Daily Archives: 9 March 2006

Pamuk on the Hectoring "Pappy State"

All over the world, men are three or four times more likely to kill themselves than women; it was a young civil servant in the National Office of Statistics in Ankara who had first noticed that in Batman [in eastern Turkey] the number of female cases was three times greater than the number for males and four times greater than the world average for females. But when a friend of his at the [secular] Republican published this analysis in “News in Brief,” no one in Turkey took any notice. A number of correspondents for French and German newspapers, however, did pick up on the item, and only after they had gone to Batman and published stories in the European press did the Turkish press begin to take an interest….

A committee of suicide experts—including psychologists, police officers, judges, and officials from the Department of Religious Affairs—was already preparing to decamp from Batman to [nearby] Kars; as a preliminary measure the Department of Religious Affairs had plastered the city with its SUICIDE IS BLASPHEMY posters, and the governor’s office was to distribute a pamphlet with the slogan as its title. Still, the deputy governor worried that these measures might produce the result opposite from the one intended—not just because girls hearing of others committing suicide might be inspired to do the same, but also because quite a few might do it out of exasperation with the constant lecturing from husbands, fathers, preachers, and the state.

“What is certain is that the girls were driven to suicide because they were extremely unhappy. We’re not in any doubt about that,” the deputy governor told Ka. “But if unhappiness were a genuine reason for suicide, half the women in Turkey would be killing themselves.” He suggested that these women might be offended if they had to listen to a chorus of male voices remonstrating, “Don’t commit suicide!” This, he told Ka proudly, was why he had written to Ankara asking that the antisuicide propaganda committee include at least one woman.

SOURCE: Snow, by Orhan Pamuk (Vintage, 2004), pp. 14-15

Pamuk portrays the forces of secularism in the Turkish state as even more arrogant, brutal, and oppressive than the Islamists—and not a whit less patriarchal.

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