Sunday, November 29, 2009

Statements of the weekend (or of the year)

Yaşar Yakış, the Turkish chairman of Parliament’s EU harmonization commission, a former diplomat and the ruling Turkish AKP’s first foreign minister, spoke of the impracticability of using more Italian or Scandinavian models for women’s emancipation and infuriated some women present at the forum when he said: “Even if Turkey becomes an EU member one day, a difference will always remain there due to Islamic culture. We will always see that difference in mentality, which is the result of the centuries-old influence of Islam.”
He made this statement during the sixth Turkish–Italian forum in Istanbul

The leader of the Turkish opposition National Movement Party, or MHP (an ultra nationalist fascistoide party), has introduced existential doubt into the swine flu debate in Turkey.
“I do not believe in the swine flu (Mexican flu),” said MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli on Saturday.
“We have not taken any measures (against the H1N1 virus commonly known as swine flu). Everything is up to God’s will,” said Bahçeli, Anatolia news agency reported.

Some tips to make the best out of a rainy day

The last week was one after the other a wet and windy day in the Netherlands. So a Dutch newspaper presented a whole page of tips to “beat the autumn blues”. No less than 1.2 million Dutch folk claim to suffer from what the paper calls “an autumn dip” and it calls on the services of eight “experts” to let in a little ray of sunshine.

Unfortunately most of these specialists seem to be more interested in their own bank balance than the well-being of the nation. There’s the sauna owner who suggests you go for a sauna, the travel agent who recommends an exotic autumn break and the clean-up stylist – whatever that might be – who declares that domestic chores are the ideal way to generate “physical and mental energy”. Refreshingly there’s also a fashion guru who warns us all not to go shopping because “it just gets you down … everything you like is either too expensive or doesn’t fit … and you end up with sore feet, feeling fat”. Tell it like it is, sister!

While we’re on the subject of retail therapy the newspaper front page features the story that Interior Minister Guusje ter Horst is allowing shops to impose a ban on customers wearing hoods as a measure to prevent hold-ups. The paper’s cartoonist hits back with a picture of a hooded shopper in the pouring rain saying “That’s all well and good … but could you ask the man upstairs for better weather first?”

Day Opening - November 29

Unusual transport

Armenian Love - by Fréderike Geerdink, a Dutch journalist in Turkey

The Armenian community in Turkey consists of about fifty thousand souls. It’s not easy to keep such a small community alive. Especially not for Armenians who live outside the strong Armenian community in Istanbul. A special report.

Cemil and Gülestan have been married now for twenty one years. But when you see them sitting together with their sons in their house in the village of Sason in eastern Turkey, it looks more as if grandfather is visiting: Cemil is 71, Gülestan 35. The problem was that there were not too many prospective husbands for Gülestan, and when widower Cemil asked Gülestan’s father for her hand, the deal was quickly done. Gülestan: ‘My father thought Cemil would be a good husband, but it was also important that he has the same roots as my family. There are not many like that in our region.’

The same roots, by that she means: Cemil’s family was once, like Gülestan’s, Christian and Armenian. Right after the mass killings of Armenians in the last days of the Ottoman Empire, their ancestors converted to Islam out of necessity and chose a Turkish name. They integrated into Turkish and Islamic life, but never forgot their former identity, and also never lost touch with families who were hit by the same fate. They married among each other, and they still do.

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