Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Let's start with sharing an elevator

This morning I was heading to the first floor in my building's elevator when it came to a stop at the 3rd floor. The door opened and a woman in a çarşaf (the outfıt pictured below, literally translates as sheet) glanced in, shot me a look of disdain and quickly shut the door again while mumbling something uuntelligible.

Photo: Charles Fred

Well neighbor, though I may not fit into the mould of what you think someone in our apartment, our neighborhood, or even the entire country of Turkey should look like, would it kill you to ride three floors in an elevator with me? Do you really despise my very existence that much?

I received your very clear answer with a look and the slamming of an elevator door. I don't think we all need to just get along, let's start with being able to ride in one elevator together.

The following excerpt comes from an article by Burak Kiliç:

The research was done under the supervision of Dr. Yılmaz Esmer from Bahçeşehir University, who is responsible for the Turkish branch of the World Values Survey. The survey shows that the Turkish public holds positive views about the headscarf. Only nine percent of the respondents indicated that they did not want to have a covered neighbor. However, 88 percent said they did not want gays, atheists or unmarried couples as neighbors and 33 percent said they do not want neighbors from a different religion. Esmer notes that Turks appreciate diversity as an abstraction but that they do not want to have neighbors with different identities. Turks are the most opposed to having neighbors of different religions among the 15 other countries surveyed.

Turks can no longer afford to merely "appreciate diversity as an abstraction." Diversity is here my friends, a tangible reality. Not coming to a neighborhood near you, but already living there and waiting to be treated as human.


siobhan said...

Hi, fellow istanbul blogger here. This article and research is really interesting. Quite an eye-opener too, am I really so naive as to think that people are really tolerant and open-minded here?

Devi said...

Hi, thanks for reading. I have come into contact with plenty of tolerant and open-minded people while living in Turkey. However, I currently reside in one of the more conservative districts in Istanbul and have unfortunately seen much more of an isolationist attitude here. Also, my difference, being a Black American, is much more visible and I'm sure this also affects people's responses to me. I have also looked at many of the studies on attitudes toward diversity in the country and they overwhelmingly find that Turks, while thinking that the idea of diversity is fine, don't want it living next to them.

siobhan said...

I think if you are willing to assimilate somewhat then you are more easily accepted. My in-laws are always being asked 'is your gelin yabancı' to which they reply 'yes but she has learnt everything', (I didn't know anything before I came here :))and that makes everyone feel better. But the 'not in my backyard attitude exists in a lot of places I think.