Monday, May 27, 2013

Crazy's on the Rise!

Don't Stab the Kissers!

There is a strange wind blowing in Turkey these days--someone write in and tell me I'm being paranoid. Last week in Ankara, a subway announcement chastised a couple they'd caught kissing on their security cameras. The disembodied voice demanded the 'act in accordance with moral rules.' A kissing protest was held this past Saturday on location--as couples kissed a small group of young men (what is wrong with young men?) chanted Allahu Akbar! in a very threatening manner. Apparently one of the kissers was even stabbed! One wonders what in the world these guys were doing at a kissing protest? Couldn't they find something a little more meaty? See here.

Like the drunks. To 'save the children', the government has passed some new laws regarding alcohol and cigarettes. No longer will stores be able to sell alcohol after 10:00PM. Advertisements are illegal and any mention of alcohol in movies, TV shows or media is forbidden. One part of the law, targeting cigarettes, prohibits 'separation of one piece from a whole packet'--in other words, you can't sell individual cigarettes to people, but it apparently applies equally to alcohol which, according to some, means you could prohibit the sale of individual drinks in bars and restaurants. To protest, I went up to my local tekel (convenience store) and bought a beer--Efes's new 'Unfiltered'. A funny looking man was in front of me--a bit chubby, in a Mormon style shirt and tie, with a hair combed straight down on all sides. He seemed very nervous, glancing around and paying with a trembling hand. I thought he might be mentally handicapped--but the tekel owner told me different.

'He's so nervous about being caught drinking! He insisted I put it in two black plastic bags so that no one would know he had bought alcohol--he wanted to make sure you couldn't see through it. But then a plastic bag means you've just bought alcohol so everyone knows anyway!' He then put my beer in a black plastic bag. I had never really thought about it before--why in the world does my beer have to be in a special bag? I'm friends with the tekel owner and asked him how the new law will affect him. 'This is our livelihood,' he said in frustration. 'They've raised taxes so many times in the past year and now this! And here these people have started coming in wanting two plastic bags because they are afraid of their neighbors!'

Another significant addition to all this is the government's sentencing of Sevan Nişanyan for blasphemy against the prophet Mohammed. Nişanyan, as an Armenian, already has a strike against him--two if you count all he has said against the Kemalists as well. Now the third was his line in a column where he was defining the term 'hate speech' not as something you thought insulted you but as something that threatened a minority group's physical safety. Therefore, attacking an entrenched majority groups beliefs, while perhaps insulting, was not hate speech. And then he gave an example, saying, "mocking an Arab leader who centuries ago claimed to have contacted God and made political, financial and sexual benefits out of this is not a crime of hatred." This prompted an AKP politician, Mahmut Macid to say that he thinks 'all atheists' whom he calls 'raped people' should be destroyed.

And this is a guy who makes policy.

And this is after Fazıl Say, the famous classical pianist was prosecuted on similar charges.

And though it is not directly related to religious fanaticism, I can't help but think of my father-in-law's trial which resumed today. The 2 year visitation band, the sham evidence, the kangaroo court--all run by what is most likely a Fethullah Gulenist prosecutor and judge. I was not able to go this week (I will go next) but my wife tells me they actually gave testimony in Kurdish today--something utterly radical and unprecedented. What can it mean though--when in every other respect tolerance is eroded and rights are taken away and the noose gets tighter?

Religious fanaticism? Dictatorship? What's down the road?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My own thoughts about the alcohol ban are that, as we in America clearly know, and as Iranians are learning, creating a culture of fear around alcohol consumption by severely limiting its use or banning it altogether, just creates alcohol problems and dangerous black market economies. If this is for the protection of children, then the sale of alcohol should be strictly prohibited to the underaged. When I left the states, I was still being regularly carded- at the age of 30. Banning the consumption of alcohol on streets also makes a lot of sense and reduces problematic drinking behavior. This is just madness. And as I've written before, the tekels closing at ten make the streets more dangerous at night.