Popping up again and again: The puppets take on Hacı Yatmaz!

Hacı Yatmaz

Hacı Yatmaz pops up and bounces back again and again, despite the depth of the dip he takes…he’s seemingly indestructable!

Hacı Yatmaz, the President of the Karagöz puppet republic, bops and rolls, bops and rolls, always managing to find himself back on his feet even after making the most silly comments ever…

Let me explain that Hacı Yatmaz is an anomaly in the Karagöz puppet troupe that inhabits my head.  You see, he is not a shadow puppet, rather, he is that famous Turkish bouncing child’s toy – always managing not to topple over, always popping up again and again. Originally, the puppets voted him in with the thought that having a different kind of puppet as their leader could lead to great cross-fertilization in the intellectual and equity realms…but now they are not so sure.  What with all the popping up and back and forth and all.

And just today, he sprang back yet AGAIN…even in the face of derision from so many of the puppets. No matter what extreme he bobbles over to, he always pops back up, dammit! It is a force of nature.  But let me fill you in with a little bit of history first, with the help of the puppets.

Hacivad Bey begins the explanation “In my humble opinion, it all started a few years back – way before he constructed a massive palace with lots of rooms to explore – Hacı Yatmaz had been fairly stable for a long time – even drawing in lots of praise for his calm, moderate and collected demeanor in a sea of otherwise bobbing politicians.  He was often lauded as the most thoughtful of the Presidents out there – a model to be followed for many in the region.  All of the other puppet Presidents sought photo-opportunities with him, in fact.  And yet slowly, with time, the kooky movement began.  And while he is a laughing stock, he pops back up again and again – I really don’t know how he does it!”

Safiye Rakkase, the vainglorious dancing girl puppet draws a blank on her made-up face.  “What do you mean the movement began again, Hacivad Bey?  All I know about President Hacı Yatmaz is that he was arrogant enough to say that all of the female puppets shouldn’t laugh in public!  Can you imagine that? I can’t recall that he was ever popular – how can it be true? Well, I guess I don’t read the papers that much…”

Rolling her eyes, Esma the hippie puppet tried to curb her sarcasm in favor of supporting her female puppet-mate for the good of the feminist cause.  Then she remembered that Safiye Rakkase likely had no idea what feminism was, and gave up.  Even light-filled hippie puppets have their limits, you know.  “What about the time he came out and said that all we female puppets were good for was motherhood, that we were not equal to the male puppets – and that we feminists had rejected motherhood for good?  That was a pretty significant dip, for sure, even after getting lots of critique from us female puppets!

Mercan Bey, the spice trader from the Arabian penninsula piped in at this point. “Now,” he said with a somber stance, “I have travelled far and wide, and while I have only been to the American continent lately, even I know that the likelihood of Muslim puppets discovering the Americas is fairly farfetched  – I do beg to differ with President Hacı Yatmaz on that!”

“And let us not forget how sad we were as puppets,” Bebe Ruhi, the puppet who is a dwarf – and who has an ample heart says, “to hear President Hacı Yatmaz say that last summer’s mining disaster in the Aegean town of Soma was just ‘an ordinary thing.’  He really went off the rails with that one!”

Yehuda Rebbe,the wise man puppet steps up now.  “It is with a heavy heart that I read the news of today as well,” he says with such a deep sigh.  “How is it that one can call out some of our national treasures in the literary world, calling them ‘Western stooges?’ Never were two people more pro-homeland than these two.”

Zenne, the tiny handmaiden who is a nervous nellie, like a bowl of quaking quince jelly steps up now. “Oh dear, oh my, please.  You all, just please.  Don’t speak so about our fearless President… We don’t want to end up in the doghouse or anything! Just celebrate how much he can bounce back!”

…and so it goes – the need to write in a politically sensitive manner here in the land of the puppets.




Posted in A Karagöz puppet battle, Turkish Controversies, Visits from the Karagöz puppets | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The puppets sigh…on women changing faces to make new lives

Two of the

Two of the “cengi” or dancing ladies that are part of the larger Karagöz puppet troupe (Image thanks to http://www.karagozshop.com)

This morning, the little chorus ofcengi” 0r dancing lady puppets woke me up with a short glass of tea and long, sad faces.  As you may recall, these members of the Karagöz Oyunlari that inhabit my head have NOT gone on sabbatical in Turkey.  Rather, they stayed close to home.  They preferred to stay by my side through thick and thin, even if they do live in my handbag.

You see, these tiny lady puppets all have sad family histories, and joined the puppet troupe’s dancing lady contingent as a way to get away from abuse and neglect as children.  So, going back to Turkey is not necessarily a good thing for them.  They have found a new life in the new world.  And we should celebrate that! They are SO much more than a pretty face or two.  Usually, those who watch a Karagöz puppet show only see these dancing ladies at the start of the shadow theatre, and never get a chance to know them better.  I have had the luck to do the latter! But back to what happened this morning…

“We have some news to share, M’lady,” they said, voices wan and small.  “We already scoured the Hurriyet Daily News for you, to find the articles that you will find most interesting to read with your tea.”  They are really so thoughtful, those tiny little ladies.  I am so grateful for them.

As I rubbed my eyes, the puppets pushed my iPad into my lap.  And there I read about a young lady who is the survivor of a series of violent attacks at the hands of her ex-boyfriend.  You can see the text of the article, below this post. Although she had sought a restraining order, it did not do any good – as those orders rarely do, in my experience as a forensic social worker.

What was shocking and different about this story, however, was the fact that a Turkish court ordered that the state fund plastic surgery, a name change and a University transfer for this woman, so that her abuser could not find her.  At first blush, I thought, well, that is a generous and creative solution, but sets quite a precedent for the state to follow, given the high prevalence of domestic violence faced by women in Turkey.  But then it hit me – as did her purported words – she was sad that she would be forced to change her identity instead of having the court and “the system” stop the violence from her ex-boyfriend.  For all intents and purposes, this means that “the system” acknowledges that nothing can stop the violence, abuse and stalking.  That is a sad reality, and it is all-too familiar…when will the world find a way forward?  Are we reaching a tipping point?  Maybe this court ruling is so absurd that we will.  Here’s to hoping.

So thank you, dear readers, for indulging me in the re-telling of this important story, and if you need something lighter to read after this heavy plop of a post, you can go back to yesterday’s peanut butter debacle or even go back a year to the time we spent Thanksgiving on Cyprus, and had a near miss with some Turkish soldiers in which we could only laugh instead of crying!


İZMİR – Doğan News Agency

A local court in İzmir has ruled that the state should provide all support for a young woman who was repeatedly exposed to violence by her ex-boyfriend, including a new identity, school, address and even a face via plastic surgery.

Prosecutors ordered a restraining order against the man, but the move failed to stop his advances. The 20-year-old university student had filed a lawsuit against her ex-boyfriend who used violence, pressure, threats and insults against her.

Unable to stop the violence, the woman’s lawyer, Mehmet Harun Elçi, said they had demanded a change of identity from the Family Court in reference to the law on protecting the family and preventing violence against woman. The court rejected the demand, prompting an appeal at a higher court.

The second court approved the demand and said the woman would be able to change her face via plastic surgery, the university she is attending, her address and identity. The expenses for the alterations will be covered by the state, the court concluded.

Elçi said the ruling was unprecedented, noting that the closest another court came to permitting such a change in identity was when one woman was permitted to change her name for six months.

The lawyer said his client was happy to have a new life without having threats but that she was disappointed that she had to change her physical identity.

“In fact, the measures should be taken to stop the man’s violence. But this did not happen. This is why my client took such a decision. Of course, she is happy that she will leave that stressful life behind. But she is upset that she has to change her physical appearance,” said Elçi.

Posted in Gendered moments, Turkish Controversies, Visits from the Karagöz puppets | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

A fıstıklı bromance: On overcoming culture-based food biases

Karagöz recently attempted to stir the pot with me, by pointing out that M. is heavily involved in a “bromance” with another Turkish-American guy.  I guess Karagöz is a little homophobic, but I’m not really clear on that.  Maybe Karagöz is just acculturating to the worst of American norms.  I’m all for bromances, they are a lovely thing.  Ain’t no nicer thing than seeing bromance buddies walking down Istiklal Caddesi hand in hand or arm in arm, after all.  As I make this point, I can see Yehuda Rebbe and Hacivad Bey nodding at me in approval, as they walk arm in arm back to the dining room to finish a debate on some aspect of Jewish-Islamic relations.

But back to this bromance, which is taking place on American turf – and it is distinctly fıstıklı…the Turkish word for “nutty” in the best possible sense.  Finding this particular Turkish-American friend and his partner has made for an absolutely wonderful addition to our life.

M. and S., both somewhat eccentric artists, can relate to one another on distinctly Turkish-American matters among many other things.  Meanwhile, S.’s partner and I can also relate on matters unique to being the American in a Turkish-American relationship…among many other things.

It’s nutty and funny and special, this couple friendship is, and we love it that way.

But back to nuts – which have made another appearance in our cross-cultural marital road trip as of late.  This most recent episode with nuts relates to the fact that out of the clear blue yonder, M. has become obsessed with peanut butter.

This may sound like no great revelation, but you must realize that after years of listening to M. decrying “it” as “food?” fit only for the lowliest of beasts, I’m pretty shocked.

Really, in the 11 years I have known him, I have never heard him do less than protest against the lowly peanut with vim and vigor – usually in a heated tone with pointing fingers all akimbo.

“Turks,” he says loudly, “DO NOT eat or like peanut butter!”

Now, if you know M., you will know that he rants and rails about MANY things.  Some would argue that’s just the Turkish body language/voice volume, and I might agree) – but really – peanut butter is UP THERE in the top three of “bad things to rant and rail about.”  It could be worse, I know.

And that’s where the bromance comes into the picture.  All it took was S. showing up to a dinner party with his favorite Haagen Daaz chocolate and peanut butter ice cream, and the battle against peanut butter was magically over.  No more protests over the presence of peanut butter on the shopping list – and even an occasional errant spoonful of the stuff making way into the mouth of the Turkish part of this couple!

Now, M. just says “I never knew it could be so good!”  And that’s all she wrote on peanut butter.

Let’s not even get into kokorecç*, ok? Karagöz promises that he will indeed get into it.  Let’s hope that’s a few days away, eh?

*Kokorecç, (“koh-kohr-etch”) sounds all to similar to cockroach…but it is actually intestines grilled on a spit, sliced off en masse and slammed in between two pieces of bread. It is street food extraordinaire. M claims that it “tastes better” if the intestines are, ahem, “not completely clean.”

Posted in Turkish Food!, Turkish-American Matters, Visits from the Karagöz puppets | Tagged , , , , , , | 9 Comments