Beyaz kurdeleler: The puppets address violence against women in Turkey and the U.S.

One of the white ribbons the puppets made to honor the White Ribbon Campaign on March 1st, 2012. This campaign was started by men interested in preventing violence against women, including domestic violence/intimate partner violence and sexual assault. At my university, we go beyond the male focus...and the puppets have embraced this.

It’s the day after I have committed myself to applying for a Fulbright fellowship to Cyprus, and I am in the steep, warm ascent from deep-sleep to almost-awake sleep when I start to hear a slithery sliding sound. My eyes are still cloaked in warm red ember-colored glowing curtains (a.k.a. my inner eyelids) but I know that there is something that is traversing the space between reality outside of me and dreamland inside of me. I hear – sliding. I wish it would go away, as today will be a long day, and I have an important lecture to give. But soft wafts of silk seem to be caressing my face and after several tries, I am able to open my eyes to see what’s what I am met with beyaz kurdelelerinin (white ribbons) all over the place.

“Ah – she’s awake!” Esma the hippie puppet cries out – and I can see all of the ladies of the Karagöz puppet troupe lined up on the bookshelf at the other end of the room – watching me awake in between volumes of modern art tomes, feminist theory, travel memoirs, histories of World War I and Tin Tin books in French (somehow, this mix explains M. and I). “Why,” I think to myself, “are all the lady puppets over there – and what are all of these white ribbons doing hanging from the ceiling?”

Before I can locate the answer in the asleep part of my brain that remembers that I have had skeins of white ribbon in my house for weeks now, I realize that the male puppets are repelling down the ribbons onto my pillow. Hacivad Bey speaks for the group, saying “we have been watching you, m’lady, prepare your talk on intimate partner violence against women with disabilities for a special lecture during anti-violence week at your university, and we have learned about this thing called the White Ribbon Campaign and because we Ottoman shadow puppets are very interested in our life here in America, we are trying out something new for us, talking about the un-mentionable.”

Mercan Bey, the spice trader from the Arabian Penninsula was next to speak, wafts of cardamom swished around him as he made it to the bottom of his ribbon, and he said “we have learned that this campaign began after a terrible terrible day, at the École Polytechnique in Canada in1989, where 14 women were killed by an anti-feminist shooter. More specifically, we have learned that after this shooting, a men’s movement appeared in Canada, where men wearing the white ribbon were standing up against violence against women. The men of this troupe – even oppositional Karagöz who never likes to go with the flow of the whole – have decided to embrace the idea behind the White Ribbon Campaign. At first we men just watched the little chorus of dancing lady puppets make some of those pinned ribbons for you – remember that there is a whole batch ready on your dining room table, m’lady.”

Bebe Ruhi, the last to swish down his ribbon from the ceiling (man, these puppets really know how to make an entrance), stepped before Mercan Bey, but gave him a loving hug along the way before saying “BUT, after we saw M. pick up one of those ribbons and put it on his jacket to wear ALL WEEK, well, we were inspired. We know that violence against women is a major problem in modern-day Turkeysome say 50+ percent of all women experience intimate partner violence there. We know that there is a movement underway back home – and we know that there is even a Turkish all-female movie cast addressing this back home – but we want to do our part too. We want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem, so we have taken the White Ribbon Campaign pledge (see below) and we are spreading the word back all the way to Turkiye, through shadow puppet means, about the need for people to take a stand on this. We also think that it should be about everyone – not just violence against women – but we get why this focus is needed now, and it saddens us. We may be skeptical of all of these ribbons symbolizing all of these things – but that does not belie the importance of all this. We want you to ask your dear readers – will you take the pledge as well?”

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20 Responses to Beyaz kurdeleler: The puppets address violence against women in Turkey and the U.S.

  1. Jack Scott says:

    Domestic violence is a problem here (and child abuse) but I’m happy to say that this is being increasingly recognised by the authorities, spoken about publically and not swept under the carpet.

  2. Rosamond says:

    My daughter did a course in Istanbul Uni on modern day society and economics.She also said that abuse against women in Turkey was rife. I was quite offended and wanted to know the statistics of various other countries who were perhaps the same or worse than Turkey. Why, lately is this subject highlighted about Turkey? I suppose i am going away from your point a bit, but i am very touchy about my beloved Turkey.
    You are right ,we must all stand united with loud voices and positive action to stop abuse/violence against women and in fact every defensless creature.

  3. Thanks for your comment, Rosamond. It is indeed hard to accept the reality of intimate partner violence. I agree with your point about the problem being everywhere. I have a hard time on this issue – in part because so many of my feminist friends only talk about Turkey with me when an honor killing, for example, makes the news. As a feminist myself, I am torn between standing up to name this endemic social problem and working to counteract stereotypes about Turkey that impact my friends’ potential views of M. My sense is that the whole long, drawn-out EU bid has put Turkey unfairly in the spotlight in this regard – take for example the recent rant of an Austrian politician against Turkey, including many mentions of rampant violence against women. It’s a tough call. I’ve decided to stand up for both naming the issue out loud AND working to combat stereotypes that unfairly group all into one boat. 🙂

  4. Yes, I have noticed this trend over the last 8 years. Do you also think this has something to do with the (what most Turks I know consider a flawed and permanently failed) EU bid? Out from under the carpet we go.

  5. Jack Scott says:

    I think it is partly linked to the stalled negotiations and the requirement for Turkey to move towards European norms in social issues. But, I also think this is a result of pressure from the growing middle class.

  6. Rosamond says:

    Jack…..Romania didnt have European norms in social issues, far from it but they were allowed to join the EU..The crux of the matter is reluctance to let a Muslim counrty in.

    Slowlybyslowly….funny you should say that because my friends also point out the violance and honour killings in Pakistan as if this is the only country that carries out such crimes. Obviously these things are terrible and we have to see change but lets also look on our own doorsteps to see the attrocities within.

    You have to spend time in these countries, get to know the people before condemning. Turkey is rapidly overtaking many EU countries in its health,education, environment issues and social services but unless you know the country you would believe the western press/media. Many people believe its a backward, uneducated country, can you believe!

    I was amazed when in Morocco to see young women riding their own scooters, in jeans, hair free and visiting coffee houses with friends. I was even more amazed at the freedom of young women when i was in Pakistan. They are more free than they are here in the Uk

    I have admiration for you and your courage to speak up and stand up for whats right.

  7. Alan says:

    . . having been a dealer in extreme violence on behalf of the government in my past, I can tell you that in its many manifestations it fills a lot of my thoughts these days. Wherever we find men giving themselves ‘dominion’ over this or that we find violence. For as long as ANY form of violence is either lauded, accepted or ignored by society it will thrive and poison our global society.
    I’m with you on this!

  8. Thank you for your comment, Alan. And as always, I am honored and in awe of your brave step into the light to acknowledge what has shaped you. Glad you are in the boat! Wish the puppets could send you a white ribbon of honor!

  9. Rosamond – yes, of course, on Romania and on the fear of a Muslim-majority country. However, Jack is still right – those pressures are still there for the reasons he suggests, I think, even though there is an obvious double-standard. Glad also, but sad also, to hear that you get the same treatment re: Pakistan news 🙂 We can relate to one another on this.

    Thank you for your kind words – I have been out and loud about this issue for many years – as a survivor of violence myself – and so I forget that in some ways, writing this stuff is a courageous act. I just see it as a necessary reminder – especially for students who do not know. Off to give my lecture on the topic (U.S. context) now!

  10. Indeed. I am just struck by the rise of the Turkish middle class as we see the massive freefall of the U.S. middle class. Jack, although I consider myself an eyes wide open kinda gal, your comments on the U.S. always help me to open them even more, thank you!

  11. ….and I should add that I am a survivor of violence from a relationship OTHER than the loving one I am in now with M.!!!!

  12. Rosamond says:

    I am glad i wasn’t around where you were Alan lol
    I hope your a good boy now 😉

  13. jolly joker says:

    i am not really sure where you guys are living…
    honor killing still is going on almost all over Turkey.
    the violent towards women, indicated that honor killings had been reported many times, you can find this in UN reports easily.
    if any family problem shows up the authorities such as a women brutally beating by husband, the authorities don’t want to involve and they think this is a family matter.
    more over most of woman doesn’t want to go authorities or police station.
    in Turkey, you can go the police station but it is not easy to get out even if you didn’t do anything.

    wake up guys, under the carpet is grungy…

  14. Rosamond says:

    Its true joker and i dont deny these facts. I was saying it is the same in many more countries, not only Turkey.
    It was not so long ago that ‘domestic violence’ (actually abuse/grevious bodily harm) was considered a family matter in the westen world. Every nation has dirt under their carpets lol

  15. jolly joker says:


    thank you for respond, however i don’t know about the other countries, because i am Turkish i know only about Turkey.
    and Turkey is far from EU in many ways to me: human right issue, minorities rights etc.
    i am talking about normal individual rights as applied to members of racial, ethnic, class, religious, linguistic or sexual minorities.
    top of it, it is a Muslim country any way 🙂 no chance to get in EU, even GB and Italy are in Turkey’s side.
    I just saw a video, it is really scary this kind of sh… and in Europe there are many people like him.
    he just forget his toothbrush mustache at home i guess.
    however i agree with him about the law called: 301, we are pretty close to nazi Germany with this law.

  16. MamiNgwa says:

    Good work on the campaign and bringing attention to the issue

  17. Pingback: Çay emergency: The puppets riot, the car dies « Slowly-by-Slowly

  18. MamiNgwa,


    XO, Liz

  19. Pingback: The Karagöz puppets celebrate International Women’s Day and honor Pınar Selek « Slowly-by-Slowly

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