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This arti­cle by Bur­cu Karakaş pub­lished in Turk­ish in Deutsche Welle Türkçe on Feb­ru­ary 25 2020 had escaped our notice. We pub­lish it in trans­la­tion now because women in Turkey are fac­ing increas­ing vio­lence every day.

And when you real­ize that this ques­tion has been entrust­ed to Diyanet, the author­i­ty on reli­gious affairs, you come full cir­cle. You are not dream­ing, this arti­cle is based on tests of call num­bers sup­posed to deal with vio­lence on women.

Diyanet’s advice to women in order to fight against violence

So, the Pres­i­den­cy on reli­gious mat­ters, Diyanet, has recent­ly become active also in the fight against vio­lences to which women are sub­ject­ed. Since sign­ing a pro­to­col with the Min­istry of the Fam­i­ly in 2011 aimed at rais­ing aware­ness on the vio­lence exert­ed on women, col­lab­o­ra­tive activ­i­ties have mul­ti­plied. Diyanet offers advice to women vic­tims of vio­lence, through the reli­gious ori­en­ta­tion bureaus it has insti­tut­ed in order to resolve intra-fam­i­ly prob­lems. But accord­ing to defendors of wom­en’s rights, answers pro­vid­ed by Diyanet ren­der the fight against vio­lences on women even more dif­fi­cult. Let’s exam­ine this advice.

Our first call is to the reli­gious ori­en­ta­tion bureau of the Konya Mufti1, as a woman whose com­pan­ion has vio­lent ten­den­cies. The voice at the end of the line attempts to guide us toward ŞÖNİM the “Cen­ter for the pre­ven­tion and sur­veil­lance of vio­lence” cre­at­ed under the author­i­ty of Law 6284 on the pro­tec­tion of the fam­i­ly and the pre­ven­tion of vio­lence toward women. But she is not cer­tain of the cen­ter’s name. “It must be ŞÖNİM, if I’m not mis­tak­en, the cen­ter on wom­en’s stuff…I’m not sure of what the acronym is, exact­ly, but…” says the voice.

When we con­vey to the female preach­er that we are think­ing of divorc­ing because of the vio­lence and seek her advice, we are told about the impor­tance of patience, dis­pensed under the light of reli­gious knowl­edge: “If it’s becom­ing unbear­able, speak to your elders. In the An-Nisa Surat2, Allah the Allmighty says that the woman and the man must resolve issues with an elder. Some­times, young peo­ple act hasti­ly. We say, try to work through the prob­lems with the wise ones in the family.”

If he strikes, don’t accuse him, distance yourself” 

Our next call is to the office of Çorum’s Mufti. This time, we call as a woman who has been sub­ject­ed to insults from her hus­band, “he raised his hand but has­n’t hit me yet, I’m wor­ried.” Accord­ing to the female preach­er in this office, we should ask our­selves what are the rea­sons for the vio­lence. She says: “Ask for the rea­son, in an appro­pri­ate lan­guage. This isn’t a very big prob­lem, you can solve it by talk­ing. For exam­ple, pre­pare his favorite foods, speak to him calm­ly, along with some tea.” 

When we ask what we should do if sub­ject­ed to vio­lence, we are told “if he strikes, don’t react, dis­tance your­self. Go to your room. Try to end the inci­dent by say­ing ‘as you wish’ but re-open the top­ic at an appro­pri­ate moment. Don’t use accus­ing lan­guage. ‘I did­n’t know what you pre­ferred or I would have done as you wished’, speak to him in this way.” 

So, should we call the police? The per­son on the phone answers “No, you will solve this kind of prob­lem incha’al­lah. May Allah be with you…”

407 religious orientation services are in activity: “men and women preachers inform”

Our request to the pres­i­den­cy of reli­gious affairs in order to gath­er infor­ma­tion on the insti­tu­tion’s role in the fight to counter vio­lence against women received the fol­low­ing reply: We are told that “Diyanet plays an active role in con­tribut­ing to the res­o­lu­tion of vio­lence tar­get­ing women” and, addi­tion­al­ly, “fam­i­ly and reli­gious ori­en­ta­tion ser­vices pro­vide advice on the foun­da­tion, pro­tec­tion and strength­en­ing of the fam­i­ly, with­in 81 direc­torates and 326 offices of neigh­bor­hood Mufti.” 

Which means that over­all in Turkey, there are 207 units attached to Diyanet and aimed at resolv­ing wom­en’s prob­lems. Who works in these offices? “Preach­ers grad­u­at­ed from reli­gious schools, reli­gious ser­vices spe­cial­ists, instruc­tors in class­es on the Coran and imam-preach­ers are employed as staff.

The required field train­ing for projects of pre­ven­tion of vio­lence against women is pro­vid­ed by expert staff and the employ­ees in these func­tions are prefer­ably preachers.”

Diyanet staff also works in shelters

The preach­ers are not only employed in offices of fam­i­ly and reli­gious ori­en­ta­tion. Diyanet staff also works in shel­ters. Gül­sun Kanat Dinç, a vol­un­teer in the Mor Çatı shel­ter for women believes that in Turkey where many peo­ple have reli­gious prin­ci­ples, the reli­gious affairs pres­i­den­cy must also par­tic­i­pate in the coun­ter­ing of vio­lence against women, but the meth­ods employed are not equalitarian.

Gül­sun Kanat Dinç says that “the imams must also share infor­ma­tion against vio­lences because peo­ple come to them for aid. But unfor­tu­nate­ly, the cadres at Diyanet steer the women toward an approach which attrib­ut­es the vio­lence to women.”

Accord­ing to offi­cial fig­ures, there are 145 wom­en’s shel­ters in Turkey. Accord­ing to Gül­sun Kanat Dinç, bud­gets attrib­uted to reli­gious ori­en­ta­tion ser­vices should rather be giv­en to the shel­ters and to social ser­vices: “In the shel­ters, the preach­ers are salaried work­ers. If need be, they can be called upon to inter­vene on the out­side, as is the case for psy­chol­o­gists. The pres­ence of psy­chol­o­gists in the shel­ters them­selves is not con­sid­ered indis­pens­able, so that of preach­ers should­n’t be either. There is need for social workers.”

If we put our Islamic life in order, everything follows”

We con­tin­ue with anoth­er call, this time to the office of the Mufti of Niğde. As no female preach­er is present in the office when we call, we are passed on to the male preach­er. The man asks ques­tions con­cern­ing the rea­sons for the vio­lences: “For what rea­son does he exhib­it vio­lence? What does a man expect from his wife? To find a smil­ing face, a ready meal when he comes home from work… If despite the fact that you do every­thing you can, you don’t man­age to be appre­ci­at­ed, there can be dif­fer­ent rea­sons. Could he pos­si­bly have anoth­er relationship?”

We ask “Some­times, he pulls my hair. I’m afraid. Should I call the police?” He advis­es to think care­ful­ly before call­ing on the police “if it has reached a point you can’t stand any­more, you can. But usu­al­ly they impose a three to five months dis­tanc­ing mea­sure on the man. This is why before involv­ing the police, we will try to resolve the issue. Per­haps you behave in an unpleas­ant way?”

The preach­er goes on, attempt­ing to under­stand what kind of hus­band is involved from a reli­gious belief point of view…“Do you say your prayers? What about your hus­band?” then he ends the con­ver­sa­tion with the fol­low­ing advice: “Let’s make the effort of say­ing the five prayers every day. Let’s read the Coran. If we put our Islam­ic life in order, the rest will follow.”

Sedide Akbu­lut, Pres­i­dent of the fam­i­ly and reli­gious ori­en­ta­tion Depart­ment attached to the Diyanet recent­ly announced they were plan­ning an edu­ca­tion based on reli­gious ref­er­ences: “We can fight against vio­lence with the prin­ci­ples of the Coran”. In the Diyanet’s 2018 Activ­i­ty Report, we find advice on “the need to increase the num­ber of reli­gious and fam­i­ly ori­en­ta­tion ser­vices.” In the same report, we note that Diyanet has pub­lished 3 000 books on the theme “the pro­tec­tion of the fam­i­ly and the pre­ven­tion of vio­lence against women.” More­over, the doc­u­ment men­tions inter­nal train­ing sem­i­nars for 476 staff mem­bers in order to pre­vent vio­lences against women and to con­tribute to this aim with staff from the faith.

Woman, a possession entrusted to man, must obey, this is her original nature

The Istan­bul Con­ven­tion of which Turkey is a sig­na­toree aims at total­ly sup­press­ing vio­lence based on social gen­ders and has a vital impor­tance in the mat­ter of vio­lences against women. But cer­tain con­ser­v­a­tive cir­cles defend an exit from the con­ven­tion and there are strong dis­agree­ments in pub­lic opin­ion. Fun­da Ekin, a lawyer who spe­cial­izes in wom­en’s rights says “on its report card, Turkey has a very low score when it comes to fight­ing vio­lences against women. And the mes­sages expressed by Diyanet only make the strug­gle more difficult.”

Fun­da Ekin con­tin­ues: “In the Diyanet mes­sages, the three main terms used for women are ’emanet’ (a pos­ses­sion entrust­ed to some­one), ‘itaat’ (obe­di­ence) and ‘fitrat’ (fitra, orig­i­nal nature). There is no men­tion of equal­i­ty, only khut­ba (ser­mons). Equal­i­ty being absent from the approach, blows and humil­i­a­tions are con­sid­ered unim­por­tant. An hon­est strug­gle is required.” She draws atten­tion to the fact that when women vic­tims of vio­lence sol­lic­it the help of secu­ri­ty forces, their request often do not end in a pro­tec­tive mea­sure and, if the vic­tim does obtain one, the deci­sion is not applied. “Noth­ing is done in accor­dance with the Istan­bul Con­ven­tion despite the fact it was signed in 2014. Even as a min­i­mum, there still does­n’t exist a cri­sis cen­ter. And have any new shel­ters been opened since 2014? No.”

Bur­cu Karakaş
© Deutsche Welle Türkçe

Translation by Renée Lucie Bourges
*A word to English-speaking readers: in all instances where the original text is in Turkish or Kurdish, the English version is derived from French translations. Inevitably, some shift in meaning occurs with each translation. Hopefully, the intent of the original is preserved in all cases. While an ideal situation would call for a direct translation from the original, access to information remains our main objective in this exercise and, we hope, makes more sense than would a translation provided by AI…
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Le petit mag­a­zine qui ne se laisse pas caress­er dans le sens du poil.