By VIRGINIA GUNEYLI
We have created our own culture, my husband and I. Horse shoes and evil-eye protectors above our doors, we listen to Hande Yener and Johnny Cash, eat kebap on Fridays and fried chicken on Sundays, and mix our conversation into Turklish, a hybrid language only we and our young son understand.
Our bi-cultural existence is beautiful, but it can be lonely here in St. Louis. We’re horrified by local demonstrators with signs that say things like, “I’m More Afraid of Obama than Osama” and “Obama, Go Back to Kenya.” During a recent trip to visit family in Istanbul we looked closely for a more accepting place.
To get a view of the European coastline and the Bosphorus Strait that divides the city, we headed to Çamlıça Tepesi on the Asian side of town. Instead, I got an eyeful of hordes of Turkish women covered, not in the traditional way of village women, but in the Arabic niqab, or in what Turks call a “turban” and a raincoat.
Why would they do this in modern Turkey, where covering was not only unusual in the past, but often forbidden by an adamantly secular government? To some, the turban is a sign of piousness, to others, it is a political statement, a status symbol and an acceptance of men’s jealousy.
What the turban represents for Turkey reminds me of the xenophobic protest signs in America’s ‘heartland’. A conservative sea-change.
What do the new signs in your neighborhood point to?
Virginia Guneyli teaches post-colonial literature at a community college in St. Charles, Missouri, where she lives with her husband and son. She’s working on a novel based on her experiences as an expatriate in Mexico City.