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

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.

This entry was posted in Gendered moments, Turkish Controversies, Visits from the Karagöz puppets and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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

  1. Alan says:

    . . a total, excuse the expression, arse-about-face response to illegality/anti-social behavior. What next, plastic surgery, identity change and a uni place for all the victims of unstoppable FUKUS/NATO wars? The problem of humanity is well on the way to a cure – Anthropamorphic (unstoppable) Climate Change will solve the disease within a few generations and the world will be able to get along without us – İnşallah!

  2. Jack Scott says:

    It is a damning indictment of society that cannot stop routine domestic violence. It seems the more paternalistic the society, the worse it is. Sometimes, I despair.

  3. lizcameron says:

    Yes, what to say but “sometimes I despair too!”

    Felt that the puppets had to comment, even though it doesn’t make for the lightest reading!

  4. lizcameron says:

    Isn’t it true? I couldn’t really believe that some judge made that decision. Would have liked to have been a fly on the wall for that deliberation – not clear if they were a)trying to show how f*d up the status quo is or b) had no idea and thought this a novel idea.

  5. irishgelin says:

    The problem is that all these solutions to domestic violence focus on changing the woman and her life and they do not focus on changing the man. Although the methods are different in Turkey, it is a similar situation in other countries where it is the women who have to change their name and move away. We need a whole new thinking around the solution to domestic violence.

  6. lizcameron says:

    Welcome, Irishgelin!

    I agree completely – and it was great to see that the woman in the case totally “got” this. I agree that we need a whole new thinking – starting with young children as they grow into their potentially culture-fueled gender roles.

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