of the women received presents from the HR department (I got a lovely set of six glasses), and we had all brought food, so we had a little party mid-morning.

That was pretty much the end of my Women's Day celebrations.There was a parade Thursday evening at Taksim, but since I always have to work late on Thursday nights, it wasn't an option. There were also various other events during the day.

But probably the most interesting thing I heard about was a protest -- called H2SO4 Asian Cocktail -- staged in front of Ayasofya by FEMEN, the Ukrainian women's rights group. According to their Live Journal page (translated by Google), they were protesting acid attacks on Muslim women and they symbolically (ie with makeup) mutilated their bodies to show acid burns and the after-effects of a beating. From what I saw in videos, they drove up to the area in a van and then jumped out of it half-naked, yelling and holding up signs. It looks like they were there for only about five minutes before the cops started dragging them away, though maybe the videos had been edited down. They were arrested, and the four women were deported today; according to a news report, they tried to undress at the airport in protest but were stopped by the police. Their Live Journal page says they're "persona non grata" in Russia, but I have no doubt their public nakedness was seen as particularly offensive here.  Pin It

1 comment:

  1. While FEMEN is comprised entirely of women, and they do seem to rely on the shock or spectacle of semi-nakedness, I've seen their political efforts cast a wider net than what would easily be described as 'women's rights'. Unfortunately my grasp on Ukrainian activism is hampered by my inability to really understand much about Ukraine.

    I did not realize that they traveled beyond Eastern Europe for actions, tho. Possibly something to do with the sex trafficking that winds from the east through Turkey, or maybe a more generalized declaration of solidarity.

    All of this makes me wonder-- do you have any insights into feminist/women's rights groups in Istanbul?


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