Today, I will be on a plane heading for Saudi Arabia. From there, my connection flight will take me to Amman, Jordan. First stop on “the yellow brick road”! I most certainly could live without Dorothy’s tornado effect but nevertheless, I feel like I am about to run into a whirlwind of exciting discoveries galore. The road ahead of me promises ‘yellow’, lots and lots of ‘yellow’ as in brightest sunshiny days; with wonders to meet one ‘brick’ at a time. Thanks to poetry. For poetry. Through poetry. For the next two months, I will be traveling extensively in the Middle East and The Balkans for various poetry events, with the high probability of tasting vino at its divine Western European source (I have heard that the Trevi Fountain has changed its primary hue . . . smiles, sneaky smiles . . .)
Once the jet-lag is over, I will be back for my usual blogging days. I hope you will stay tuned to walk with me one ‘yellow brick’ at a time on this road.
Two days ago, some countries acknowledged, some others rejected once more the United Nations International Women’s Day (IWD). Cultural entities around the world coincided their fertile grounds for violence against women with the supposed celebrationof their female populations. South Africa and India became two of the most adored objects of the media, Celebrating International Women’s Day due to “recent cases of violence against women” on their soil.
In the honor of IWD, seven injustices women around the world meet became newsworthy yet once again. Among them, China, India and Afghanistan attained considerable attention. Sex-selective abortion and infanticide brought China and India to the news, while Afghanistan, this time, competed in the list due to its lack of education rights for its females. Lesser crimes against women in relatively wide-spread coverage included no rights to drive in Saudi Arabia, far fewer rights in divorce in Egypt, restricted land ownership in Lesotho, media coverage discrepancies in Latin America and gender pay gap in the United States.
With a substantial leap from concerns over equal pay for both sexes, selected world media leaders took us to a brief tour in one of the exclusive districts of Istanbul, in quest of a public gallery constructed in commemoration of IWD following the increase in “honor killings” of women in Turkey. The displays consist of newspaper clips of stories of women murdered by the men of their families, i.e. husbands, divorced husbands, fathers, father-in-laws, brothers, brother-in-laws, uncles, etc. A large banner reading “There is no excuse for violence against a woman” functions as the onset of the news program, Beyoğlu’nda ‘Kadına şiddetin bahanesi yoktur’ sergisi.
At the risk of being ridiculed – in view of the above-mentioned violence’s scope, I claim that even one hand constitutes a brutal act when used to slap someone regardless of that strike’s force. So is using pepper spray on unarmed, non-violent, nonthreatening, defenseless people, as the following video, Kadınlar gününde kadına biber gazı documents. The clip makes history on Turkish lands since the founding of the Republic of Turkey in 1923 by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk – on International Women’s Day, nonetheless. For, the Islamist Erdoğan administration uses police to stop women in Hatay, Turkey with pepper spray from voicing their demands for anti-violence against women in a peaceful walk.
An image from a critically-claimed cinematic production, “Osama” enters the memory:
Wasn’t it mere water, after all, that the Talibani had used on women to dissolve their quest for work to survive in their man-less households? Before ordering their murders without trial on the slightest suspense of their “misbehavior”? On behalf of Islam?
Let us have a quick fact-check against the backlash of at least a few of the relevant teachings of the Kur’an regarding some of the hereby summarized crimes against women: Driving? There is – as to be expected – no mention of it. It, thus, has no connection to Islam when Saudi Arabia or elsewhere is concerned. Rights in divorce? Equal for both genders, with a clause to more heavily support the woman; especially, if she is expecting or already a parent. Right for education? Equal for both genders.
Celebrating women? What an impossible feat as long as distortions, misinterpretations, misconstructions, de-constructions, or reconstructions of religious texts reign over humanity when at least the three “main” world faiths are concerned!
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.”
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