Turkey

In Fractured Turkey, Wave Of Nostalgia For Founding Father

When Gezi Park protesters held up posters of Kemal Ataturk amid a fog of tear gas, they were searching for stability in a changing world. Reflections on 70 years of the Turkish Republic.

In Istanbul with an Ataturk flag and Anonymous mask.
In Istanbul with an Ataturk flag and Anonymous mask.
Christiane Schlötzer

ISTANBUL When the Turkish Republic was founded 90 years ago, then-President Kemal Atatürk’s wife Latife met the Italian ambassador at a reception in Ankara and asked him about the state of feminism in his country. The diplomat replied that for Italian women feminism meant marrying and providing their husbands with healthy offspring.

“What an outdated idea,” Latife replied.

This exchange — recounted by Latife’s biographer Ipek Calislar — was only made possible by the young woman’s courage and the revolutionary ideas of her husband, who not only did away with the Ottoman Empire’s segregation of the sexes but also with the Empire itself.

In 1918, Atatürk wrote in his journal, “We have to be bold when it comes to the question of women.” At that time, the man who five years later would found the Turkish Republic, was on one of his few trips abroad to a spa in Karlsbad. Between mud baths and swimming, the general watched the “fine, beautiful women” dancing the four step with men in tuxedos. He wrote in his journal, “If I am entrusted with power, I think I must immediately introduce the desired changes in our society.”

Born in 1881 in Selanik, modern-day Thessaloniki, Atatürk felt from a young age that he was called to greatness. His political ambitions and military skill came together at the right moment to spell the end for the reign of the sultans and caliphs. From his base in eastern Anatolia, Atatürk organized the uprising against the Western troops who had set their sights on the remains of the Ottoman Empire after World War I. Greek attempts to expand into the region were similarly defeated in the Turkish War of Independence.

The Peace of Lausanne guaranteed Turkey secure borders, but it also uprooted 1.25 million Greeks and 500,000 Muslims from their homes in a “population exchange” approved by the West. On Oct. 29, children and grandchildren of the exiles recently sailed from Istanbul to Thessaloniki in a gesture of friendship and reconciliation.

Atatürk chose the dusty Anatolian city of Ankara as his capital, symbolizing a break with the extravagance of the sultans. It spelled the end for the harem, the veil and the fez. Latife appeared beside her husband with her hair cut into a boyish bob.

Headscarves increasingly politicized

On the evening of Oct. 29, the presidential palace in Ankara welcomed international diplomats to celebrate the republic’s anniversary. It would be no surprise if the current president’s wife should find herself chatting with the Italian ambassador, as Hayrünnisa Gül is a pioneer in her own right. She is the first Turkish president’s wife to go to the European courts to demand the right to wear an Islamic headscarf.

Indeed, clothing has been a controversial topic in Turkey for 90 years, and the bewildering contradictions in daily life have their roots in the founding of the republic. Atatürk was suspicious of religion and banned Islamists, sending them underground and causing deep divisions in society.

Secularism is at the heart of Kemalism — Atatürk’s political ideology — but in the past it has been used by the Turkish elite as a means of privileging the Sunni religion to the detriment of the Alevi and Christian minorities.

But Prime Minister Recep Tayyip ErdoÄŸan is making changes in this area. He argues that his government guarantees rights for all, including those with religious convictions, and one of his main achievements has been lifting the ban on women in headscarves teaching in public schools.

The headscarf is a flashpoint in Turkish politics, but among the younger generation it does not cause such division. The secular protesters in Gezi — dismissed by ErdoÄŸan as hooligans — protected praying Muslims from the police, and pious women sat down to eat on the grass with non-believers.

Deep divisions

Atatürk sought an emphatic break with the Ottoman Empire. He encouraged Turkish nationalism and introduced the Latin alphabet, producing a generation who were unable to read historical texts. His reasoning, according to his biographer Klaus Kreiser, was that the Turkish state “would be modern and progressive or would not exist.”

After Atatürk’s death in 1938, his successor built a grand mausoleum in Ankara, a marble testament to his political legacy. Now many Turks are turning back to their nation’s founding father amid political tensions, but that does not necessarily mean a renaissance for the old Kemalism.

The Republican People’s Party (CHP), founded in 1923 and currently the largest opposition party in government, has so far been unable to profit from the mood of political unrest that erupted in Gezi Park. When the protesters held up Atatürk posters amid a fog of tear gas, they were searching for stability in a changing world. As negotiations for EU membership have stalled, Europe has lost its appeal for many young Turks and instead they now take pride in their own country, despite its problems. Atatürk, whose adopted surname means “Father of the Turks,” is the perfect symbol to grasp for.

In 1925, Atatürk and Latife divorced. Her younger brother Münci thinks that the reason was that Latife did not show her husband the respect he demanded. “My sister was a great woman,” he says. “But she treated him like any other man.”

In the end, perhaps Latife proved too revolutionary for Atatürk.


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Pro-life and Pro-abortion Rights Protests in Washington

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Håfa adai!*

Welcome to Thursday, where new Omicron findings arrive from South Africa, abortion rights are at risk at the U.S. Supreme Court and Tyrannosaurus rex has got some new competition. From Germany, we share the story of a landmark pharmacy turned sex toy museum.

[*Chamorro - Guam]

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🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

• COVID update: South Africa reports a higher rate of reinfections from the Omicron variant than has been registered with the Beta and Delta variants, though researchers await further findings on the effects of the new strain. Meanwhile, the UK approves the use of a monoclonal therapy, known as sotrovimab, to treat those at high risk of developing severe COVID-19 symptoms.The approval comes as the British pharmaceutical company, GSK, separately announced the treatment has shown to “retain activity” against the Omicron variant. Down under, New Zealand’s reopening, slated for tomorrow is being criticized as posing risks to its under-vaccinated indigenous Maori.

• Supreme Court poised to gut abortion rights: The U.S. Supreme Court signaled a willingness to accept a Republican-backed Mississippi law that would bar abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, even in cases of rape or incest. A ruling, expected in June, may see millions of women lose abortion access, 50 years after it was recognized as a constitutional right in the landmark Roe v. Wade case.

• Macri charged in Argentine spying case: Argentina’s former president Mauricio Macri has been charged with ordering the secret services to spy on the family members of 44 sailors who died in a navy submarine sinking in 2017. The charge carries a sentence of three to ten years in prison. Macri, now an opposition leader, says the charges are politically motivated.

• WTA suspends China tournaments over Peng Shuai: The Women's Tennis Association (WTA) announced the immediate suspension of all tournaments in China due to concerns about the well-being of Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai, and the safety of other players. Peng disappeared from public view after accusing a top Chinese official of sexual assault.

• Michigan school shooting suspect to be charged as an adult: The 15-year-old student accused of killing four of his classmates and wounding seven other people in a Michigan High School will face charges of terrorism and first-degree murder. Authorities say the suspect had described wanting to attack the school in cellphone videos and a journal.

• Turkey replaces finance minister amid economic turmoil: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan appointed a strong supporter of his low-interest rate drive, Nureddin Nebati, as Turkey’s new finance minister.

• A battle axe for a tail: Chilean researchers announced the discovery of a newly identified dinosaur species with a completely unique feature from any other creatures that lived at that time: a flat, weaponized tail resembling a battle axe.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

South Korean daily Joong-ang Ilbo reports on the discovery of five Omicron cases in South Korea. The Asian nation has broken its daily record for overall coronavirus infections for a second day in a row with more than 5,200 new cases. The variant cases were linked to arrivals from Nigeria and prompted the government to tighten border controls.


#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

¥10,000

In the northeastern Chinese city of Harbin, a reward of 10,000 yuan ($1,570) will be given to anyone who volunteers to take a COVID-19 test and get a positive result, local authorities announced on Thursday on the social network app WeChat.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

Why an iconic pharmacy is turning into a sex toy museum

The "New Pharmacy" was famous throughout the St. Pauli district of Hamburg for its history and its long-serving owner. Now the owner’s daughter is transforming it into a museum dedicated to the history of sex toys, linking it with the past "curing" purpose of the shop, reports Eva Eusterhus in German daily Die Welt.

💊 The story begins in autumn 2018, when 83-year-old Regis Genger stood at the counter of her pharmacy and realized that the time had come for her to retire. At least that is the first thing her daughter Anna Genger tells us when we meet, describing the turning point that has also shaped her life and that of her business partner Bianca Müllner. The two women want to create something new here, something that reflects the pharmacy's history and Hamburg's eclectic St. Pauli quarter (it houses both a red light district and the iconic Reeperbahn entertainment area) as well as their own interests.

🚨 Over the last few months, the pharmacy has been transformed into L'Apotheque, a venture that brings together art and business in St. Pauli's red light district. The back rooms will be used for art exhibitions, while the old pharmacy space will house a museum dedicated to the history of sex toys. Genger and Müllner want to show that desire has always existed and that people have always found inventive ways of maximizing pleasure, even in times when self-gratification was seen as unnatural and immoral, as a cause of deformities.

🏩 Genger and Müllner want the museum to show how the history of desire has changed over time. The art exhibitions, which will also center on the themes of physicality and sexuality, are intended to complement the exhibits. They are planning to put on window displays to give passers-by a taste of what is to come, for example, British artist Bronwen Parker-Rhodes's film Lovers, which offers a portrait of sex workers during lockdown.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

📣 VERBATIM

"I would never point a gun at anyone and pull a trigger at them. Never."

— U.S. actor Alec Baldwin spoke to ABC News, his first interview since the accident that killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of the movie Rust last October. The actor said that although he was holding the gun he didn’t pull the trigger, adding that the bullet “wasn't even supposed to be on the property.”

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet and Jane Herbelin

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