05/06/2012

The Abortion Law is a Smokescreen with Real Consequences

Emre Kızılkaya is a journalist for Turkey's leading Hürriyet newspaper with whom I have deep respect and increasing sympathy for.

To read his blog, the Istanbulian, is to read a genuine Turkish liberal (yes, they exist) struggling to be critical of conservatism without jumping on the Kemalist "told-you-so" band-wagon. Undoubtedly Kızılkaya is a sympathiser of some of the late dictator's reforms, as evident in his article on the Hağia Sofya prayer session, but his criticism doesn't have quite the same ring as the blind anti-Islamism of commentators such as Yılmaz Özdil. His writing is genuinely effective.

This is in no small part thanks to the fact the writer can separate between matters of Islam, democracy, conservatism and Islamism with the accuracy of a scholar. For example, whilst others laughed at the Muslim anti-Capitalists in Taksim Square this May Day as a bunch of crude hypocritical head-scarfed students wanting to have their cake and eat it, Kızılkaya saw it as a wonderful example of Turkey's vastly maturing "hybrid democracy," where not all the faithful are determined to make a "second Iran". As for last week's barbershop talking point - Prime Minister Erdoğan replying to an Arab tourist's "Assalamualaykum" with a bizarre "I love you", Kızılkaya happily accepted the view that it is indeed a Muslim's human right to be responded to "in a better form, or similarly" (Bukhari 4.543).

The subject which Kızılkaya is well equiped to inform me on, and is proving to be a turning point in my passive sympathy for the AK Party, is the worryingly out-of-the-blue discourse he points out the party began last week on the legitimacy of abortion. Erdoğan stated his position as a "Prime Minister who is against abortion." He was followed by Turkey’s Minister of Health, who said that the state will take care of babies born because of incidents of rape. And if that hadn't put the message across, the Directorate of the Ministry of Religious Affairs, (a ministry I sincerely wish to see an end to anyway owing to the ridiculously ideological sermons they force me to listen to every Friday at mosque) came out and announced abortion as "Harram". I am one of those Muslims who can find a Qur'anic basis to refute that, but what do I know.

Smokescreen

Erdoğan's comments on the subject came out of nowhere, although I am sure they must coincide with some other head-line grabbing piece of news. Perhaps, as the satirical comic Uykusuz ingeniously pointed out below, it has created a convenient distraction from the news (now denied by the Pentagon) that the Uludere bombing last month where scores of Kurdish villagers in the south-east were killed, was the result of false intelligence from US drones. For the sceptical, this would seem to be the case, as a direct link was made between the incident and the matter of abortion when the Prime Minister stated “Every abortion is like an Uludere.” 
"Abortion is Murder!... Every abortion is like the Uludere attack!... Meaning Uludere was murder... So, wait, who was the murderer? Anyone who asks who gave the order for Uludere is a necrophile... but then, I asked so... Anyway, I'm not one of those...  Forget it, hey, Uludere was an accident... So we shall give compensation for every abortion, yes! ... Apologies for all abortions! ... Wait a sec, we can't apologise for Uludere so... I've got it! In order not to apologise for Uludere, abortion will be made illegal!" 
Not long ago I was privileged to be able to attend a short seminar on feminism performed before a room full of Saadet Party religio-nationalists. It was obvious from the unanimity of the blank-faced responses that whilst none considered that the feminist movement had done any note, all responded vocally to the question that abortion was a woman's right alone. It will be interesting to see if this is still the case after the party whip, in the form of newspaper Milli Gazete, today showed its colours with the headline "The Right to Life is Sacred", with colourful boxes quoting men in beards talking about how zina was a terrible crime.

On the other side of the fence, my facebook headline page is filling to the brim with cartoons, links and videos, like that of annoying American comedian George Carlin (translated into Turkish) ripping into conservatives. I should note that the criticism is coming from both religious and none-religious Turks, although I'm sure the headscarved ones will take the blame for this. 

Credible Dangers to Women

It is not just a case of ethics, this country is not equipped to deal with unexpected children, and women's groups are right in one more than one way when they stated this week that they “[the government] would also notice that at least five women are killed every day and take preventive measures." Alot of those murders are the result of the kind of shameful accusations an unmarried, pregnant woman in Turkey would face.

In my short life, I can name at least four devout, Muslim women I have met who have had abortions. In all cases this was due to the consequences for the family and their reaction. If more Muslim communities could accept fate, and the reality of sin, abortions would have been prevented more than any law could provide for already, and many children would have been raised with the family love that Muslims are far from lacking in. 

Turkish women's groups are thus not just speaking as women when they warn that the measures proposed by the government will increase "primitive methods". The reality of the shame of zina, means that for most women who become pregnant, whether by rape or a crime of passion, primitive methods will be a risk they have no option but to take.


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