Tag Archives: BBC News

… in the face of Turkey’s May, 2014 mine disaster












“Ekmek hepimize yetmiyor,

kitap da öyle,

ama keder…

Alabildiği kadar… ”

~ Nazım Hikmet

There is not enough bread for us all,

the same is true with books,

but grief…

As much as possible…

(Own draft translation of May 17, 2014)


On occasion, I succumb to a desire to reflect on matters of political nature – an act of my least preference, as you know. Being time wise too close to a national tragedy in Turkey and the ensuing unrest in the nation – on account of the government’s enforcement of despotism upon its own people yet once again, I had to word my unease somehow.

The news article excerpt below highlights the pattern in the Turkish Prime Minister’s treatment of his people, one trait he had publicly established for himself during his widely documented Taksim Gezi Park confrontation with the unarmed protesters back in the Spring of 2013 (my related post appears at Unrest in Turkey and the Prime Minister’s Appeal to Allah to End it). We are able to catch a glimpse of what lies behind the latest protests rocking Turkey in the aftermath of the privately-owned Soma coal mine disaster of May 13, 2014 – the country’s worst, having reached 301 fatalities at the time of this writing:

“When Erdogan punches a citizen protesting in distress it seems utterly bizarre – until you get the underlying principle. He’s not expressing a violent difference of opinion. He’s saying, in effect, you (coal miner, poor farmer, wife of an imprisoned journalist etc) are not a sufferer; you do not comprise public opinion, nor are you the public, until I say so. I determine that. Because I have won the election. I can deny your reality because I won it, and I won it making you unreal.  So I delete (punch) you out of the picture. Therefore he can also say to weeping miners’ widows, oh please, enough drama, it’s not that bad. It happens, even in the fanciest of places. When it’s a real tragedy, you’ll be informed through the right channels (‘In Turkey’s Mine Disaster, Erdoğan Turns Tragedy Into Farce’ in Forbes by Melik Kaylan, Washington, 5/16/2014 @ 2:24AM).”

The following news article segment, then, provides insight into the influence this despotic ruler of Turkey has over his voters, whether by choice or by force:

“In the narrow streets of Istanbul’s Kasimpasa district, where Erdogan grew up and commands fervent support, his handling of the tragedy did little to dent loyalty to a man seen as a champion of the religiously conservative working classes. […] In Kasimpasa, an area where most women cover their hair and the orange and blue bunting of the Islamist-rooted AK Party adorns most streets, there is simply no other option. People will still vote for Erdogan because it’s like being in love with someone for too long and not noticing how they have changed for the worse [.] People are under his spell and not seeing his bad sides (“Erdoğan’s abrasive style unchecked by Turkish mine tragedy’ (in Reuters by Can Sezer and Dasha Afanasieva, editing by Nick Tattersall and Peter Graff, Istanbul, May 15, 2014 3:10 PM).”

In 1963, the merely sixty-one year-old Nazım Hikmet, Turkey’s most prominent literary name, died in exile in Russia. A thinker, a playwright, a novelist and a memoir writer but foremost the poet of the working class, he was forced into an exilic life for most of his years. For his poetry voiced the sufferings and rights of the working class of Turkey with unwavering passion. Nazım knew the importance of becoming a much needed and sought for but eloquently vocal companion to the underprivileged or openly suppressed. He also knew how to hear and listen to their numerous hardships – miners and non-miners alike. His volumes of homeland books evidence this fact.

There is nothing worth listing as far as the biography of Turkey’s current prime minister. There is, however, highest value in sharing with you the following Nazım-poem through which I join hands with that phenomenal legend of a human being in respect for the entire Turkish nation’s grief in the manner they deserve:

Öyle ölüler vardır ki;

Ben onların öldüklerini düşündükçe,

Vakit olur

Yaşadığımdan utanırım..

 ~ Nazım Hikmet

Some dead are such;

Whenever I think of their death,

There comes a time

When I am ashamed that I am alive..

(Own draft translation of May 17, 2014)


Filed under Reflections

The So-called “Brides” of Destroyed Childhoods

Many scenes of Osama the first film made in Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban regime are memorable.  Students of semesters past in my course, “Short Story, Film, and Islam,” will attest to this claim.  Offered under the category of Women and World Literature, mostly female students tend to enroll in this class first, although several male students register before the first week passes.  Still, the majority of class is made up of women.  Very young women.  Never, though, as young of a female as Osama, the film’s main character – a 12-year old girl.  Around mid- and end-semester, I give my students an anonymous survey, seeking their feedback on the course films.  There is one scene in this film that seems most disturbing to all every semester of its in-class showing and discussion – with the exception of maybe one or two out of a large class of students.  It is the wedding night of Osama – when she hides herself inside a lidded hole on the floor of the room where she has been locked to wait for her husband.  He is old enough to be her grandfather.

I remember getting much negative attention at a women’s studies conference not too long ago for including this film into the curriculum through large-group viewing and ensuing discussion.  “Why would you show such a controversial film in the first place?” were the exact words of one co-panelist.  Several others had joined her in her remarks of disbelief.  Reactions can and will, of course, take place in any setting, to any situation.  That fact is not worth any space here or elsewhere.  How those responses to my focus of debate of the time affected me, however, is.  For after that incident, I silenced myself as a mediator between teaching and learning.  In fact, I eliminated all films that were (and are) conducive to awareness-raising and thought-provoking deliberations by people of any age from my course design and schedule.  Not anymore.

While the film “Osama” is claimed to have been only inspired by a true story, outrageous happenings of the same nature seem to be in abundance when the world news are concerned.  One only needs to look at a few sources to gain insight into this human drama: PBS (“Child Brides: Stolen Lives”), National Geographic (“Too Young to Wed – The Secret World of Child Brides”), BBC (“The Truth about Child Brides”), New York Daily News (“PICTURED: Agony of the child brides forced to marry as young as SIX to men up to EIGHT TIMES their age”), UK Mail Online (“The terrifying world of child brides: Devastating images show girls young enough to be in pre-school who are married off to older men”).

The most recent news on this horrifying problematic of humanity came to me from CNN World (“70-year-old man marries 15-year-old in Saudi Arabia”): “She” is a “new bride”, a “15-year old”, “a teenager”, sold “for the equivalent of $20,000” – in other words, this young female victim has no name yet.  May she become also the inspiration for a film to at least be able to assume a memorable identity.  In order for this transnational debate to continue to spread awareness for this crime against humans of female birth under the disguise of religion.

"The status of a woman in a society reflects that social entity's level of civilization and advancement."

“The status of a woman in a society reflects that social entity’s level of civilization and advancement.”





Filed under Reflections