It’s time for Erdoğan to go. Power corrupts. He’s been Prime Minister over nine years. Tayyip, as he’s commonly and respectfully referred to on the street, was initially elected with the support of Turkey’s educated middle class by promising not to touch the country’s relatively liberal (for the Middle East) lifestyle.
Like the erosion of our personal privacy, small changes have occurred gradually perhaps barely perceptible on a day-to-day basis.
Erdoğan’s decade of power has been undeniably cruel to Turkey’s women. A 2011 World Economic Forum report comparing the situation for women in 135 countries ranked Turkey 122 along side shining examples like Nigeria and Iran. You can download the Global Gender Gap country rankings from a link on this page (March 2018 update: that link is dead. Here’s the 2017 Global Gender Gap report (pdf).). Both the New York Times and Der Speigel have less quantitative reports (from 2012) on how women have fared during the last ten years in Turkey.
A week or two ago Sage and I stopped for some water on the side of the road in Tortum İlçe near a small mosque (mescit). A man piled out of a minibus with 15 of his buddies. There was not a woman in sight. They were at home in Çorum with the kids while the men played tourists for the weekend.
After a bit of introductory banter, “do you have kids?” he asked.
“Never wanted them.”
“Ah, Tayyip — you know Erdoğan, our Prime Minister?” I nod. “He wants our women to have 3-5 kids.”
Ha! I had read this comment in the paper but hadn’t had the chance to talk to Turks about it.
“Is that a good policy?” I ask.
“Turks love kids.”
“But what business is it of the government’s to tell us how many kids we should have? Couples should decide for themselves. It’s a bad policy. Why do you think it’s good?” I would have liked to use some stronger words like sexist and oppressive, but my Turkish isn’t that good.
I had made him uncomfortable. By this time a small crowd had gathered — partly to hear a foreigner speak Turkish, partly probably to hear a foreigner rant against their prime minister’s sexist remarks.
“Gelişme,” he was able to spit out before being overcome by a sudden need to use the facilities.
Development. Like the Çoruh River Project. It’s Turkey’s version of the US Army Corps of Engineers Colorado River disaster. Seven dams on the lower Çoruh, hundreds of kms of canyons submerged. Farms, orchards, and villages flooded. Most displaced people flee to the cities.
Massive hydro projects, divided highways, big box stores, urban sprawl, auto-centric planning. Turkey’s developing more along the lines of Mexico and the US than Europe, making the same mistakes that are more and more proving unsustainable in North America.
Development in the lower, deep canyons of the Çoruh and its tributaries has turned a beautiful natural area into a huge industrial zone, the likes of which I haven’t seen since the Făgărăş Mountains in Romania. If you want an example closer to home, go check out the gas projects on the I-70 corridor west of Eagle (Colorado, USA) or the hydro projects around Manali (Himachal Pradesh, India), depending on where home is.
More kids, more development, and women at home. Brilliant.
On a lighter note, at a çay stop earlier this summer, people asked if I’d eaten pig and what it tasted like. Most Turks have never tasted pork. Then we talked about other animals in the nearby hills, and I asked about hedgehogs since one had recently visited me at camp. They’re easy to catch, the man said. All you do is step on their tail and grab them by the neck. They don’t run away.
“Then what do you do?”
You cut their neck with a knife and get about a kg of meat. And the taste?
“Tavuk gibi.” Like chicken.