The TV in the police station waiting room is tuned to some entertainment channel, and a woman named Feryal Gülman is talking. She’s an architect. She’s been coming to Bodrum for 20 years so she knows how Bodrum used to be and how it is now. The divorce proceedings she opened against her husband have been going on for 5 years. She doesn’t want to talk about how her kid feels because the kid’s 22 years old now, so he’s an adult and she doesn’t have the right to speak for him. This lady’s obviously one of those “famous faces of high society,” but I don’t recognize either her face or her name. But I’m listening to her carefully, because when the interview started the text down below read, “FERYAL GÜLMAN: WHETHER WE LIKE IT OR NOT, THIS IS A MAN’S WORLD.” I want to tell her, “You’re right, Feryal!” And then give her a big hug.
The reason I’m at the police station is because I was harassed and I’m waiting for the police to take my statement.
It’s 2 hours before I met Feryal. I’m at a mall, sitting in one of those massage chairs right in the middle of the mall, waiting for someone. A man’s sitting in the chair next to mine. He starts staring at my face, not looking away at all. I can feel it. For 15 minutes I don’t make a sound, because it doesn’t make any sense to me. There’s no contact, no sound. He’s watching me. Finally I turn to him and say, “Do I look like someone you know? Is there a problem?” He smiles. He turns his head to look in front of him. As soon as I go back to looking at my cellphone he starts looking at me again. I want this to be some kind of joke. I think, “Maybe he’s looking at something else over there?” 10 more minutes go by. I jump up and start shouting: “Why are you staring at me? Is this some kind of joke? Go away!”
He’s smiling. He says something. I realize he’s speaking Arabic. He knows I’m angry but he keeps on smiling. There’s a security guard a little ways off. I go over to him and ask him to throw the man out. “We can’t,” he says.
“That man is disturbing me, so get him to stop or I’ll call the police.”
“We can’t do anything,” he says. “Wait for my superior.”
“So I wait for your superior and in the meantime off he’ll go!” My hands are shaking. I go back toward the massage chairs and of course the guy’s not there. I go back outside and light a cigarette. Then I see the guy coming out of the mall. He comes right up to me. There’s not even an inch between us and he’s looking right into my face. He’s got a weird look on his face, I don’t get it, but I’m getting furious. I start screaming. There’s a couple taxi drivers standing a few feet away and they tell me, “Go on your way, lady, if he follows you we’ll hold him back.”
“No,” I scream, “I came outside just because of him and I’m not going anywhere!” In the meantime the guy’s still smiling calmly and staring into my eyes. I say I’m going to call the police. He understands, but he just keeps smiling and staring. I don’t how I can explain this to you: there are no words, there’s no contact, he’s just smiling, staring, insistent…
Finally I scream, “IS THIS SOME GODDAMN JOKE?!?” Security comes over. I go back inside the mall with two security guards and him. “If you’d done something a little bit ago, stopped him and called the police, this wouldn’t have happened,” I say. The chief security guard grabs the man and starts knocking him around: “So you Arabs are gonna come here and harass our women? Who the fuck do you think you are? I’ll fucking show you!”
IS THIS SOME GODDAMN JOKE?
Now I start shouting: “I’m not your woman. His being an Arab’s got nothing to do with it. You don’t even do your job, and now you’re roughing him up without any authority to. You can’t do this!”
“Lady, I mean, what the…” he blurts out.
I can’t take it anymore. I do what I always try not to and use my job title to try putting an end to this nonsense. “I’m a lawyer,” I say. “I’ll report you, too. Don’t you dare overstep your authority, just call the police. He stops. AS SOON AS I MAKE A SCENE, SECURITY—WHO’D JUST SAID THEY DIDN’T HAVE THE AUTHORITY TO REMOVE THIS MAN—STARTS BEATING HIM UP AND ASKING HOW AN ARAB DARE HARASS “OUR WOMEN”? IS THIS SOME GODDAMN JOKE? My hands are shaking. Am I defending my harasser? Do human rights have a time and a place? I want my brain to quiet down, my hands to stop shaking…
We’re at the police station. Nobody knows Arabic. The police keep asking whether or not I’d like to file a complaint. Now I get it: it’s a lot of work, you need a translator, it’s late, there was no physical contact or words exchanged, it doesn’t make any sense to anybody. DID ANYTHING EVEN HAPPEN ANYWAY? Somebody speaks up and says, “Whatever, they’ll just deport him anyway.” I stop for a second when I hear this. Just a minute…
I call a friend whose wisdom I can trust. “Efsun,” I say, “they’re talking about deportation. What if he was running from the war? If he goes back there and something happens to him… Efsun, what should I do?” She speaks slowly and carefully, using that lovely feminist mind of hers. And briefly. My ears are buzzing. “EFSUN, IS THIS SOME GODDAMN JOKE?” I shout and start crying. I hang up the phone and go out into the station yard, crying like a baby.
When I got back in, that’s when I saw Feryal. I agree with her. Feryal, you’re totally right. Money, status, beauty—none of this amounts to anything. THIS IS A MAN’S WORLD. A WORLD OF UNTRAMMELED, INCOMPETENT, MALICIOUS, ABUSIVE, RACIST MEN WHERE ALL THE IDEAS JUST GET MIXED UP.
Note 1: The man turned out to be Swiss. He had an Arab name and spoke Arabic. He was probably an Arab who had obtained Swiss citizenship. Though this shouldn’t be of any importance, it makes me think. That’s why I’m afraid. I’m afraid for myself.
Note 2: Yes, I filed a complaint. I gave my statement and then left. He still hadn’t given a statement because no translator had come yet. This morning I wanted to call the station and ask what happened to him. Then I thought that would be stupid. Then I wanted to call again and then I thought it would be stupid again… And then I wrote. Now I just want to shut down all the questions and possibilities crowding my mind and just be.
Image: From Oreet Ashery’s performance of Party for Freedom
Photograph: Manuel Vason
View the original article in Turkish here.