Monday, June 15, 2015

My finest moment

I'm on a lovely holiday in Portugal. Over the last three days, just about everything has been great--the weather, the food, the wine.

I noticed a lot of harassment. The old men would come up to me. The young would say something under their breath as I walked by. I laughed it off initally--oh, nothing can be as bad as Egypt. Child's play.

Tonight, my last night in Porto. I went out to a great restaurant on the Douro River. Got a delicious octopus dish. Great scenery. The sun was setting. I finished my dinner and headed out.

As I walked out of the restaurant, three older men were sitting out and made a hissing noise as I walked by. Conditioned to this, I kept on walking. Halfway through the next restaurant, I stopped. Why am I putting up with this shit? I went back and thoroughly bitched them out. They said they were just trying to tell me that my eyes were beautiful. Blah blah blah. I can call the cops if I want.

I don't give a shit. I stood my ground.

Every woman who saw gave me the thumbs up. They can go fuck themselves. At the time I felt satisfied, vindicated.

After years and years of this shit, I finally said something. Even more, all these women were on my side.

About two minutes later, I stopped. I called my mother. Why is it that this is the norm everywhere I go? Why can't I go to the grocery store, or to a restaurant, or to the corner kiosk without getting hit on? Why is it that no matter where I go-- Egypt, Turkey, Portugal/Europe, Dc/USA, I'm never a person, but a woman? And even more so, why is it that every woman who saw this felt the same--yet none of the men did?

Years and years in Egypt, I would be harassed, followed, groped. You don't say anything--when you do, it escalates. It becomes physical. It's better to be quiet. When I resisted, I got dragged from a moving vehicle. But there's worse.

There was a girl who caught the headlines in Turkey. She was murdered for resisting rape.

I told my mom that I wish the men who acted this way would die. I wish they would experience a slow painful death. I wish that they could feel the fear, the pain of all the women gang raped. Murdered. I want them to feel the terror those girls felt. And seeing that written out is scary--the girl who never believed in corporal punishment.

The feeling of being a second-class citizen is overwhelming. My entire purpose of being is to please others. My eyes are beautiful, my ass is beautiful, and that makes me not even worthy. But, I'm there.

Is this normal? I don't even know anymore. All I know is I spent the last day in Porto on the phone with my mom. Never saw the sun setting on the Duoro. 

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

A tale of golden toilets

Turkey's parliamentary elections are around the corner, elections that could be considered the most important in history. Not only is the parliament in the balance, but the parliamentary system is as well. Ex-prime minister and current president Erdogan announced plans to turn Turkey into a presidential system (what a coincidence! Now that he's president, he wants to put all the power in that office).

An upstart political party called the HDP that was once considered aligned with Kurds and therefore terrorists/separatists but now gaining popularity across the board is in a position to potentially block this--if they reach the 10 percent threshold, Erdogan and his followers won't have enough support for the presidential shift. The HDP is going for inclusivity, fielding a roster of not only Kurdish activists, but socialists, religious Muslims, minority candidates including Roma and Armenians, and a transgender candidate. If they lose, however, the seats they gained will be divided between the winning parties, making the AKP even stronger.

Erdogan surrounded by his Ottoman-style guards

I am not convinced Erdogan will lose this election, even if he loses the vote. Funny business tends to happen during Turkish elections (like a stray cat who got into a transformer and cut the electricity right as vote-counting began in an anti-Erodgan area). He's made it clear he is in charge of Turkey and that he has no intention of compromise, let alone ever leaving. 

A man who was once considered a modernizer now surrounds himself with Ottoman-styled guards in a bizarre and controversial $615 million palace he built on what was meant to be conserved land. His rants about golden toilets are grabbing headlines here, rants that followed him daring those who opposed the construction of his palace to come down and take it from him. He has engaged in verbal warfare with both foreign and local journalists. He singled out the NYT for its coverage, calling it and its former Turkey head and "enemy" of himself and the state. He has sued a local journalist for coverage on shipments of arms from the Turkish equivalent of the CIA to Syrian fighters. That journalist has been threatened by the prosecutor general with a life sentence due to his "espionage." In rhetoric that echos Egypt, he accuses the NYT, CNN, and the BBC of trying to weaken and divide Turkey. While these accusations and actions border on farcical, the stifling effect can be felt. Whenever he speaks, the stock market crashes. 

Erdogan is everywhere despite the fact he's not actually running for office. His face, never a smile, looks down on us in the metro, on buildings, in tea shops. Election propaganda is technically banned from public transport, yet Erdogan's face beams down from buses and inside the metro. Erdogan, as president, technically is nonpartisan, although he admits to having the AKP in his heart. 

Some may pass this off as election season blovating, but I think he actually believes the stuff coming out of his mouth. He sees an enemy around every corner. He believes the opposition parties are conspiring against him (which, to be fair, is true as that is the entire point of being in the opposition). This is an election about him, not about Turkey, not about the Parliament. That his words aren't just rhetoric is what makes the situation so difficult.