Why Ankara affects us all

IMG_20151008_161923 - KopieOn the 10th of October 2015, a twin bombing on a peace rally in Ankara has killed more than ninety people. It is likely that we will never find out who is responsible for this most cynical attack, but that it will be one more name and date on the long list of unsolved political crimes in Turkey.

The message is clear: War is inevitable and your lives are in our hands. It is a plot which I cannot imagine to be the solemn product of raging hatred, but of cold-blooded calculation.

One day earlier, on the 9th, I posted a picture into my German university’s facebook group, the one you can see on top of the page. It shows a banner hanging in the uni’s grand hall. It’s common to put up such banners here in Bielefeld. As you see there’s another one next to it, calling for clothing-donations for refugees.

The banner in question consists out of three parts: A popular phrase from a Jewish holiday celebration in which items are being smashed; a sneaker kicking a light bulb, visibly the symbol of Turkey’s ruling AKP; and the words AG Ergenekon.

AG is the abbreviation for Arbeitsgemeinschaft, describing a project group. Ergenekon on the other hand is an – alleged – clique of nationalist plotters in Turkey. It’s unclear whether it really existed, as membership to the group was primarily used by the religious-conservative AKP to detain political enemies. However, the principle idea is based on actual formations, namely the Grey Wolves. The Grey Wolves are a right-wing terror organisation with mafia-like structures, responsible for several pogroms against minorities as well as uncounted murders.

We have many AGs focussing on various issues at Bielefeld university, but there is no record of an AG Ergenekon. Hence, I posted the picture to facebook, asking if anybody had an idea what this was about and what the AG represents.

We didn’t find the answer yet. But what was bound to emerge instead was a seemingly disconnected, lengthy, rather emotional debate about guilt and accusation in Turkey’s Kurdish issue, the PKK, war crimes, the role of the pro-minority HDP, the role of German arms traders*, and so on. All in German.

Germany and Turkey have a special bond. Today, one in twenty people living in Germany is of Turkish descent. We tend to – realpolitikly – think of nations in terms of stiff geography, but in real life, our societies merge like societies always did. Who is German, who is Turkish, both, nothing – in the end, everybody has to decide for his- or herself.

The victims of the massacre of the 10th of October have ties to German communities, and so do their murderers.

Among the suspects are also the Grey Wolves. As it seems, the Grey Wolves have been somewhat active in Germany since the 1970s – rarely noticed by the public eye, apparently widely ignored by Germany’s inner security. I wouldn’t know about trustworthy statistics to their activity. Our secret service’s incompetence in fighting right-wing terror is famously boundless., its interest in investigating the death of German Turks is limited. Hence, it cannot see it as a reliable source.

The deliberate radicalization that’s being shoved upon Turkey as well as the reactions to it mirror themselves on German streets, in German mosques, culture groups, or, as above, in universities. It is an issue that we need to debate in public, simply because many of those directly affected are long since part of the „we“.

It’s obviously not just conflicts and döner that are imported, but also other features of Turkish society. During my time in Istanbul, I sensed a resentful stubbornness regarding politics. People demand participation – a notion also Germany, just as any other democracy, depends on.

The effect of Turkey’s pro-democratic movement on Germany’s political culture is hard to measure, but visible if you know where to look. One can see numerous able politicians and journalists as well as private individuals drawing upon their observations from abroad to gain a better understanding of what’s happening in Germany. Lessons learnt from Turkey’s social defence can improve ours. As to the structure of grassroot-democratic movements, for example, or in the detection of threats.

The massacre of Ankara and the reaction of the government are a tragic example for this.

Our brothers and sisters in Turkey are being targeted by a terror that is meant to break their will, to instill hatred for each other. Divide and conquer – that’s what’s behind the attacks, to which’s true perpetrators of course points no reliable evidence. And when there’s no evidence, people draw on their basic instincts. Intellectuals blame the AKP, nationalists the communists, Kurds the MHP, and so on. The solidarity between the people of Turkey crumbles. Who profits are those who always profit from a lack of social unity; so-called strong men, radicals, ruthless industrials, plotters in the dark. The enemies of freedom and just distribution of wealth.

I’m not in the position to allege the Turkish government of involvement. But it clearly plays its part, via the media and news blackouts. These blackouts delay public debate and leave room for speculation. When the networks function again, and information can be shared again, rage-born positions might already have fortified.

We must declare solidarity to the victims of the cowardly attack of Ankara. An attack on decency and cohesion in Turkey is, indirectly, an attack on decency and cohesion in Germany, since terror, regardless of creed, isn’t halted by borders.

At the same time, when the pro-democracy movement in Turkey is strengthened, so is participation in Germany – already due to the many people who take part of both societies, or at least exist in both. And the Turkish pro-democracy movement is resilient. That it shows these days.

Radicalization cannot be fought by ignoring it. It can only be battled by open and public exchange of opinions and information. Yet, while we would be well advised to keep track of the butchers lurking in the shadows, we ought not forget the benefits – and the inevitability – of cultural exchange. I personally have found beauty in the vigor with which a German-Turkish freshwoman lectures an elderly conservative on his rotten stance on integration.

* Ever wondered where Eastern Germany’s armory went to after the GDR was dissolved? Apparently, the unified government sold them. German warships sailed off to Indonesia’s dictator Suharto, German tanks soon rolled through Kurdish villages.

Warum Ankara uns alle etwas angeht

IMG_20151008_161923 - KopieAm 10. Oktober 2015 tötete eine Zwillingsexplosion über neunzig Menschen auf einer Friedensdemo in Ankara. Es ist wahrscheinlich, dass wir niemals erfahren werden, wer für diesen zynischen Angriff verantwortlich ist. Stattdessen wird Ankara ein weiterer Name auf der langen Liste der ungeklärten politischen Verbrechen in der Türkei.

Die Botschaft ist jedoch klar: Krieg ist unabwendbar und eure Leben sind in unserer Hand. Es ist ein Attentat, bei der ich mir nicht vorstellen kann, dass es alleine das Produkt kochender Wut ist. Es muss auch das Werk kaltblütiger Berechnung sein.

Einen Tag früher, am 9. Oktober, lud ich ein Bild in die Facebook-Gruppe der Universität Bielefeld hoch, welches Sie über diesem Artikel sehen können. Es zeigt ein Banner in der Unihalle. Es ist normal, hier Transparente aufzuhängen – direkt daneben sieht man ein anderes, welches zu Kleiderspenden für Flüchtlinge aufruft.

Das fragliche Banner besteht aus drei Teilen: Einem bekannten Spruch aus einem jüdischen Feiertag, bei dem man Dinge zerschmettert; eine Glühbirne, erkennbar das Zeichen der türkischen Regierungspartei AKP, welche von einem Schuh zertreten wird; und die Wörter AG Ergenekon.

Die Ergenekon-Gruppe waren – angeblich – nationalistische Verschwörer in der Türkei. Es ist unklar, ob es sie wirklich gab, ober ob sie nur eine Erfindung war um die Gegner der religiös-konservativen Regierungspartei AKP festzusetzen. Das Prinzip basiert jedoch auf einer real-existierenden Gruppe, namentlich den Grauen Wölfen. Die Grauen Wölfe wiederum sind eine rechte Terrororganisation mit mafiösen Strukturen, verantwortlich für diverse Pogrome und ungezählte Morde.

Es gibt viele AGs zu vielen Themen an der Universität Bielefeld, aber niemand hat je von einer AG Ergenekon gehört. Daher stellte ich das Bild bei Facebook ein und fragte, ob jemand wüsste, was genau die Aussage des Banners ist und wofür diese Gruppe steht.

Wir haben die Antwort noch nicht gefunden. Aber was sich natürlich stattdessen ergab, war eine scheinbar unzusammenhängende, lange, teils emotionale Diskussion über die Kurdenfrage, die PKK, Kriegsverbrechen, die Rolle der pro-Minderheitenpartei HDP, die Rolle deutscher Waffenhändler*, und so weiter. Alles auf Deutsch.

Deutschland und die Türkei haben einen spezielle Verbindung. Heute ist einer von zwanzig Menschen, die in Deutschland wohnen, türkischer Abstammung. Wir neigen dazu, Nationen als starre Geographien zu betrachten. Aber im echten Leben verschmelzen unsere Gesellschaften, wie Gesellschaften es immer getan haben. Wer ist Deutsch, wer ist Türkisch, wer beides, wer gar nichts – am Ende muss es jeder für sich entscheiden.

Die Opfer der Anschläge des 10. Oktobers haben Kontakte nach Deutschland, genau wie ihre mutmaßlichen Mörder.

Tatverdächtig sind auch die Grauen Wölfe. Sie sind in Deutschland scheinbar seit den 1970ern aktiv, außerhalb des öffentlichen Fokus und weitgehend ignoriert von deutschen Sicherheitskräften. Wenn es zu den Aktivitäten der Organisation hierzulande verlässliche Zahlen gibt, sind sie mir nicht bekannt; die Inkompetenz von Verfassungsschutz und Co. bei der Aufklärung rechten Terrors ist grenzenlos, sein Interesse an der Aufklärung von Morden an Deutschtürken gering. Daher fallen sie als Quelle für mich aus.

Die gezielte Radikalisierung, die man der Türkei aufzwingen will, und die Reaktion darauf spiegeln sich auf deutschen Straßen, in deutschen Moscheen, in Vereinen, und, wie oben, in Universitäten. Sie ist ein Thema, welches wir öffentlich angehen müssen, schon allein weil viele der direkt Betroffenen seit langem ein Teil des „wir“ sind.

Natürlich werden nicht nur Konflikte und Döner importiert, sondern auch andere Eigenschaften der türkischen Gesellschaft. In meiner Zeit in Istanbul habe ich eine empörte Sturheit gegenüber der Politik gespürt. Die Menschen verlangen Teilnahme – ein Drang, von dem die deutsche Demokratie, wie jede Demokratie, abhängig ist.

Der Einfluss der türkischen Demokratiebewegung auf Deutschlands politische Kultur ist schwer zu messen, aber sichtbar, wenn man weiß, wo man gucken muss. Kluge Politiker und Journalisten, aber auch Privatpersonen, nutzen ihre Beobachtungen aus anderen Gesellschaften um Vorgänge in Deutschland besser verstehen zu können. Lektionen aus der türkischen sozialen Verteidigung können helfen, die deutsche zu stärken. Ich denke hier zum Beispiel an die Strukturen basisdemokratischer Bewegungen, aber auch Gefahrenerkennung.

Das Massaker von Ankara und die Reaktion der Regierung sind ein tragisches Beispiel hierfür.

Unsere Brüder und Schwestern in der Türkei sind das Ziel eines Terrors, der ihren Willen brechen und sie mit Hass aufeinander erfüllen soll. Trenne und herrsche – das ist der Zweck der Angriffe, auf deren Täter es natürlich keine verlässlichen Hinweise gibt. Und wenn es keine Hinweise gibt, entscheidet das Bauchgefühl – Intellektuelle beschuldigen die AKP, Nationalisten beschuldigen Kommunisten, Kurden die MHP und so weiter. Der türkische Zusammenhalt zerbricht. Wer profitiert davon? Jene, die schon immer von zersplitterten Gesellschaften profitiert haben; angebliche starke Männer, Radikale, menschenverachtende Industrielle, Drahtzieher im Hintergrund. Die Feinde von Freiheit und gerechter Wohlstandsverteilung.

Ich bin nicht in der Position, der türkischen Regierung eine direkte Beteiligung zu unterstellen, aber zumindest spielt sie mit. Nämlich mit der Nachrichten- und Mediensperre: Diese verzögert eine öffentliche Debatte und lässt Raum für Spekulation. Wenn die Nachrichtennetzwerke wieder funktionieren, Informationen wieder ausgetauscht werden können, sind die aus Wut geborenen Positionen vielleicht schon verhärtet.

Wir müssen mit den Opfern der feigen Attentate in Ankara solidarisch sein. Ein derartiger Angriff auf Vernunft und Zusammenhalt in der Türkei ist, indirekt, ein Angriff auf Vernunft und Zusammenhalt in Deutschland. Denn Terror, unabhängig des ideologischen Ursprungs, wird von Grenzen nicht aufgehalten.

Gleichzeitig bedeutet ein Erstarken der Demokratiebewegung in der Türkei auch wachsende Partizipation in Deutschland – schon allein weil es Menschen gibt, die Teil beider Gesellschaften sind, oder sich in beiden bewegen. Und die Demokratiebewegung in der Türkei ist wehrhaft. Das zeigt sie dieser Tage.

Radikalisierung lässt sich nicht totschweigen. Sie kann nur durch einen offenen und öffentlichen Austausch von Meinungen und Informationen bekämpft werden. Aber während wir der Schlächter in den Schatten gewahr werden müssen, dürfen wir die Vorzüge – und die Alternativlosigkeit – kulturellen Austausches nicht vergessen. Ich persönlich sehe Schönheit in dem Elan, mit dem eine deutschtürkische Erstsemestlerin einen älteren Konservativen zu seinen verfaulten Einstellung zu Integration belehrt.

* Jemals gefragt, was mit den Waffen der NVA nach Auflösung der DDR passiert ist? Scheinbar hat die Einheitsregierung sie verkauft. Deutsche Kriegsschiffe gingen an den indonesischen Diktator Suharto, während deutsche Panzer bald durch kurdische Dörfer rollten.

Atheist Submarines

Paper bags are much like real heads; you can't look inside. What you can do, though, is tell what's in from what it does. Which is usually nothing when it comes to paper bags, but a lot when it comes to people.

Paper bags are much like real heads; you can’t look inside. What you can do, though, is tell what’s in from what it does. Which is usually nothing when it comes to paper bags, but a lot when it comes to people.

Two debates are currently dominating Turkey’s media landscape. One is the killing of a female student, sparking a discussion about gender-related violence. A discussion which is necessary, yet, with calls for tougher prosecution, often superficial. I already wrote a lot about sexuality and Turkey two posts ago, and see myself sadly confirmed.

The other topic, most recent reason to protest in Istanbul and to facepalm in Brussels, are compulsory religion classes. Two rather distinguished issues, you might think, but think again! Already before leaders began to slam female activists for being “unislamic” in their protest (as if that mattered), there was a connection between teaching faith and raping girls. Maintaining power through identity, that is.

The problem is as follows: Basically, if you’re neither Jewish nor Christian, you’re required to go to Islamic religion classes, which are again fashioned after the Sunni conviction. Ultimately, if you belong to Turkey’s 15-20% Alevis, you will be regarded as a Sunni Muslim by the administration and thus be obligated to attend the according classes. Same goes for other minorities – and also for non-believers, who’re uncharted in Turkey.

Last year, a friend of mine tried to organise a human library. That means, she’d invite representatives of fringe groups to some place in her uni, and then the students could go around and talk, for example, to a feminist for the first time in their life. The idea is to get rid of stereotypes and prejudice, which regularly occurs when hateful people are confronted with actual people of the group they think they hate. Perceived 99% of those talking about feminism have no idea what feminism is, so that would make sense. Anyways, my friend also wanted to invite an atheist or an agnostic.

The borders between atheism, agnosticism and those simply not bothering are shifting and vague. To be honest, to me personally it doesn’t even make a difference at all. Either you live your life under the assumption that there are entities beyond our understanding, and hence take decisions accordingly, or you don’t. Alternatively, either you base knowledge upon non-falsifiable assumptions, or you don’t.

I could go into the looming discussion more deeply, but to me, it’s both never-ending and also completely pointless. To make it quick: Yes, the border between disbelief*, belief and superstition can be shifting – perhaps the more the less a given individual reflected on these issues – but no, I don’t think this can be generalised without intense research.

The human library was interesting though. I know heaps of atheists in Turkey, why invite one (a foreign one!) for such an event? Slowly I discovered that non-religious people are actually a marginalised and little understood group in Turkey.

The amount of people identifying themselves as non-religious is a dark digit, partially due to stigmata. Most people are born into a religion. Later in life, openly confessing to nothing might be offensive to your family and friends, if not illegal to your respective government. In fact, I have some Iranian friends who certainly are listed as Muslims in the World Religion Database, but are in fact pure atheists to the heart. I personally go as a Protestant simply because I never saw the need to officially drop out of church, but in reality, I could regard myself as the reincarnation of a Babylonian-Jewish Blood God called Hrungor, who is an entity I just invented, but could easily be my true conviction. Don’t even get me started on his Noodliness the Flying Spaghetti Monster and the idea that it’s perfectly possible to live an entire atheist life without ever mentioning that you’re an atheist.

But not only are atheists, agnostics as well as people without any confession blanked out by the Turkish government, they also face scorn and irrational hatred. Every once in a while, you can hear a religious/political leader’s astonishingly unworldly remark about atheist. Atheists would actually believe in God, atheists would be void of moral, atheists would be terrorists, etc. On a more personal basis, a friend of mine has made repulsive experiences telling strangers that she is atheists upon being asked for her religious believe. If there was an international symbol of atheism, you should abstain from wearing it in public just like Jews in Turkey are advised to not show their Magen David necklace openly (another terrible thing to admit, likely connected).

There are even atheist lobby and support groups in Turkey. Coming from a society in which religion is regarded as a private matter, with the last predominantly religious conflict being almost 400 years in the past, this sounded absurd to me. Why on earth would atheists need support groups? It’s not as if atheists try to harm people or were interfering with other people’s lives on a regular basis. You don’t see people standing in the street with big “There is no god!”-signs, calling on people to convert to nothing. Nonreligious people, at least the majority of them, just sit there. Support groups for atheists to me seemed as necessary as football fanclubs for people who don’t watch football.

Yet, a surprisingly aggressive stance towards the nonreligious can be seen in other countries, too. In Egypt, recently senior government clerics claimed there were exactly 866 atheists in all of Egypt. Now, even though it is in itself not a threat to pretend a social group wouldn’t exist, it is to note that fear usually comes in the flavours “ignorance” and “molotov cocktail”. Meanwhile in the US, republican politicians like to refer to a “war on religion” frequently to unite their fellow majority Americans behind them. Not only the “war on”-rhetoric being stupid and belittling actual war alone, it’s also an obnoxious attempt to present oneself as a victim, shamefully successful as it seems with American conservatives. According to a survey, more than two-thirds of American atheists are afraid of the public response if they were open about their not existing relationship with gods. It’s also apparently illegal for them to hold office in seven states.

Talking about actual threats that non-religious people pose; atheists, as fanatic as they can be, rarely kill people for their non-believes. In the US, a “radical atheist” recently shot three Muslims in a country of 0,6% Muslim population, the same country in which Christian groups are immensely powerful and abortion clinics are attacked on a regular basis. It seems to me as if this “atheist” offense, though gruesome, was a spontaneous act of Islamophobia rather than a thought-through terror attack, which usually have some kind of articulated agenda.

Other than that, non-religious people do commit immoral deeds, but not more or less than religious people – additional to this being common sense in my opinion, I can also back it up with science. Our morality derives from our socialization. Certainly, religion and culture are interacting, but if religion played the key role when it comes to ethics, how did moral values in Europe change so much in the past 200 years? The Catholic church barely developed, but I know many European believers (both Christian and Muslim) at home who live the liberal life of the 21st century. Belief changes when society does.

So, if atheists don’t pose a physical danger, where’s the problem? First of all, we can establish that hatred against non-believers, probably hatred in general, isn’t specifically reality bound. It doesn’t matter if atheists and agnostics are just as likely to kill you as believers (maybe even less, since religious motifs completely drop out) as long as you think they eat children.

Even beyond that, atheists are also perceived as being not part of the social group by people who define their social group via religion – or want to have their social group to be defined via religion. For leaders drawing on the connecting (and distinguishing) power of religion to stay in charge, non-believers are not controllable by the associated means.

It’s basically impossible to account for how many people lose their faith in any religion annually. Despite having no trustworthy numbers at all, I still assume that in western and westernizing countries, abstaining from religion altogether is far more wide-spread than converting from one religion to another. There are many Alevis in Turkey who are born Alevi, but how many grown-up Sunnis convert to Aleviism? On the other hand, how many grown-ups, especially among educated social groups, turn away from religious belief and practice?

Turkey is traditionally secular. In fact, state founder Atatürk might have himself been an atheist (though some people would hang me for having said that). However, there is a struggle between the camp which defines Turkey through nationalism and ethnicity, and the camp which defines Turkey through a shared religion. In this context, the growing number of non-believers among young people is an actual threat to the power base of a good amount of people in charge right now.

To me, this example is symptomatic of a broader problem. All societies are heterogenous, but for simplicity politicians and associated media will usually try to find one common aspect, one idea to construct group identity around – ultimately creating misfits, imbalance and hence turmoil out of nothing.

* I’m obviously talking about religious belief here. “That’s a nice pancake, I believe” isn’t the same usage of the word “believe” as “I believe in the guiding hand of Christ”, hence atheists don’t “believe” (religious connotation) in anything, but still “believe” that nine comes after eight. Easy linguistics.

So. Yeah. Sex. And Turkey.

Foreign girls moving to Turkey all share a very common problem. They sign up in one or more of the dozens of facebook groups for international students and as soon as they’re accepted as new members of „Erasmus Istanbul“, „Foreign Students in Istanbul“ or „Drinking and Fucking for World Peace“ (Erasmus’ inofficial name, sadly doesn’t exist as a real group, though), they’re being spammed with friend requests and messages from strange Turkish men. These messages are generally suggestions to hang out together, to show the receiver around, or say little more than „Hi“. It doesn’t need a Charles Xavier to figure that the majority – if not all – of the composers of such messages want to get laid. The Erasmus program has a certain reputation, Western girls are known to be more liberal than Turkish girls etc. But to the random young student longing to enjoy her stay in a foreign country, the bulk and omnipresence of attention received by Turkish men soon turns from nuisance to threat.

Marriage proposals in cafés are among the more obscure incidents. Shady followers in dark streets, being hit on by strangers almost every night out and being masturbated to in public are, however, to many a traveller what remains of their memory of Istanbul. This is a shame. Turkey has a so much more to offer than sexual harassment. It’s a country full of incredibly hospitable people, friendly folks who really just want to help you in dire situations or have an honest interest in your native country’s culture and language. However, one chav grabbing your butt can make a hundred reasonable guys standing at the counter go unnoticed.

More than once I had to venture out at night to pick up female friends from the illuminated cones below street lights, surrounded by daunting darkness. Eventually, I’ve earned the title „knight in the golden taxi“ in such a rescue mission.

I remember going through the nightly streets of Dili, Timor Leste, without fearing to be attacked. I walked home alone numerous times after parties in Russia and in Europe, often drunk and lost. Never was I afraid of strangers. My protection, the invisible halo surrounding me and making me impervious to perverts, is my penis. More precisely, the assumption by other men that I have a penis.

In Turkey, this protection is apparently more valuable than in other parts of the world. As a female friend of mine once put it, Turkey was the first country she’s been in she’d have prefered visiting as a guy, solemnly so she could retain the freedoms she has at home. Freedoms such as going anywhere by herself, not being dependant on the help of men, wearing what she wants, choosing her profile picture on social media etc., without being reduced to a potential sex object.

There are two very important gender related phenomena I have noticed ever since my teenage years and which help to understand why Turkey is different in this aspect to, say, Stockholm. They don’t sound revolutionary at first, neither are they complete, but they’re out there.

First of all, men are expected to go for girls.

People say it’s biology, but genes can’t be held responsible for the differences in gender expectations among societies.

Some examples; we men have to explain ourselves why we don’t hit on a given fine chick on a party. Not being sexually active is regarded as a problem, if not as a personal deficit. I, for instance, have numerous highly attractive female friends, but my unwillingness in trying to have sex with them is continuously interpreted as shyness, stupidity, cowardice, indecisiveness, or as being „friendzoned“. On the other hand, each time someone pats me on the back and congratulates me on a succesful hunt, I feel that it’s a very tiny cogwheel in a gigantic machination. It’s a machination of a social pressure existing in different extents all around the globe. Even talking about expectancies in terms of them being a problem is, however, unusual for a straight male. Presumably, many of my readers will ponder whether I have issues with my sexuality, too. Because, you know, only black people can speak out for black rights.

Secondly, if people challenge the patterns we’ve been taught, they often face unreasonable amounts of hostility. In fact, you might feel offended right now after reading the paragraph above.

Violence against LGBT people is the obvious example, but not the only one. Just mention in a group of people that you consider yourself asexual. Never did it, but unless you’re with a bunch of hippies, you’ll certainly face ridicule or even aggression. No, I correct myself on that. Hippies have a tendency to regard boundless sexual activity as the ultimate symbol of freedom and individualism. Ironically, being completely asexual out of disinterest might be interpreted as suppressing your inner self. I could name more examples, from women who have no interest to ever have kids nor long for traditional relationships, men who don’t want to attend strip shows with their mates, boys playing with dolls etc., all facing disbelief, mockery, eventually anger and even hatred.

Also have issues with sexuality: everybody.

Also having issues with sexuality: everybody.

Long have I been wondering; why is that so? Why do people feel personally attacked by other people’s private matters? Here’s my answer, and I’m sure it’s only one of many aspects.

The first concept we learn to differentiate between humans is the concept of gender. Ever since the first moments of our lives, we learn that we have a mother and a father, brothers and sisters, that we’re either boy or girl. At the same time, we learn the necessary tools to distinguish between the two. These are not the kinds of chromosomes we have, nor the different genitalia, not even the ability to give birth. We learn about these biological features long after we fully internalised that there’s a difference between man and woman.

Our methods to distinguish male from female are much more symbolic as a child. Names, colours, clothing, toys picked for us by adults and specifically designed for one or the other gender. We don’t choose if we get the car or the doll toy as two years olds, yet we learn to identify through these objects.

Identification is the key word. Not coincidentally do we base a significant portion of our identity on our gender for the rest of our lives. Nationality, race, religion…those concepts come much, much later in life. At first, we’re either boy or girl. For most of our lives, we will feel offended by being called the other.

Soon, physical toys and clothes are replaced by more abstract means of gender identification. One has to be brave and decisive, the other empathic and caring, and so on.

How little surprising is the hatred those face who dare challenge the rolls assigned to us from early childhood on. Whatever is different is a threat to the glassy construct of the two-opposing-genders-concept. A young girl being the first to have her hair „boyishly“ short in a conservative society is in no way a physical danger, nor is she a danger to what most people assume to be their traditional values, yet she will have to deal with scorn and isolation. Liberal societies, being more open to new ideas, have a lower bar, yet I was often laughed at for wearing my hair long when I was younger, too.

While as kids, we do little more than laugh at the boy who likes dolls, as adults, the presence of homosexuals makes many of us, even those who deem themselves tolerant, nervous or angry. Even worse when it comes to transgender issues. The thought of a man who wants to be a woman makes people confused or outraged. Essentially, though it’s a private matter, breaking the glass walls is actually a personal threat. If even the first assumption we have ever made about humans is relativised, doesn’t that also question everything we ever learned about others and about ourselves?

Turkey is a highly patriarchical society. Being a man’s man is important to many, more so than in most other places I’ve seen. The pressure to fulfil the unspoken expectations is subtle, but omnipresent. It’s exerted via peer groups, thoughtless jokes and banter, stereotypes in the media, last but not least by politicians’ remarks about the natural order of women and men. Apparently, what was good for a hunter-and-gatherer-society is inevitably good for modern societies, too.

Sexuality is nothing bad. Few things match the joys of sex. But imposing artificial rules for sexuality on us is, how I learned, ultimately a problem for everybody. In the end, there is always suppression.