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new law proposition
. Naming a child
A Few Proverbs
Anatolian Culture Part 3
People of Turkey
FAMILY IN TURKEY
Families are divided into several
types according to social, economic and local
conditions. The traditional extended and nuclear families are the two
common types of families in Turkey. The
traditional extended family, generally means that
three generations live together: grandfather,
adult sons and sons' sons, their wives and their
unmarried daughters a married daughter becomes a
member of her husband's family and lives there.
There is a unity of production and consumption
together with common property. This type of
family is becoming more and more rare today. The
nuclear family, parallel to industrialization and
urbanization, replaces traditional families. The
nuclear family consists of a husband, wife and
unmarried children and is more suitable to modern
Turkish social life today.
There are some economic,
traditional and emotional conditions that form
the duties and responsibilities of the modern
nuclear family member. As for the economic
conditions, each individual is supposed to play a
part in supporting the continuation of the
family. The father is usually responsible for
making the basic income, the mother may perhaps
contribute by working and if not, will assume
full-time take care of the home. Grandparents may
also supply help with incomes from their pension
or returns from owned property and rents. Younger
children help with the housework (re-pairing,
painting, cleaning) and when older contribute by
usually covering at least their own expenses.
Tradition places the father as the head of the
family, but the mother has equal rights. The
father is the representative and protector of the
family whereas the mother takes care of all the
day to day things.
WOMEN IN TURKEY
As Turkey is
essentially an Islamic country, Islam plays an
important role in the lives of women. Having
begun in Arabic countries in 7C AD, Islam was
influenced by the traditions and customs of these
countries and the way in which women were
treated. Men could marry or live with as many
women as they liked, kill women and even bury new
born girls alive. When Islam made marriage laws
and put a limit on the number of wives allowed,
it was accepted as the first system to give some
economic rights to women by saving them from the
sole sovereignty of their husbands.
following the declaration of the Republic in
1923, one of the most significant elements in the
social revolution planned and advocated by
Ataturk was the emancipation of Turkish women,
based on the principle that the new Turkey was to
be a secular state.
In 1926, a new
code of Turkish civil law was adopted which
suddenly changed the family structure. Polygamy
was abolished along with religious marriages and
divorce and child custody became the right of
both women and men. A minimum age for marriage
was fixed at 15 for girls and 17 for boys.
Perhaps most importantly, the equality of
inheritance was accepted as well as the equality
of testimony before a court of law; previously,
under Islamic law, the testimony of two women was
equal to that of one man. With the secularization
of the educational system, women gained equal
rights with men in the field of education as well
and no longer had to wear the veils and long
garments required by the old religious beliefs.
The right to vote for women was granted at the
municipal level in 1930 and nationwide in 1934.
Theoretically, Turkish women were far ahead of
many of their western sisters at that time, for
instance in France where women only gained the
right to vote in 1944.
The charter of the
International Labor Organization adopted in 1951,
declaring equal wages for both sexes for equal
work was ratified by Turkey in 1966.
Although all the
new regulations brought the status of women to a
very improved level, the actual status of women
within the family institution did not provide for
proper equality between men and women. Still
today, the husband is the head of the family. A
woman does the housework, and if a woman needs to
work outside the home she has to get the approval
of her husband. As a Turkish proverb says "a
husband should know how to bring food and the
wife to make it suffice" confirming once
again a woman's place in the home.
consists of two different places: Inside and
outside the home. Women leave the outside world
to the men, generally remaining in the home.
Women get married at an earlier age than men and
settle into their role of housewife and home
maker. As the education level of women increases,
the fertility rate decreases. Nearly every female
university graduate has only one child.
9 million of the
21 million working population of Turkey are
women. In the rural areas, the rate of working
women, especially in agriculture, is very high.
However, women work in this sector as an
extension of their housework and not to make a
living. In urban areas, women hold important
posts in both public and private sectors, the
arts and sciences. Today, Turkish women are bank
managers, doctors, lawyers, judges, journalists,
pilots, diplomats, police officers, army officers
or prime ministers.
Nearly two thirds
of health personnel including doctors and
pharmacists, one quarter of all lawyers and one
third of banking personnel are women.
As for the
politics, in the elections of 1937, the number of
woman MP's was 18, which meant 4.5%. Today,
unfortunately, this rate is much less than
before. However, Turkey has also seen Tansu
Ciller as the first woman Prime Minister.
Although men and
women are equal before the law, men are tolerated
in regard to adultery and women are more
advantageous in terms of working conditions.
A new law proposition
A package called
"Democratization of the family" is a
new law preposition awaiting parliamentary
discussion and enactment and it will include
changes in the position of women, some of which
are as follows:
cancellation of former obligatory
permission from their husbands for women
- Equality in
the case of adultery.
- In the case
of divorce, equality in the sharing of
belongings which were acquired after
Feminism in Turkey
|An important stage of feminism in
Turkey started in the 1980s and is different from
the previous stages because it was initiated by
women who spoke for themselves, rather than by
men who had manipulated the female image for
their own political agenda. At this stage of
feminism women spoke for themselves, beginning by
arguing the reality of their bodies and their
physical needs as opposed to the idealization and
the symbolization of the female body as used for
the national image.
Feminism strongly challenges the
image of some Turkish women as covered, almost
sexless beings and also as sacrificial mothers
who would do and endure anything for their
children and family.
To very briefly
summarize the position of women in Turkey today,
it can be said that unless you are a woman living
in a metropolitan city and financially
independent, life is still likely to be bound by
the customs of traditional family life.
MARRIAGE IN TURKEY
|In the traditional family, marriage
is still a family rather than a personal affair.
Marriages are not conducted by the imam anymore
as they were before the republic. By law they
have to be civil. Approximately 40% of marriages
are only civil, 50% are both civil and religious,
10% are only religious which means they are not
legal. Polygamy is very rare and only in some
villages with a rate of 3%.
It is legally forbidden to
marry before the age of 15 for women and 17 for
men. The average age for girls to marry is around
17-18. Early marriages are more frequent in rural
areas. For young men in big cities the problems
of receiving an education, military service and
acquiring a job are among the reasons that delay
|Bride and groom
in rural life
BIRTH IN TURKEY
The continuity of a family is
provided by children. With the development of
people's educational levels, the belief in the
continuity only being provided by sons is losing
the pregnancy of a new bride, an excitement among
family members grows. Upon hearing the good news,
a golden bracelet comes immediately as a present
from the mother-in-law. In rural areas a pregnant
woman declares it with some symbols mostly on her
clothing; her scarf, motifs on it and suchlike.
For the births, in
rural places midwives are present, whereas in big
cities hospitals are common. After the birth, the
new mother receives presents of gold and the
child gets all manner of gifts. The mother is not
supposed to go out from her house for 40 days. If
she works, she has a holiday of 40 days
automatically. Relatives, friends and neighbors
are all helpful. In the first three days only
close relatives come to visit, but in the
following days the others also come to visit with
lots of presents. Breast-feeding continues
normally until the age of two or even later and
then weaning is sudden.
In Anatolia there
is a custom of planting trees in the names of
newly born children. Chestnut, mulberry and apple
trees are planted for girls, poplar or pine trees
for boys. Planting trees for boys is a kind of
investment for him to be used in his marriage
when he grows up.
always have meanings. Some of the children's
names may derive from the time in which he was
born; Bayram (Feast), Safak (Dawn), Bahar
(Spring), Ramazan (the holy month, Ramadan), or
the events during the birth; Yagmur (Rain), Tufan
(Storm), or express the parents' feeling about
the child, if they want him to be the last one;
Yeter (Enough), Songul (Last rose) and sometimes
names of elder people in families are chosen as
displays of respect.
When a name is
selected, it is given by an imam or an elder
person in the family by holding the child in the
direction of Mecca (Kible) and reading
from the Koran into his left ear and repeating
his name three times into his right ear.
(CIRCUMCISION) IN TURKEY
|Circumcision is an operation in
which the foreskin of the penis is removed. It is
a practice of great religious significance among
certain religious groups, notably the Jews and
the Moslems. Circumcision is known to have been
practiced in ancient Egypt even before it was
introduced to the Jews as part of God's covenant
with Abraham. In Islam, however, the authority
for circumcision came not from the Koran but from
the example of the Prophet Mohammed. In Islam,
whatever the prophet does or says is called sunnet;
therefore this word stands for circumcision
in modern Turkish.
Urologists claim that circumcised
males have far fewer urinary tract infections and
are less at risk for catching sexually
transmitted diseases than are uncircumcised
males. On the other side, pediatricians say that
the medical risks attendant upon the surgery far
outweigh the possible future consequences of
foregoing the operation.
As an Islamic
country, in Turkey all Moslem boys are
circumcised between the ages 2-14 by licensed
circumcising surgeons. From the social point of
view, the most prominent feature of circumcision
is the introduction of a child to his religious
society as a new member. This explains the reason
for circumcision of people who convert into
Moslems as a first step. It is impressed on a boy
at a very early age that circumcision is a step
for transition to manhood. As long as they are
accepted as very important events in people's
lives, circumcisions are generally made with big
ceremonies in festive atmosphere.
If a family has
more than one boy, they wait for an appropriate
time to perform it altogether. In this case the
younger child might be less than 4. In some rural
areas, villagers sometimes share expenses of a
circumcision feast like they do with the work.
Wealthy people may take poor boys or orphans
together with their children for circumcision.
Charity organizations make collective ceremonies
for poor boys and orphans. Considering school
periods of children, circumcisions are held in
summer months while the children are on vacation,
from June through September at weekends.
When a family
determines a date for their feast, they invite
relatives, friends and neighbors by sending
invitation cards in advance. Depending on the
economic position of families, feasts might take
place in a ceremonial hall or a hotel instead of
a house. They prepare a highly decorated room for
the boy with a nice bed and many colorful
decorative things. Boys should also wear special
costumes for this feast; a suit, a cape, a
scepter and a special hat with "Masallah",
meaning "God preserve him", written on
In the morning of
the feast, the children of guests are all taken
for a tour around in a big convoy with the boy
either on horseback, horse carts, or automobiles.
This convoy is also followed by musicians playing
the drums and the clarinet.
After they come
back, the boy wears a loose long white dress and,
is circumcised by the surgeon while somebody
holds him. This person who holds is called kirve,
and has to be somebody close to the boy.
In the eastern parts of Anatolia, this is the
first contact of a big relationship which will
continue for lifetime. He will play an active
role in the boy's lifetime and have nearly equal
rights with the father in decisions. This is
similar to a godfather in Christianity. Although
there is no blood relation to his kirve, the boy
will not even be allowed to marry his kirve's
daughter in order not to have incest because he
is considered to have become somebody from the
circumcision, the boy is in pain and has to be
kept busy with music, lots of jokes or some other
animation. Presents also are given at this time
to help him forget his pains. In the meantime
words from the Koran are recited and guests are
taken to tables for the feast meal which is a
special one laid with different food changing
from region to region. After a few days the boy
recovers and festivities end.
Today, there is a
small group of people who prefer their children
to be circumcised in hospitals while they are in
hospital after birth, whereby ignoring the
|A boy in his
special costume before circumcision
boy after circumcision with
his presents of gold
DIVORCE IN TURKEY
|Divorce is not
very common. Although many women are not
satisfied with their marriages, they do not have
the courage to divorce. Therefore they continue
their lives for their children's sake or not to
suffer from the social pressure it may evoke.
The other reason is
economic. If a woman does not work, she does not
have many alternatives when divorced. After a
certain age, in a country where employment is a
problem, it is really a risk to survive.
From the legal
point of view, when couples divorce, each of them
gets his own belongings without taking the things
obtained together into consideration. A new law
proposal is waiting to be enacted in parliament.
The change will allow the sharing of everything
DEATH AND BURIAL IN TURKEY
ages in Anatolia, many different rituals
regarding death and burial have been applied.
Types of graves have differed. Graves under the
floors of houses, wooden rooms, tumuli,
chamber-like graves, rock-tombs, sarcophagi,
domed or conical tombs (turbe, kumbet) and
mausoleums are some places where the dead have
it is difficult, death is considered to be as a
natural part or aspect of life. There are many
people who prepare themselves for death by
putting necessary amount of money for funerals in
their bank accounts, keeping winding sheets
ready, or buying land in a cemetery in advance.
Dying as martyrs is an honorable thing. In Islam,
it is believed that martyrs go directly to
dies, the corpse is laid on a bed in a separate
room, the head facing the direction of Mecca,
eyelids closed, the big toes are tied to each
other and the two arms rest on both sides next to
the body. Burial has to take place as soon as
possible during the daytime. If somebody dies in
the late afternoon, he is buried the next day.
The corpse might rest for a period of time in a
cool place or a mortuary but only if there are
close relatives coming from a far away place.
religious belief, if somebody is buried without
an ablution, he is not allowed to enter heaven.
Therefore, dead people have to be washed by
authorized people, and always women by a woman,
men by a man. Meanwhile the death is declared
from a mosque minaret by a muezzin with some
words from the Koran together with his name,
funeral time and place. After the ablution the
corpse is dressed in a white shroud, put in a
wooden coffin covered with a green piece of
cloth. A martyr's coffin is covered with the
Turkish flag. The coffin is carried to the table
outside in the courtyard of a mosque on people's
shoulders before prayers. Nobody stands in front
of the funeral procession and people in the
street stand up and salute the funeral motionless
and in silence.
While the coffin
rests guarded on the table outside, people
perform their regular prayers. From within the
mosque, following the prayers, they all come out
and line up in front of the coffin to take part
in the funeral service under the leadership of
the Imam. Women are not allowed to join this
service. At the end of the service, the Imam asks
people what they thought of the deceased and
answers are always positive: "He was good.
May God bless him. Mercy be upon his soul,
etc." Funeral services are not held for
parricides or the stillborn.
The coffin is
carried to the cemetery by a hearse followed by a
long convoy. Graves are rectangular in shape and
designed to accommodate only one person. The
deceased is buried in only the shroud not the
coffin. The body is laid on its right shoulder
facing the direction of Mecca. The tombstone is
on the head's side.
The Imam's prayers
signify the end of the burial. The deceased is
commemorated on the seventh and fifty-second days
of his death with Islamic readings; mevlit.
Sometimes big funerary meals or halvah are
offered to the poor and surrounding people.
A FEW TURKISH PROVERBS
continues with proverbs. When considering daily
life, proverbs embody the deepest feelings and
beliefs of the Turkish people. They reveal a
nation's character in its finest details.
Following is a selection of
some proverbs from among thousands:
- If God wants
to make a poor man happy he first makes
him lose his donkey and then allows him
to find it again.
- He who
handles honey has the chance to lick his
- When a bald
man dies, everybody remembers "what
golden hair he had"; when a blind
man dies, they say "what beautiful
eyes he had".
- Two tightrope
walkers cannot perform on the same
- A vinegar
seller with a smiling face makes more
money than a honey seller with a sour
- The hunter is
- Stretch your
legs to the length of your blanket. (Know
priority to the youngsters, talking
priority to the elders.
- You reap
whatever you sow.
- A pen is
sharper than a sword.
- A tree is
bent while yet it is young.
- There is
nothing more expensive than what is
bought cheaply and there is nothing
cheaper than what is bought expensively.
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