While the clothing and lifestyle of Iranian female tourists in Van are welcomed by many women living in the city, they are targeted by a local site broadcasting in Van and the provincial head of a political party.
Van, which has the longest border line with Iran, hosts thousands of Iranians, especially in the summer months. Approximately 418 thousand Iranian tourists entered Van this year. The number of female tourists among Iranian tourists, who contribute greatly to the city’s economy, is also significant. Iranian female tourists, who have a comfortable holiday in Van due to the oppression in their own country, enjoy their holiday by wandering around the streets of the city freely.
In Van, the clothing of Iranian female tourists has been targeted by several men, including the provincial chairman of a political party, on social media and a local site. Again, men who speak on behalf of women are targeted with insulting statements, as if women are uncomfortable with the situation.
Even though almost a year has passed since the anti-Sharia protests that started with the murder of Jîna Mahsa Emînî in Iran, women continue to be oppressed in Iran. On the other hand, the introduction of practices such as alcohol bans in parks and beaches for the peace of women in Turkey brought with it many problems. It is often emphasized that sharia practices may be introduced in Turkey, especially in tourist-attracting provinces such as Van, and thus social problems may occur in these provinces.
The bans that have started in Turkey and are likely to continue bring to mind the question of what kind of problems await both Iranian tourists and women living in Turkey as a result of the perceptions created about Iranian women in Van.
So we asked women living in Van whether they were disturbed by Iranian women. We also heard the statements made by the people in question, ‘Women living in Van are uncomfortable with the way Iranian women dress’, from the women themselves, from the real owners of the words.
‘This may be a preliminary preparation in a sense’
Sociologist Aşiran Aydeniz says that Iranian women’s clothing may seem different to those living in the city, but Iranians have been going to Van for years. Reminding that Van is one of the provinces with a border gate to Iran and one of the provinces where the most trade takes place, Aydeniz says, “I think hitting this through the social structure is a different dimension.”
Aydeniz states that women are forced to wear headscarves when going to Iran, and says that the voices of Iranian women who come here to say “don’t dress like that” are no different from the Iranian regime. And she continues: “If we start taking steps towards something like this, the day after tomorrow they will not let me run a business just because I am a woman. “In a sense, this could be a preliminary preparation.”
Stating that such a situation existed for university students in Van for a while, Aydeniz said, “Because we could see that university students could also develop the city and contribute something to the city, both economically and culturally. A lot of pressure started to build on them, too. Such situations show that they will not shake the areas of dominance too much. Creating a comfortable environment is dangerous for them,” she says.
‘Prostitution and drugs are rampant’
Stating that such an issue has not been brought to the agenda in other touristic places in Turkey, Aydeniz said, “I evaluate it from a different dimension. “Evaluating it especially based on our own social structure does not seem very well-intentioned to me,” she says. Underlining that there are different problems in Van, Aydeniz said, “Prostitution and drugs are rampant. “When we consider prostitution, drugs and clothing, one of the provinces where there should be the most prostitution should be places like Antalya and Bodrum,” she emphasizes.
‘They are afraid of women’
Stating that the looks of women living in Van, along with Iranian women, have changed, Aydeniz said: “There is also some visual familiarity. This familiarity scares the system like this; They think that they can motivate the women here to express their thoughts and do what they want. And they are afraid of it anyway. “From the abolition of the Istanbul Convention to the many closed women’s institutions… They are really afraid of women,” she says. Comparing Van with 20 years ago, Aydeniz says that an environment has been created where women can be more comfortable and says, “This may have disturbed those who call themselves conservatives. We always say this; “Women make the real revolution,” she adds.
‘Iranian women are bringing about positive change’
Roza Lina Dürre is an engineer living in Van. She says she is not bothered by Iranian women coming to the city. Regarding an article on a website targeting Iranian women, she said, “I expect both men and women to look at this situation from a more sociological and political perspective. Because we are very close to being like that. Iranian women are creating positive change in the city. We have been intertwined with Persian culture for a long time, there have been sharings between us throughout history. It is not a new interaction, but still the frequent interaction of differences in cultures can change each other,” she says.
“At this rate, sharia is on the doorstep in Turkey”
Stating that Van has long been a place where many different people have come together, Dürre said, “One of the positive effects of this is that it breaks the fixed point of view and bigotry to some extent. “The Iranians also had such an impact,” she says. Dürre says the following about those who are disturbed by the way Iranian women dress: “It is not surprising that men are disturbed by this, they are disturbed by everything that forces them. So much so that they use women when they cannot afford it themselves. And the language is always the same; ‘I am also a woman who dresses modernly, but…’ It shouldn’t be that hard to understand that this is not just a clothing issue. “At this rate, sharia is on the doorstep in Turkey.”
‘What is happening now is against human rights’
Activist Zozan Özgökçe says that she is absolutely not bothered by the way Iranian women dress. Stating that in previous periods, women were subjected to harassment when they dressed comfortably, Özgökçe said, “The streets are mixed now, but I am not as bothered by this as before. “I can say that I feel more comfortable since the times when Iranians started coming to Van,” she says. Özgökçe states that she felt under pressure while walking around the city center in shorts, but now she can walk around comfortably. Özgökçe says that they could not feel comfortable in certain streets for a long time, but Iranians broke this and sat comfortably and had fun in those streets. And she adds: “The Iranians changed the masculine, testosterone-scented structure of those harsh places. “I think those who are disturbed by this are problematic people.”
Saying that Iranian women live under oppression in their own country and that every individual has the freedom to dress as they wish, Özgökçe states that what is being done now is against human rights.
‘The main problem is the approach to Kurdish’
Özgökçe touches upon another dimension of the incident and emphasizes the issue of language, which she thinks should be objected to. Stating that Kurds also live in this city, Özgökçe said, “But now, wherever you enter a store, Persian music is playing and the shopkeepers speak Persian. Kurdish did not receive the same treatment. Because Kurds are poor? “I compare from this perspective,” she says.
Saying that Kurdish is not free, “There are signs in Persian everywhere, but there is an objection for Kurdish. I think this is problematic. We know the infrastructure of this. There are a lot of ideological barriers. There are many people who have been here for years but have not learned a word of Kurdish. There was a person killed for singing in Kurdish, but people dancing to Persian music on Sanat Street has become very normal. “My only objection is in terms of the Kurdish language,” she says.
‘If Jasmin lived in these lands, she wouldn’t even be able to go to the neighbor’
Stating that Turkish men have no tolerance for women who dress with their own free will, Özgökçe reminds that there are women who are killed because they want to get divorced or who are subjected to violence because they want to live as they wish. Giving the example of Astronaut Jasmin Moghbeli from Mahabad, who is currently on the agenda, she says: “If Jasmin had lived in these lands, she would not have been able to go to space, perhaps even to the neighbors, because of the pressure she would receive from her family, father and the environment. This is the effect of this geography on women. “Iranian women should also be free, Kurdish women should also be free, all Turkish women should be free and live as they wish.”
Stating that these voices should be objected to, Özgökçe said, “This is a very serious problem. “Rather than the demands of a minority fanatic group, the demands of women who want to be free, who want to work comfortably, who want to participate in business life, who want to have as many children as they want, who want to get married or not, need to be accepted more,” she says.
Translator :Akif Coşkun