Signs of Hope in Istanbul

March 13, 2011 Michael Kaufman

As I was just in Istanbul for a few days of work – during an unusual March week of wet snow and pummeling winds – I wanted to tell you about the type of thing that should fill us all with a bit of hope.

Turkey still faces huge challenges when it comes to gender equality and ending violence against women.  Many men still consider it their right to hit their wife.  Police turn a blind eye – a horrific news video a few years ago showed a man on a sidewalk stabbing his wife then stopping to scream at her before periodically stabbing her again as onlookers, including a police officer, looked on.

My occasional work in Turkey over the past few years has been with the government, the UNFPA (the UN Population Fund), and the newspaper Hürriyet which has an ongoing campaign against domestic violence.

The six police officers who came from across the country to one of my workshops are the type of people who fill me with hope: regular men and women who decide they want to, and can, make a difference.

The UNFPA in partnership with the government trained 250 police officers who, in turn, trained 50,000 of their fellow officers on how to properly respond to incidents of violence against women.

23 of them (including those six with me) were selected to become ‘master trainers’ to make sure the program was self-sustaining.  The prominent Turkish feminist who led their 8-month training was met with suspicion, but by the end of the first week they were calling her “big sister.”

Not only will another 200,000 police be trained, but the police now have the capacity to reach all incoming officers.  They’ve also done training for police in Jordan and have spoken to the Turkish communities and with police in Germany and Holland.

My colleague Meltem Agduk of UNFPA, who played the pivotal role in this program, told me of their fantastic next initiative: they’ve signed a protocol with the government’s Directorate of Religious Affairs to train imams and other religious leaders and scholars about gender equality and their role in ending violence against women.

4 Comments on “Signs of Hope in Istanbul

  1. Dear Fatih,

    Thank you for such a nice message. To have a better world, We all should share the resposibilities, at home, at work and in the world.

    Again and again thank you…

  2. Dear sir,

    I would like to thank you. It was a great speech on TV in Turkey. As a man I believe that women are so important in our lives. They are our mothers, darlings, sisters, even dear grandmothers. So I can’t understand this violence. I am so happy that I have never had an experience like that and I hope I won’t.
    In your speech, the interviewer said that “Mothers, hear us” and you said “mothers and fathers” I think that was the point. If we say only “mothers” it shows our “hidden” attitudes.As you know changing attitudes is not easy but not impossible.
    Sir, I’ve forgetten to write who I am. I am Fatih Emrah, a special education student at univeristy. I am 21 years old and I am so interested in human rights, women rights, children rights, animal rights. So I am intersted in “the life.”
    Sir, I have read some of your articles on your web page. They are really good articles.
    You really are a good researcher and a good “human” (In English human is the word that I like most, because of that I’ve used “human” instead of person”)
    I hope you and your family will be so happy forever..
    Fatih Emrah

    1. Dear Fatih,

      Your message and words are the “real” good signs of hope for gender equality and equity in Turkey… and not only in Istanbul – but in all cities, towns willages..everywhere in Turkey.

      And you have picked the point: not mothers, but both mothers and fathers, and not women emporwerment or male involvement, but “human” development of men and women together for a shared vision and mission of their future – equally and side by side.

      Thank you for such a thoughtful message…


      1. Dear Ms.Ulkuer,
        I would like to thank you for your kind email. As a “human” your words have encouraged me. Being together for same aims is so important.
        Ms. Ulkuer I also would like to thank you for your works at UNICEF as a student of special education.
        I would like to listen to you in a congress in Ankara.
        Best regards.
        Fatih Emrah

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