Acts of violence against those who wear shorts or drink alcohol getting more and more commonplace under the current Islamist government. Violence against those who do not fast in the Islamic month of Ramadan, however, has always been widespread in the country.
Man who kicked woman on Istanbul bus for wearing shorts released again
A Turkish man arrested for kicking a young woman in the face on a public bus for wearing shorts was released yet again on November 1, reported the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet.
An Istanbul criminal court revoked the arrest warrant for assailant Abdullah Cakiroglu and released him again pending the next hearing in the trial.
Meanwhile, the victim of the assault, Aysegul Terzi, said that she felt “imprisoned inside home” while Cakiroglu “remains on the streets.”
Terzi was kicked in the face by Cakiroglu for wearing shorts on a public bus in Istanbul on September 12. Cakiroglu said he committed the act because he did not find Terzi’s outfit “appropriate.”
Such acts of violence against women, and those who commit non-Islamic acts such as drinking alcohol are now commonplace in Turkey.
Exhibition opening attacked in Istanbul for ‘alcohol consumption’
An exhibition opening in Istanbul’s Tophane district was attacked on October 3 by angry locals complaining about alcohol consumption. The exhibition consisted of the works of 21 female artists.
According to Cumhuriyet daily, Vardal Canis, one of the artists participating in the exhibition with her works, said that the police did not arrive although they called and ordered the attendees in the opening to disperse instead of sending away the assaulters.
“More people came to the opening than we expected,” Canis said. “Those who wanted to chat and smoke were waiting in front of the place. A big family including grandparents, parents and the children who were disturbed by the crowd including both male and female guests and by the alcohol consumption came to the place and started yelling at the people. They wanted to inflict physical violence on the father of an attending artist. […] We had to close earlier.”
Attacks against those who do not fast in Ramadan
The Constitution of Turkey asserts that Turkey is “a secular republic, deriving its sovereignty from the people.” The sociology of the country, however, tells a completely different story. Non-Muslims as well as non-observant, secular Muslims are under a continued threat of violence. And the security, government and judiciary authorities often side with the perpetrators, which makes the problem even more unsolvable.
For example, the first night of Ramadan in Turkey also witnessed the first “attack of Ramadan.”
One student’s nose was broken during a reported June 6 attack on university students shopping at an alcohol and tobacco store in Istanbul. Other students received minor injuries.
The victim, T.A., said that three unidentified attackers had told them that “you could not go around this neighborhood drinking alcohol.
“I was covered in blood from my hair to my shoes,” he added. “The clothes and telephones of my friends who took me to hospital were all covered in blood.”
T.A. said that he has not yet lodged a complaint against the aggressors because he is worried about the safety of friends living in the neighborhood where the attack took place.
“Some of my friends still study and even live in that district. I think that if I lodge a complaint, I will deal with the aggressors, but this might cause the outrage of the whole district. My friends who live there could be abused or harmed, as well. I am still indecisive as to whether I should take legal action about what happened.”
In 2015, Turkish newspapers reported that a young woman in the city of Erzurum was verbally and physically attacked by two men because she was “smoking outside during fasting time.”
When the victim made a complaint to the traffic policeman nearby, one of the men was detained and taken to the police station, where he said he would also like to lodge a complaint against the woman who was smoking.
Physical and verbal attacks against those who do not fast in Ramadan appear to have become commonplace throughout Turkey.
In June, 2008, it was a lawyer that was exposed to violence during the Ramadan month of the year. Erdal Guzel, a lawyer with the Ankara Bar Association and an author, was attacked in Ankara by a minibus driver for smoking during Ramadan in June 2008.
Guzel was stopped at a red light when a driver got out of his vehicle, reached into Guzel’s vehicle and hit him on the head with a sharp object, he said. “My eyebrow was cut deeply and bleeding. My face and shirt was covered in blood. He then got on his minibus again and drove away.”
Guzel said he filed a criminal complaint against his attacker and that the attacker was ordered to pay 5,000 Turkish liras to the Turkish state and 1,500 to Guzel.
“I was in traffic when the attack happened. I stopped at the red light. Then the driver of the minibus opened the door of my car and swore and shouted at me: ‘You infidel whose mother I f.cked! How dare you smoke? Is this Armenia?’
“Then he attacked me.”
Guzel got a medical report about the battering from Ankara’s forensic medicine institute and made a criminal complaint about the attacker at Ankara’s chief public prosecutor’s office.
According to Turkish newspapers, Ozcan Cubukoglu, a Turkish prosecutor, was also attacked and beaten by two people for smoking while waiting at the bus station in the city of Yozgat during Ramadan in September, 2010. Cubukoglu was hospitalized with a broken nose.
In some instances, the victims are exposed to the violence of the police.
Sergen Kay, a member of the left-wing Freedom and Solidarity Party (ODP), went to the Haseki training and research hospital to see his friend, Ekin Akgun, who had been wounded in a bombing attack that occurred in central Istanbul on June 7. The attack killed 11 people, injuring 36 others.
Kay said that as he and his two friends were smoking in the garden of the hospital when two men came close to them:
“We later learned that they were policeman in plain clothes. They shouted at us, saying ‘Are you smoking during fasting time? We know you; you are terrorists.’
“I told him I am a student at Istanbul University, not a terrorist. But it did not work. At that moment, several police officers – both in civil clothes and uniforms – attacked us. They took us by the head and ears and lined us up in front of a wall at the hospital garden and kept us waiting there for almost an hour. Then they took us into police custody. And when they put us in a police car, they swore at us, insulted us with terrible words. I do not want to pronounce these words.”
Kay was later released.
Inci Hekimoglu, an Istanbul-based author and researcher, said that the religious education many people in Turkey receive both at their households and at schools “create many hate-driven individuals who are violent against the believers of other faiths or against those who do not believe in any religion.
“They associate Islamic piety with morality. They are taught that if you are not pious, you are immoral. They see their faith as the only and ultimate truth. And if you are a non-Muslim or a non-believer, you are a threat to them and you must be punished. This kind of indoctrination creates intolerant, aggressive individuals.”
Incioglu added that the public statements of the state authorities nurture this kind of indoctrination.
“President Erdogan often targets non-Muslims such as Alevis, atheists and Zoroastrians in his public speeches. These outbursts of hate speech seem to have a deep impact on the way the pious masses of the society think and act. Part of the problem is there appears to be a direct parallel between the bigoted statements of the government officials and the aggression of those who target non-Muslims or others who are not Islamic enough. And the aggressors seem to take courage from the statements of the state officials.”