23 July 2007

Turkish Girls

This Sunday was the big General Election in Turkey. For weeks before we had put up with political rallies, vans driving around with blaring election speeches and rousing patriotic songs. There were fireworks at night, and huge "vote for me" advertising posters replaced the football team banners.

Everyone was wondering if the ruling AK party would get back in, because there had been some concern about this party being strongly pro-Islamist. The big deal in Turkey, for which we all love the man Atatürk, is that the government must remain secular, while the country is generally very religious. In practical terms, this means, for example, that women cannot wear religious headgear in government jobs.

Well, the AK party did get in. But they have promised to maintain the status quo, secular government. Otherwise the military have promised yet another military coup - they will just step in and take over like they did before.

So. What about the girls?

Turkish girls are beautiful. These are some of the ladies we have been privileged to teach English to.

Besides being beautiful, they are intelligent and strongly independent. In an English school like this we get a few - not many - of the covered girls.

But we see a lot of them around the streets, like this friendly group of high school students.

Of course there are also a few completely covered women in the black burkas, some showing only their eyes, some revealing their nose and even mouth. (I've never seen any completely covered with a veil as well like in some countries.)

What we've noticed about these young covered girls is that they are always slim and pretty, and they take great pride in choosing the colours and designs of their head scarves and full covering clothes.

As far as I can tell, the rules are that the hair must be fully covered as well as the neck, and the sleeves, and they must wear a coat or dress to cover the shape of their legs.

That doesn't mean they can' go all out to choose clothes that are fashionable and colour coordinated.

The thing that really bothers me is that this is all well and good in cold weather, but this was a particularly hot day.

The un-covered girl is comfortably dressed for the day, her covered friend is wearing a long-sleeved shirt, and t-shirt, and skirt and jeans, as well as her headscarf.

I couldn't do it. I don't even much like wearing a scarf in winter.

Most of these girls (covered and not) end up in arranged marriages - and are quite happy about it from what they tell us. And then the expectation is that they will stay at home, inside, doing housework and watching TV, covering appropriately when they go outside, or even stick their heads out over the balcony to hang the washing.

Eventually they all turn into sacks of onions - with inner beauty.


a covered girl said...

Hey, I really liked your pictures but wasn't happy with what you took away from the beautiful turkish culture. You have to understand, a lot of the Turkish culture stems from the magnificent Ottoman Empire. While you may be impressed by the neo-European influnce in Turkey, do sympathize with the Muslim women that are forced to take off their scarves against their will by professors and employers. Compare this to say, not being able to get a job because you have a tattoo! Sounds unfair, doesn't it? As for becoming sacks of onions, I'm not sure who your host family was there, but everyone I know in Turkey, covered as they are in your pictures, are employed in one job or another. Some women after having kids chose to become stay at home moms, much like many American women do. That does not make them any less of an intelligent woman. I hope you go back and try to look at us "sacks of onions" with a more understanding grace. TY, for the beautiful pictures =)

Ruth said...

Hey, Covered Girl,
Lovely to hear from you!
I apologise unreservedly for the 'sacks of onions' term ... after all I'm a bit that way myself. It wasn't at all meant to be derogatory, though, just commenting that you don't often see trim older women on the streets. But you are right, many women in Turkey do stay in employment, others choose to stay home.
I have just spent a year in Riyadh where all of the women (including me) are covered in black. But at the University where I was teaching they all had to uncover. And there are so many pretty girls that no one ever sees outside of home and school. A lot of these young girls have already put on heaps of weight from not being allowed to go out anywhere and all that wonderful food (most of which is so similar to Turkish!) Again, delightful and intelligent.
You can look at my blog ( howdisaudi.blogspot.com ) but there are no photos. I did have some photos which included some girls' hands, and I was told to remove them.
So, my life is a journey, and I greatly enjoyed my time with the beautiful (covered and uncovered) girls in Turkey, as well as the less-known ladies of Saudi Arabia. Thank you for your comments, and thank you to the Turkish ladies for allowing me to take photos of them too. :)