Religious attitudes?

Now, is the number of women wearing a headscarf rising or not? The conclusion of a survey seems to be a clear “yes”. In short, 69 percent of women cover their heads, against 64 percent in 2003. Of these women, 16 percent wear a ‘turban’ (a ‘religious scarf’ as apposed to a ‘traditional’ one), against 3.5 percent four years ago.
But there’s a whole lot of ‘buts’. There was another survey on the same question which concludes that the number of women wearing a scarf has gone down from 64 percent to 61, the percentage of those wearing a ‘turban’ rising to 6 instead of 16 percent. Both surveys were done in September, but the first has only now been published. The survey results were published by two different newspapers, both belonging to the same media conglomerate, Dogan Media Group. It is now said that the surveys are used to support or oppose government policies. The ‘headscarfissue’ is perfect for manipulation. The governing party is the AK Party, whose leaders in the past were spokesmen for banned Islamic parties. The AK Party says it’s not Islamic, but opponents fear that they will not respect Turkey’s secularism and that they stir up conservative Islamic tendencies in society. Now, if you want to oppose the government, you publish the figures that show an increase in (religious) headscarves – and some say Dogan had reason this week to try to influence politics and public opinion (over some financial transaction between media interests that is too complicated to explain here). On the other hand, if you want to support the government and calm public opinion, you publish the less alarming survey, as a Dogan newspaper did in September after Abdullah Gül (AK Party) was elected president.
Is seems far-fetched, but it’s well known that many Turkish newspapers are not very independent, so I would not be surprised if this is actually what happened. What bothers me though, is that the choices women make are used to manipulate public opinion. What makes me laugh ironically is that the surveys are presented as investigations of the ‘religious attitudes of women’. Such an interesting issue reduced to whether or not you wear a headscarf, and if so, what sort of scarf. The whole exercise says nothing about the attitudes of women and everything about the attitudes of businessmen and politicians.

Public servant

So, if you are a journalist and you write a report about something involving a crime, you have to immediately call the authorities and report it. That’s what the lawsuit against reporter Emin Bal makes clear. He wrote a story about a funeral of PKK combatants, and during the funeral slogans supporting the PKK and its leader Öcalan were shouted. He didn’t call the police, and that’s his crime. All he did was write it down and publish it. And that, in my opinion, is exactly what a journalist should do. His job is to inform the people about what’s going on, he’s not a public servant.

Crying babies

She had been in a good mood all day, taking care of the guests coming to her house for seker bayrami, the festival marking the end of the fasting month. He came home early from work in his own business, to take time for dinner and exchange the latest family and village news. An average Turkish couple in an average Anatolian city, aged around fifty, with adult and almost-adult children.
About an hour later, they were both crying. I didn’t notice, till my friend, their daughter, drew my attention to it. It was the news that made them sad: again, that weekend Turkish soldiers died in the southeast in the fight against PKK. Young guys mostly, some just married, some young daddys. My friend advised her parents just to change the channel. They did, but the other channels showed the same: crying families, crying babies, funerals, pictures of the deceased, sad music or tunes you would expect in a James Bondmovie. My friend got angry at the journalists presenting this news. Yes, she said, the losses must be mentioned and the grief must be shown, but not 20 minutes in a 25 minutes news show, as if nothing else happens in the world. And not with all this over-sentimental music, slow motion images and loudly crying babies – as if a half-year-old would be conscious of losing his daddy. The more non-objective and over-emotional news items people see, she said, the more people become aggressive and want to kill the terrorists. News shows, she concluded, have become participants in the conflict. Which leads to more deaths on both sides. The dead soldiers also make my friend sad and angry, but the way the conflict is brought to the TV-screen adds to her losing hope in peace.