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What It’s Like to Be A Woman in Turkey

To be a woman in Turkey is to be a second-class citizen of no value. This belief and status begins at birth.

When a woman gives birth to a baby girl, it is understood that the mother may have done everything she could possibly do, but it wasn’t good enough. If the woman continues to produce only baby girls, then much of society thinks the husband has the right to marry another woman so he can have a son. If, however, a wife gives birth to a son, her husband will take good care of her and shower her with gifts.

As a baby girl grows up, she will constantly hear belittling words and phrases. Words such as: “Be quiet, you are a girl, “Don’t talk too much,” “Don’t laugh,” and, “You don’t know anything” teach her what her place in society really is. When boys hear these words, they learn well the value difference between them and the girls around them.

When a girl reaches school age, there is always the question of whether to educate her. Currently, it is mandatory to educate all children through high school, but in the eastern part of Turkey, this is not always a reality. For a boy, however, there is no discussion; of course he will be educated.

The issue of child brides is still very real in many parts of Turkey. Thirteen is a common age for girls to get married in the village areas. In these areas, if a girl is not married off at a young age, she may face an even more devastating fate, such as sexual assault or rape. A girl under such circumstances is considered damaged and dirty. The question is not how to deal with the perpetrator, but how the abused girl can be cleansed from her shameful filthiness. The most common options are either to marry her off to the abuser, marry her off as a second or third wife to an older man, or remove the “stain” completely by killing her. The murder of women is a very serious problem even today:

2015: 303 women were reported murdered
2016: 328 women reported murdered
2017: 409 women murdered, 387 child sexual abuse cases reported, and 332 reported cases of women being sexually assaulted
In the first six months of 2018: 206 women were reported murdered
**And these were carried out by husbands, fathers, sons, or other close friends or relatives.

These issues are very serious issues in our culture—far greater than the “official” statistics show. Fueling the perception of girls and women as lesser beings are many common sayings and proverbs.  Some of these are as follows:

• “Beş kız bir oğlanın yerini tutar mı?” – Not even 5 girls could take the place of one boy.
• “Kızını dövmeyen, dizini döver.” – The one who doesn’t beat his daughter, will beat his knees (meaning he will deeply regret not beating her).
• “Oğlan doğuran övünsün, kız doğuran dövünsün.” – Let the one who gives birth to a son be praised; let the one who gives birth to a daughter be beaten.
• “Oğlanı her karı doğurmaz, er karı doğurur.” – Not every wife can give birth to a boy. Only a real heroic wife can.
• “Keseye kadın eli girerse bereket gider.” – If the money purse gets into a woman’s hands, blessing leaves.

There is a belief common in Turkey that if a man has three or more daughters and no sons, he gets to go to heaven because he has suffered enough in this earthly life. It is also said that there are three things that can hinder the prayers of a man: a pig, a dog, and a woman. Even to touch the hand of a woman after a man washes before prayer makes him unclean and unable to pray before washing again.

Of course, these sayings affect the girls and the boys who hear them repeatedly. They affect our culture and create a very negative attitude toward women. As I think about the church and the role of women in the church, I see that these beliefs have also affected the impact that women have been allowed to have. In many cases women in church are almost invisible and not allowed to use the gifts God has given them or develop to their full potential. If, however, women are freed from these prejudices, men, women, and children will benefit from the powerful impact godly women can have on the healthy development of the church.

Many women who have come to Christ still carry a lot of baggage from their past. They try so hard to live with this heavy weight on their backs, but still feel unhappy, hopeless, and far from joy. When they come to faith, they learn that they are a new creation, the old is gone, and so they try to forget the wounds of their past. After all, now they are believers! But this struggle to overcome past wounds only causes confusion and shame as they admit their inability to “leave the past behind.”  They are forced to wear a mask that becomes a barrier to developing real and deep relationships.

Ananias House believes that by offering these women a holistic ministry approach that includes both informative educational training as well as addressing and bringing healing to past wounds, we can help these women come to an important turning point in their life of faith. This turning point is desperately needed for the whole community.

I believe that women play a key role in society. When women find healing, are set free and strengthened by God’s word, a wonderful change takes place both in the life of each individual and in the life of the church.

May the Lord guide our steps with His Light!