Mass circumcision, and then it’s time to party

AKYURT – Ninetyfive boys. In four shifts they have been circumcised in a municipality mass circumcision. In the hospital, so efficient and hygienic. And now that all almost a hundred boys are competently released of their foreskin, its party time in Akyurt, a town close to the Turkish capital of Ankara. The mayor: ‘Your first step towards manhood is taken!’

Summer, that’s cicumcision season in Turkey. In the long summer holiday thousands and thousands of boys are being helped. Ever since the AKP took power in 2002 and put ‘service to the citizen’ high on its priority list, the municipality mass circumcision a growing phenomenon. Municipalities don’t only organize the circumcision, they also pay for it. Including a huge open air party. For the citizen it means a saving of about 3000 lira (about 1400 euro, three average monthly salaries) per son.

The party goes like this: the young boys are called on a huge stage one by one, they say their name and get applause. Then there is music, and the boys dance: armes spread, snapping fingers and stamping feet. In the group also a clown is dancing, and a man dressed as the legendary, old and funny wise man Nasreddin Hoca, and yes, Spiderman is present too. The traditional music is changed to stimulating Turkish pop songs, an energetic dance show of two young men who’s foreskin was cut off about seven years ago, and the declamation of a few suitable poems. After about who hours of dance less and less boys are on their feet and more of them sit on their mothers lap.

The brothers Ismail (11) and Ibrahim (10) Miroglu have been circumcised three weeks ago. They are rather good already at dancing, but have trouble explaining what this circumcision was all about again. ‘It’s for my health, isn’t it?’, says Ismail, and looks up to his father, Haydar. Haydar says: ‘Yes, that’s right, and for religious reasons.’ The circumcisions would have been impossibly dear if he would have had to pay for them himself, and now it costs nothing. Haydar: ‘The municipality also paid for the traditional costumes.’

AKP-mayor Gültekin Ayantas calls the generosity ‘just a social project’. ‘We take care of our children’, he explains, ‘and this is part of it. Especially poorer people use this service. If the municipality didn’t offer this, they might go to a cheaper, traditional circumcizer, and that has risks. Now these children can be helped safe and hygienic in the hospital.’ Till now only ten to fifteen percent of the Turks asks a doctor to perform the circumcision. The rest chooses a traditional circumcizer. Of two hundred boys who had to be taken to hospital because of complications in the last ten years, 85% was helped by a traditional circumsizer.

The municipality mass circumcisions could support safe circumcisions. Not having your son circumcized, is not an option: the tradition is rooted deeply into Turkish society. Every Turk, devoutly religious or strictly secular, has his son circumcized. An increasing amount of municipalities that are not governed by the AKP but by an opposition party, pays circumcisions for its poorer citizens.

At the end of the party – it’s already dark – mayor Ayantas climbs up the stage. He speeches about manhood, and about the three steps towards full maturity. The first step is taken, after that come military service and marriage. The boys are asked on stage again. Some cry, they are tired. But a bit later they descend the stage with happy faces. In their hands a big box with a remote controlled helicopter. Present from the municipality.

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