My parents had relatively few qualms when I told them that I wanted to study abroad in Turkey. Once I told them that, obviously, the University would not take a group of students to an area that was not 100% safe. But one thing my mom did bring up, was that the Deputy Prime Minister and I may have some differences of opinion when it comes to what women should and should not be able to do in public. She was alluding to the statement that Bülent Arinç made back in July of 2014:
(referring to all women) “She should not laugh loudly in front of all the world and should preserve her decency at all times.”
Uh okay. I definitely remembered hearing about this; there was a total public outcry and Emma Watson spoke out against it. But this confused me: isn’t Turkey a secular state? They certainly don’t have an official religion. So where does this politician find the moral high ground to speak about what women should and should not do?
As it turns out, while the government is officially secular, the political parties don’t have to be. Arinç is part of the Justice and Development Party, a fairly new, conservative Islamic party.
To us, it seems pretty radical. But the more I think about it, the more I see similarities between Turkey’s current situation and America’s. We have a separation of church and state, but that doesn’t stop us from electing conservative Christian politicians who try to pass legislation based on religious beliefs. We’re a half a world away, and yet we still have the same issues.
While in Turkey, I’m going to do my best to respect the general customs; I’ll dress conservatively when I have to and cover my head out of respect for others’ religions.
But politicians can’t tell anyone what to do. So I’ll laugh. I’ll laugh a lot.