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Cite as: Bedford, Ian.  (April 1998)  Australian Journal of Anthropology.  ''Heroes of the Age: Moral Fault Lines on the Afghan Frontier.''  Volume 9; Issue 1; Page 104.


Australian Journal of Anthropology

April 1998


Volume 9; Issue 1; Page 104


Heroes of the Age: Moral Fault Lines on the Afghan Frontier.

Bedford, Ian


David B. Edwards. Berkeley, Los Angeles and London: University of California Press, 1996. xv, 306pp., maps, notes, glossary, bibliog., index. $US50 (Hc.), ISBN 0-520-20063-2; $US20 (Pb.), ISBN 0-520-2064-0.


Ian Bedford Anthropology, Macquarie University


In this fluent and engaging study David B. Edwards sets out to explore aspects of Pakhtun society in east Afghanistan by reflecting on a series of exemplary narratives clustering around the lives of three prominent personages. The first, and most powerful of these, is a story told to the anthropologist in Peshawar (Pakistan) by the son of Sultan Mohammad Khan, a tribal chief from the Kunar region across the Afghanistan border, about his father's grim exploits. The second narrative is an extract from the autobiography of Abdur Rahman Khan, King of Afghanistan (1880-1901). The third is a constellation of folk legends and hagiographic tales about the Mulla of Hadda, a contemporary of the King, who was the holy man blamed by the British for the instigation of a tribal rebellion in the Afghanistan-India border region in 1897.


The book's subtitle indicates the author's intention. Edwards' interrogation of Afghan (Pakhtun) society on the basis of narrative cues furnished by the stories and his concerns with the 'logic' of the ethical principles and values displayed by the stories lead him to the conclusion that 'Afghanistan's central problem (is) Afghanistan itself, specifically certain profound moral contradictions that have inhibited the country from forging a coherent civil society' (p.216). Certainly the logic of namus (honour) can be seen working its way through the first, most terrible story with all the force of a tragic tale by Verga. The second instance is weaker and the third, that of the miracle-working 'saint', while providing the framework for many suggestive observations by Edwards on the relation between the universal values of Islam and the more properly tribal domains of 'honour' and 'rule', leads him to findings more guarded and contingent than would sustain the thesis that Afghanistan's ordeal down to the present day has been substantially of its own making. To put this in different words, Edwards' argument as conveyed by the stories can be seen to work effectively where 'honour' is concerned, but is by no means self-evident in the other two cases.


Edwards' conclusions can be examined in the light of two methodological questions his procedure raises. These questions are related. The first, and most general, has to do with the advantages and shortcomings of this way of interrogating cultural materials by the hermeneutical means of commentary on a text, or on a series of texts. The second concerns the validity of working through the narrative logic of stories and inferring from the results of this certain kinds of impasse or contradiction which are then attributed, not merely to the stories, that is to the formal properties and cultural understanding shared by the stories, but to the society - as a story-telling society - in its political and historical aspects insofar as these are determined by forces originating within the society, and not from without.


Edwards writes, justifiably, of 'the role of stories in encoding the moral imperatives by which societies live' (p.201). Stories enjoy a certain privilege, a grace or 'pointed' quality which stands, no doubt, in a relationship to the 'cultural logic' (p.32) of the society in which they are told. Their logic, however, is not only the logic of these practices and values. It has formal aspects - to do with 'heightened speech', for example, or the adoption of a particular narrative tone - which may spring not from immediate cultural values but from forgotten ones, or from somewhere else altogether. It is by no means assured, for instance, that an 'open' society deserves an 'open-ended' tale, or that narrative closure reflects a 'closed' society.


Edwards approaches his stories with the aim of providing an ethnographic understanding while still respecting their character as stories. It is stories, giving rise to other stories, that he seeks to expound, rather than a dogmatic text; accordingly, he sets about contextualising each of his principal stories as a whole, and also in its parts, by commentary on particular events, observances or phrases. As there is not always the space to do this in large script, it should be remarked that this is one of those books where the footnotes are as interesting as the main text. Edwards' approach is characterised by a continual, fruitful give-and-take between the discourses and the events and observances to which it gives rise, or which might come in handy for the ethnographic aim. There are two main ways in which such a process of give-and-take can be structured. One - Edwards' way - is to begin with the stories and to discuss matters as they arise, as occasioned by the stories themselves. The other way might be to seek orientation not so much from the discourse casting its net over events and practices, as from the events and practices themselves, particular matters interesting to consider which in their contexts select for themselves the appropriate instances of discourse. I will look at some of the implication of Edwards' procedure by taking a single example.


In comparing the first two of his three 'lives', those of the patriarch Sultan Muhammad and King Abdur Rahman, Edwards maintains that 'the moral valence of violence . . . is starkly different' in the two cases, for the King in punishing his subjects was 'still exercising a prerogative of his position, . . . reconstituting the injured presence of the sovereign', while Sultan Mohammad in punishing his wife and son was usurping a prerogative because 'in tribal society each individual retains for himself the right of redress' (p. 120). Sultan Mohammad annexes this right to himself but denies it for others, thus revealing a 'contradiction' in the code. Edwards' final position seems to be that while there is no contradiction in Abdur Rahman's use of his monopoly of violence, in his cruelty (which overrides Islamic law) he reveals 'the inherent contradictions of Kingship', just as Sultan Mohammad's case reveals the inherent contradictions of namus (honour). The people (Pakhtuns) regard the King as a tribal khan writ large and their obedience is 'freely offered'; but from the King's point-of-view compliance is not enough. The King desires to 'see gratitude reflected in the eyes of his subjects', and, if gratitude (on top of obedience) is not freely offered, then fear must take its place. It was the fear he inspired, and sought to inspire, that alienated people from the King's rule leading them to fall back on 'their own status as men of honour and independence'.


This is insightful and leads one to reflect, but there is an inadequacy which I think casts some doubt on Edwards' method. For the two instances of contradiction are not logically of the same order. While Sultan Mohammad's is a coherent story because the value of namus, logically produced, can lead only to one sublime impasse gigantised by this figure, Abdur Rahman's is not because it is not the only possibility and Abdur Rahman is not in this respect typical of Afghanistan's Kings. On the matter of kingship, then, Edwards' approach is too narrow in that it advances one text, the extract from the King's autobiography, and is confined to the issues raised by that single text. As a last criticism it should be added that, by taking statecraft as his theme but restricting himself to a study of all-Pakhtun values and relationships, Edwards avoids the single issue which is, perhaps, the most fundamental of all to the creation and survival of a future state in Afghanistan: that of relations between Pakhtuns and (hitherto) subordinated peoples, the Tajiks, Uzbeks, Hazara and others who were, in many theatres, far more active in resisting Khalq state power and Soviet invasion than the Pakhtun were. Here the term 'Afghan Frontier' (insofar as it is taken to mean 'frontier of Afghanistan') in the title is slightly misleading. What Edwards has provided is not a contribution to the political anthropology of Afghanistan, the nation or would-be nation, but a suggestive critique of Pakhtun values and a highly stimulating case-study in anthropological hermeneutics.



CITE AS: [[Seattle Times]].  (May 3, 1998)  ''Loss of Honor Means Death for Women of Turkish Tribe.''  Section: NEWS; Page A21.


Seattle Times (WA)

May 3, 1998

Section: NEWS; Page A21






SANLIURFA, TURKEY SANLIURFA, Turkey - The Euphrates, snaking through Turkey's parched southeast, is notorious for its treacherous speed and rapidly changing depths. Folklore has it that the river never gives back what it receives.


So the province of Sanliurfa reacted with shock this year when Gonul Aslan, whose father tried to strangle her and then threw her into the river, emerged from the waters unharmed.


Her crime was to elope with a sweetheart to avoid an arranged marriage. She was to have been punished according to a tradition that decrees that a family tarnished by an unchaste daughter can redeem its honor only in her death.


Authorities have spirited Aslan away to a secret location in the certain knowledge that if her male relatives find out where she is they will kill her.


Killings of girls to cleanse family honor are as much associated with Sanliurfa in the public eye as the region's fiery red pepper, much to the chagrin of authorities. "Every two or three months a case like this which ends in death comes to me," said Huseyin Fidanboy, the chief public prosecutor.


At a recent peace-brokering meal hosted by the regional governor, army commander Salih Guloglu urged tribal leaders to abandon the practice. "The city is not known for its cultural heritage or its giant (economic) projects but for its killings and its bride sales," he said.


The reason for the deaths, mostly of unmarried young girls, range from allegations of sexual relations to elopement. In one case, a teenager's throat was slit in the town square because a love ballad was dedicated to her over the radio.


"Namus," the idea that a woman must be virtuous and chaste and that her behavior reflects directly on her family's honor, is not confined to Sanliurfa or to Turkey as a whole.


"The concept of women's virtue belongs to Mediterranean culture, you can even see it in South America. It would not be accurate to associate it with Islam because it arches across different religions, nationalities and ethnicities," anthropologist Leyla Neyzi said.


Virginity is often the means by which honor is measured. Every few months, national newspapers carry stories of young women who are subjected to arbitrary examinations encouraged by their families to check that their hymens are intact.


The practice continues especially on those from rural areas who have been sent to study in the big cities.


Isilay Saygin, Turkey's minister responsible for women and family affairs, created a furor among feminists this year when she came out in support of the virginity tests. "One has to tell little girls `You will be dishonored' in order to deter them from having sex," Saygin said in a newspaper interview.


The motive for honor killings is partly economic. In contrast to other parts of the world where the bride's family must provide a dowry, in Sanliurfa it is the husbands-to-be who must pay.


"A daughter is like a commodity, her bride price is anywhere between five and 10 billion lira ($20,300 and $40,600) or its equivalent in goods. When she is dishonored, the family forfeits that income," Fidanboy said.


Community pressure on the families to rid themselves of the "stained" daughter is severe. If the local police find a girl who has run away to elope or escape death, she is immediately sent to a state foster home in Ankara.


There, in an effort similar to witness-protection programs, she is given a new identity and sent to another Turkish city, the name of which is kept secret.


Under Turkish law, killing an immediate blood relative is punishable by death. But if the killing is committed on witnessing an adulterous act or on suspicion of an illicit liaison, it is considered to have been caused by "heavy provocation" and the sentence is reduced.


In cases of honor killings, judges in the southeast generally consider the region's customs a mitigating factor, greatly reducing the sentences.


"The more the state tackles this issue using repressive tactics, the more honor killings there will be," Neyzi said. "This happened with the Kurds, this happened with Islam, which returned in a politicized form."


Decades of Turkish attempts to create a homogenous and secularist nation have fallen short, with a visible rise in Islamic activism and sustained Kurdish separatism.


Local residents are pessimistic about the prospect of putting an end to honor killings in the short run.


"I would not want to harm my own child but I had no choice," said a clerk. "Nobody would buy my produce. I had to make a living for my other children."



CITE AS: BBC International Reports.  (January 20, 2000)  ''Afghanistan: Taleban paper condemns "imperialist" attacks on Islamic rule.''  (Text of report by Afghan Taleban monthly 'Khelafat' on 1st November 1999)



January 20, 2000


Afghanistan: Taleban paper condemns "imperialist" attacks on Islamic rule


Text of report by Afghan Taleban monthly 'Khelafat' on 1st November 1999


From the day when Afghanistan got rid of the direct rule of the Russians as a result of jihad and international imperialists became confident of the fact that the communist world had come to an end, a number of imperialist stooges inside Afghanistan were commissioned by western imperialism to become active. A number of these stooges have been given the duty to struggle against Islam under the name of human rights; to another the duty to struggle under the name of women rights and yet to some the duty to offer the idea of the corrupt ideology of western democracy to the Afghans. The aim of all this is to subject to failure the most important result of the blood of the Afghans, i.e. an independent Islamic government. Some from amongst these stooges have knowingly given up Islam, while to some others of them the dollar has come to win over their faith.


Those who possess the thought of the sacred jihad and sacrifice, consider these activities the greatest threat than any thing else against the national unity and independence of Afghanistan. It was these puppet movements who took practical part as well as in the field of propaganda towards the defamation and failure of jihad. We saw with our own eyes that it were these puppet movements who transformed the jihad parties into petty nationalist bands. They gave the name of Tajik movement to some and the Pashtun movement to others. They contributed to and made ample effort in this path. In the propaganda field too they condemned the Sawr eight (28th April), the day when Kabul was cleared of the communist government, instead that of the seven of Sawr (27 April). They also gave the name of corruption to jihad from time to time.


The truth is that the western world is very advanced in the Cold War and this is also a part of the Cold War. They have stationed the servants of their dollars under the names of Pirs (spiritual leaders), spirituals, professors and intellectuals in Peshawar who have in turn given the titles of councils to their circles. These so called councils are in fact the organizations of foreign forces against the independence of and the establishment of an Islamic system in Afghanistan, who want to turn Afghanistan into their colony by the hands of the Afghans and bring to it a democracy to their own liking.


If we look deeply in history we would notice that any foreign power coming to Afghanistan has been preceded by its local puppets that it had been trained far in advance. Shah Shoja (18th century British puppet), Nur Mohammad Taraki and Babrak Karmal are its clear examples. Today the British and the Russians have given up the will of colonization. The will of colonization is only with the Americans. The British and the Russians, however, are fully ready to support the Americans' idea so that they could amend their defeat.


Today the wives of many in Peshawar are separately at the service of the Americans while they in their turn are separately doing this service too. The Americans even would not allow these husbands and wives to share their political secrets. Because the politicians of the western world have realized the fact that a women could become a good spy and a good slave compared to a man. This fact has been revealed one thousand and four hundred years ago by Islam that women are lacking in wisdom and that is why a woman was not allowed and accorded the duty of work and leadership in Islamic Khalefate. And nature wise too she has been borne in this manner and that is why not a single woman was sent as a prophet among the more or less one hundred and twenty four thousand prophets. The prophets were all men.


According to a saying of the Prophet Mohammad, peace be upon him, a prostitute woman is the trap of the Satan and it is intended to capture the faithful with it. The infidels have too have made use of such Satan-like women. Those who do not believe this fact should look at the international press showing that the wives of the leaders of great many Islamic countries have been separately summoned to Washington so that the American authorities share separate secrets with them.


It has been stated that when the previous Prime Minister of Pakistan (Nawaz Sharif) was urgently summoned by Mr Clinton on the issue of Kargil (in Kashmir), he was told by Clinton on the telephone to take his wife, Mrs Mobareka (phonetic), also along. When Nawaz Sharif, along with his wife, arrived at the White House, Clinton asked him immediately to please wait there, I have some private matter (to discuss) with your wife. Bowing his head, (Nawaz Sharif) told him, Sir, whatever you would say. He had lost his wife for some full four hours.


Those who can not consider this too to be true, then they should look closely at the "RAWA" (Revolutionary Afghan Women Association) in Peshawar to see as to who are guiding it? They should see as to for whom does this organization works and what is the manner of its work? A number of prostitute women from Kabul and prostitutes from other countries have come together. A number of these women are communist and the rest are at the service of the Western World. They have joined hands in order to defame the Mojahedin, the Koran and prevent the establishment of an Islamic system in Afghanistan. They enjoy the material and moral support of all the infidel countries. Their method of work is also very effective because, as a first step, they have commissioned a number of attractive prostitutes to be sent to low ranking Pakistani officials so that no restriction are to be imposed on their activities. It is due to this fact that a style of language is used in their monthly publication, `Payam-e Zan', against the Muslims of Afghanistan and Pakistan that is not only not considered by any writer as indecent, but also is not tolerable to any common Afghan and Pakistani. Their apparent slogan is the rights of women, but their real activity is the defamation and prevention of Islam.


Eye witnesses say that this sort of attractive, merry and provocative prostitutes have been seen visiting the residents of the local police who go to the authorities with their offers under political pretexts and those poor men, who are in search of Kabuli girls however, are brought under their spell. A particular group of these attractive merry prostitutes is sent to Western leaders so that these leaders, who are the prey of sex instincts, are brought under their charm in order to make them accept their demands. The (RAWA) organization sends a handful of specially selected prostitutes to the White House too. How could Clinton, who is a champion of sexuality and sexual instinct, could rebuff these sorts of people. He accepts whatever they tell him.


These are all activities against the Islamic belief, otherwise the rights of women are secured in Islam. The fact that woman should observe Hejab (veil) and is not allowed to become a Khalef (leader) in Islamic society is the order and in the wisdom of Almighty God. It is not because a woman has no value in Islam. Islam has granted a big honour to women. Her husband provides all her needs including her food, drink and clothing. She occupies the place of a ruler in the family. The husband provides her Mahr (dowry) and he is not allowed, without any good reason, to shout at his wife.


The Islamic rights of women have been restored in Afghanistan after the arrival of the Taleban. The wedding of women, who were wedded as a price in enmity settlement in conflicts before this, has been prohibited. A widow could marry any one as she wishes. Efforts towards the education of women within the frame work of an Islamic Sharia (law) are continuing. Those who want a dictatorial freedom for women in Afghanistan, are neither Muslims and nor Afghans. Because Islam is very cautious about women and Almighty God says about women (Verse in Arabic): (You stay inside your homes and do not reveal yourselves in a manner that was done in the period of ignorance).


In Afghan tradition the protection of Namus (honour of women) is important than any thing else to the people of Afghanistan. This fact was transformed into an ideology of the Afghan Ghazis (freedom fighters) against the British and the Russians. They said that they would be protecting their honour with sacrificing their own lives. It is a natural thing that the protection of honour in absolute freedom is not easy. I would like to present an example of this, which I have seen with my own eyes.


Every day an incident takes place in Quetta City I beg your pardon for saying this concerning women who go to the market for shopping. Some corrupt young men touch the special parts of the women bodies while shopping. After doing this they run and no one could find them in the rush of the market crowd. The body parts of men and women touch each other in such crowds. I saw with my own eyes one day that a Sufi man had brought his wife, who was fully clothed in a Sharii style garments, to the market. A corrupt youth came from the back and touched the woman. The woman hit him in her defence. When her husband realized, he became very ashamed and began running after the man. He could not catch the corrupt and his face had turned red with shame due to the incidence. I believe this action cost that man his life because he was a man of honour. I was afraid for the man that he might commit suicide. God knows what went through the heart of that woman too because this sort of an incidence accounts to death for a chaste woman. Other people, however, do not bother about such things so much.


For those who entertained the question as to why the Taleban are not opening schools for women, I would like to say that it is a certain fact that all women in Afghanistan do not demand schools for them. Some eighty per cent of the regions in Afghanistan are rural regions and the remaining twenty per cent are urban. There are three types of women in the urban areas. One type is those who want to be at home. Second type is those who want education and work, and the third type is those who demand unrestricted freedom. The majority of those in the third category are communist. The first category thus does not want schools. And the third type of women has either left Afghanistan or is counted as the remnants of communism. Only six and a half per cent of women remain who want education.


Every one knows that all women who do not live in the urban areas, do not want any other type except religious education and that too inside their own homes. Those who can not accept this fact then they should go to the country side, accompanied with armed Taleban with the permission of the government, and tell the people of Paktia, Ghazni, Logar, Helmand or Oruzgan to send their daughters to schools and see for themselves as to what sort of reaction do they get. It is quite obvious that they would fight them until they give up this idea. If the Taleban's sin is the fact that they are not forcing the people to send their women to modern education and give them freedom, then this should not be counted as a sin, because every government should take the opinion of the majority of a nation into account. If the opinion of the six and a half per cent of the people is taken into account and the opinion of the rest ninety three and a half per cent is ignored, then this is not justice in the Western law either. In a republican order too the opinion of the majority is taken into account.


From the Sharia (Islamic Law) point of view some people turn aside a saying of the prophet (Mohammad), which states: (words in Arabic meaning: search for education is the religious duty of every man and woman). All learned Ulema (religious scholars) should look at any book, no one would prove that the word of "Muslima" (a woman Musilm) has been mentioned in the prophet's saying. This word has been added to the Hadith (the Prophet's saying) so that some people takes it for a reason. As far as it is concerned about the education of men, the above mentioned saying gives the place only to religious education and not modern education. We consider ourselves the modern education to be a necessity, because Islam has given instructions about the learning of modern education and has deemed it necessary for men.


It is worth mentioning that Islam does not consider women to be bad, but it considers a suitable frame work to be good for them. Women have many good qualities too. For example they are kind, they are merciful; they are not tyrants and provide much comfort and peace for human beings. The Hejab (veil) adds to their beauty. The Prophet (Mohammad), Peace be Upon Him, considers wedding as the best worldly bless of life. Every Muslim is bound to pay attention to the happiness and demands of his wedded wife and share with her a good life so that she does not become unhappy in her life.


Source: 'Khelafat', Kandahar, in Pashto 1 Nov 99





September 30, 2000

Volume 120; Issue 3; Page 453

The Persian Presence in the Islamic World


Perry, John R


The Persian Presence in the Islamic World. Edited by RICHARD B. HOVANNISIAN and GEORGES SABAGH. Thirteenth Giorgio Levi della Vida Conference. Cambridge: CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY PRESS, 1998. Pp. xii + 267, 8 plates.


This volume represents the proceedings of a conference held in 1991 to mark the award of the Giorgio Levi della Vida Medal, given by UCLA's Gustave E. von Grunebaum Center for Near Eastern Studies, to Ehsan Yarshater. To the honorand falls the lion's share of the writing, a greatly expanded version of the lecture he gave on the occasion of the award-a good half of the volume, including the twenty-page bibliography. It is a masterly essay, deftly skirting the quicksands of excessive panegyric while touching significantly on every point of the Persian presence, recognized or mooted, and frequently pointing in a controversial or unexpected direction.


The Iranians' embrace of Islam and their transformation of its civilization in the East is no dry, scholarly given. Its emotional significance still resonates, both in the triumphant cult of the Shi'a in today's Islamic Republic and the angry resignation of exiles such as the poet Nader Naderpour, for whom all Iran's ills of the past thousand years are a merited expiation of the original sin, their desertion of Zoroaster for Muhammad. But here the scholars call the tune, and for the most part soberly celebrate an Islam tinged with wine, painting, and pantheism, a cult that the Persians bought from the Arabs wholesale, extensively remodeled, and sold in turn to the Turks and Indians.


Yarshater's title essay catalogues the expected achievements-Persians as the founders of Arabic grammar, leaveners of Arabic prose and poetry, teachers of historiography and statecraft, ritual and bureaucracy. Then in flashback he recalls in unexpected breadth and detail the contributions of Parthian and Sasanian rule to the prosperity and latent Persianness of the pre-Islamic Near East (pp. 15-30). He then quotes chapter and verse of the Koran on the many Iranian religious ideas (of heaven, hell, the hurls and other eschatological imagery) that seem to have had a profound influence on both formal and popular Islam and which crop up most flagrantly in the gnostic and folkloric interstices between eastern Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. Noting that there are very few Semitic loanwords in pre-Islamic Iranian languages, whereas the contemporary Semitic tongues (including Arabic) were generously endowed with Iranian borrowings, he includes some additions to the standard repertoire: e.g., rawda `well-watered meadow, garden' ?< Middle Persian road `river, saqr 'falcon' < MP cark. On the derivation tambur (more accurately, tunbur) 'cither, pandora' < MP tanbur, it may be noted that the ultimate etymon is Greek pandoura (by metathesis), a word that has furnished the name of a variety of stringed instruments from Italy to India (bandura, mandola, tamburitza, domra, tanpura). On the disputed origin of vazir, he appears to favor an Arabic origin for the word, while endorsing a Persian origin for the institution (pp. 71-73); one possibility not considered here is vazir as a doublet of (or a blend with) Ar. firzan, pl. farazin `queen in chess' < MP farzin `ditto; sage, minister' (since the MP synonym for farzin as a chess piece is dastur `minister, vizier').


Numerous scholars, including western Arabs such as Ibn Khaldun and Western non-Islamicists such as Toynbee, have seen in the post-Mongol period of eastern Islam a new Persian empire, one of Iranian cultural dominance secured vicariously through the cooptation of Arab religion and language and Turkish arms and organization. Some, such as Corbin, took their speculations too far; most others, while avoiding simplistic terms of nationalistic rivalry and national genius, have been struck repeatedly by the symbiotic rivalry between faqih and katib or amir and mica that for a few centuries wove a palpable cultural unity from Bosnia to Bengal.


After this sweeping introit, the next three of the remaining six essays are surprisingly tangential and in some respects disappointing. George Saliba's assessment of the Persian contribution to astronomy seems at pains to debunk any suggestion of originality ("the major trends... in Persian astronomy were either inspired by original Arabic works or were simple translations of such works," p. 127); the Ilkhanid observatory at Maragha and the Timurid one at Samarqand were the products of a multi-ethnic coterie of scientists; astronomical tables (zij), were compiled in Persian, but when Persian astronomers did deal seriously with theoretical problems they had to write in Arabic (p. 135).


Annemarie Schimmel's excursus on "The West-Eastern Divan: The Influence of Persian poetry in East and West" takes us beyond Goethe to von Hammer and Wickert in Europe and Iqbal in the post-classical Orient. She illustrates how classics of Persian verse (notably Nizami's five romances and Hafiz' ghazals) struck sympathetic chords in Europe and India, to be imitated and translated ever after. Some poetical prose made the journey in both directions: thus Nakhshabi's fourteenth-century translation from Sanskrit into Persian of the wiles-of-women wisdom work Tales of a Parrot "became a kind of bestseller not only in India and Iran but also in Turkey and, through translations, in Europe" (p. 152). Schimmel is at her best in evaluating the contribution of Friedrich Rickert, many of whose interpretations and imitations of Hafiz have been set to music by Schumann, Mahler, and other composers. Her aside on Nizami's Haft Paikar (p. 166) is oversimplified: it was not Nizami's idiosyncratic version of the Turandot story that inspired Schiller's (and Gozzi's) dramas and ultimately Puccini's opera, but the French translation of an anonymous Persian prose romance in P6tis de Lacroix's Les mille et un fours.


In "Ideas of Time in Persian Mysticism," Gerhard Bowering looks at one facet of Sufism (and also of Shi'i gnosis), a movement which has shaped the religious life and worldview of Muslims everywhere. Having implied (as Bosworth establishes more forthrightly in the following essay) that ta'rikh, the scientific matrix of Islamic historiography based on the date of the hijra, is not derived from Persian models, he initiates a discussion of the concept of zaman (the general Persian and Arabic term for time) with the vague statement that it "corresponds (how?) to Zurwan, the name of a deity who is father of twins, . . . Ohrmazd and ... Ahriman" (p. 181). Clearer is his statement that Muslim philosophers adopted the Arabic terms abad (< MP a-pad `without foot') and anal (< MP a-sar `without head') from the Persians, who had taken the concept (and the morphology, if not the actual etyma) from the Greeks (p. 182). Bowering also illustrates the magical capacity of Sufi masters for tayy al-ard (instantaneous self-transportation between distant places) without, however, mentioning the term. This is a rich, if rather uneven, potpourri.


The obligatory art-history essay is tackled by Oleg Grabar, who pursues with careful documentation (and, where this fails, an artist's and Persianist's insight) the question of illustration vs. genre painting in miniatures, i.e., the degree to which they are derivative of and dependent on a text or independent works of art. (This is illustrated by eight black-and-white plates, hidden away from the article between pp. 72 and 73). Here I must admit that Persian miniatures strike me as irredeemably static and wooden (in contrast to, for example, the dynamic liquidity of Japanese ukiyo-e woodblock prints) and, within the purview of this volume, as a phenomenon that has not traveled well outside late medieval Isfahan and Herat. Grabar is quite prepared to forgive such "I-know-what-I-like" philistinism (p. 205), and in general seems oddly take-it-or-leave-it above his topic.


With C. Edmund Bosworth's evaluation of "Persian Historiography in the Pre-Mongol Period" we are again on secure iranophile turf. Persian writers are duly praised both for providing rich legendary raw material and for their part in inventing ta'rikh (Tabari) and adapting it to Persian literature (Bal`ami), where in turn it became a model for Turks and Indians. We are reminded that Iranian rulers in the west, as well as the east, sought out the monuments of their imperial forebears. (The Buwayhid `Adud al-Dawla visited Persepolis, got a local mobad to interpret the Pahlavi inscriptions there, and left some royal graffitti; Ozymandias is not always mocked.)


Gerhard Doerfer takes us in his survey of "The Influence of Persian Language and Literature among the Turks" to the earliest and the farthest-flung fields of Iranian influence on neighbors who were to grow in importance after the advent of Islam. Among Sogdian loanwords in early Turkish is nom `religious law' (evidently from Greek nomos, the source of Arabic namus '(code of) honor'), and transmitted by the Turks to Mongolian and Manchu. He mentions only a part of the modern parallel to this, in which the Middle Greek authetaentis `autocrat, magistrate' (pronounced in modern times /afthetaendi-/) became Tk. efendi, then as the title of the Hoca/Mulla Nasreddin in the Tatar and Uzbek recensions by which he was transmitted to the Uighurs, has become the Chinese name (apanti) of this world-renowed jokester-but without Iranian intervention. Doerfer's statement (p. 241, from Tietze) that there is a layer of direct Arabic borrowings in eastern Anatolian Turkish is dubious; most of those cited by Tietze are attested in literary Persian.1 There are certainly a number of orally transmitted Persian loans via Kurdish or other Iranian languages, notably pasa (< P padsah). He ends a wide-ranging discussion with the novel suggestion that the Persian stanzaic verse forms, the robasup included in i and mostazad, arose in a Turco-Persian milieu from the influence of Turkish meters and rhyme schemes.


A practical index completes the collection. There are few errors and misprints worth noting: kandaq for khandaq (p. 52), sag for sang (p. 53), "Osmali" for "Osmanli" and "Timuids" for "Timurids" (p. 87, footnotes), and the occasional infelicity of idiom that should have been caught by the editors. A translation from Persian (p. 153) is presented as if it were a direct quotation from Browne's Literary History of Persia, whereas the non-standard English ("you better leave. .") argues otherwise. The book suffers from the limitations inherent in the "thematic Festschrift" genre: it is neither a comprehensive encyclopedia of received lore nor a rigorous selection of cuttingedge research in the field. Its specialist contributors, however, have given us a wealth of information, argument, and speculation; I learned a great deal, and can recommend this collection to fill several gaps in the eclectic Irano-Islamicist's library.


John R. Perry University of Chicago


See A. Tietze, "Direkte arabische Entlehnungen im anatolischen Turkisch," in Jean Deny Armagani, ed. J. Eckmann et al. (Ankara, 1958), 255-322; John R. Perry, Form and Meaning in Persian Vocabulary: The Arabic Feminine Ending (Costa Mesa, Cal.: Mazda Publishers, 1991), 163-64.



Defense & Foreign Affairs Strategic Policy

October 1, 2001

Volume 29; Issue 10; Page 6


The Taliban: A primer


Kondaki, Christopher D




AFGHANISTAN'S Taliban CRYSTALLIZED in its present incarnation - the Taliban phenomenon had historically been in evidence as a dynamic force periodically, as Winston Churchill noted in (the late 19th Century - after the 1989 Soviet withdrawal and




the subsequent fall of the Najibullah Government in 1992. The country quickly fell into chaos despite numerous efforts by the various tribal leaderships to emplace a new government.


Warlords committed numerous atrocities against the population, especially in the South. The Taliban, a group whose initial popularity reflected the public's frustration with factional and tribal leaders and a desire for peace and stability, offered a solution to a society brutalized by corruption and violence. According to numerous press reports, warlords kidnaped women and children for use as sex-slaves, robbed bazaars, robbed travelers, seized homes and farms, and openly fought in the streets.


In 1994, Mullah Mohammad Omar, a well-known mujahedin who ran a madarasa (religious school) in Kandahar, claimed to have had a vision in which God told him to bring peace to Afghanistan and to implement Islamic Law throughout the country. Haji Bashir, a prominent commander during the Soviet jihad and leader of another Kandahari madarasa, supported Omar's vision. He helped him draw on family resources, local business, and political connections which resulted in a small following. In October 1994, the group freed a Pakistani convoy which was being held hostage by brigands in Kandahar province. This action resulted in public support for the Taliban (named for its origin as Talibs, or students), to soar.


The Taliban not only freed the convoy but proceeded to make the area safe by disarming the inhabitants of surrounding towns, a policy which fueled the group's popularity. The tale of the convoy rescue was retold throughout the southern provinces, prompting Kandaharis to supply the Taliban with more madarasa students, food, and weapons. Numerous press reports detailed how, after the Taliban's capture of Kandahar in late 1994, about 20,000 Afghans and hundreds of Pakistani volunteers left refugee camps to join the victorious Taliban.


Several other Taliban leaders who later emerged included:


> Wakil Ahmad Mutawakil: Foreign Minister Ahmad Mutawakil is one of Mullah Omar's closest advisors and is Taliban's spokesman despite reports that he has more moderate views than Omar.


Mullah Abdul Arkhund: Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Mullah Abdul Arkhund has had close ties with Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate and reportedly serves as the Taliban liaison to Osama bin Laden.


> Mullah Berader Arkhund: Was, by late 2001, serving as both Deputy Defense Minister and chief administrator of Badghis, Faryab, Herat, and Jowzjan provinces.


The largely Pushtun ethnic composition of the Taliban contributed to the group's increasing numbers and its quick sweep of southern Afghanistan within a few months after taking Kandahar. The Taliban brought a welcome stability for Afghans, and similar cultural values held by ethnic Pushtuns throughout the south allowed the Taliban to easily implement its rules while maintaining popular support. Ethnic Pushtuns constitute nearly 40 percent of Afghanistan's population, the majority residing in south-eastern Afghanistan. Most of the core Taliban leaders were, at least until the start of the US offensive against the Taliban and al-Qaida organizations in October 2001, living in Kandahar, including Mullah Omar. This local presence added to the popularity of the Taliban in the south. The Taliban war effort to control the entire countryfought against the remaining groups which had banded together as the Northern Alliance, more formally the United Islamic Front for the Salvation of Afghanistan (UIFSA) - was supplied with an armory of weapons and ammunition captured during the anti-Soviet jihad of the 1980s.




ISLAMIC PRECEPTS and 1a il ban doctrine differ significantly despite the Taliban's claims to have brought 11 pure Islam" to Afghanistan. In reality, Taliban rule is a mixture of Shari'a law and Pushtunwali (the historic code of the Pushtun people). The Taliban follows one of four schools of law recognized by Orthodox Sunnis, (the Hanafi School of jurisprudence) in which is prescribed a rigid set of social codes (Shari'a) which - under the beliefs of this branch of Islam - outline the laws of any "true Islamic state":


> Testimony (Shahada): Muslims must accept only Allah and believe Mohammed is his prophet.


> Prayer (Sa/mat): Muslims must pray facing Mecca five times a day, with Friday being the Muslim Sabbath.


> Charity (Zakat): Muslims must give money to charity, either in the form of taxes or donations.


> Fasting (Sawm): Muslims must fast during the holy month of Ramadan to symbolize Mohammad's first revelation.


> Pilgrimage (Hajj): Every Muslim must make a pilgrimage to Mecca at least once during his lifetime.


Pushtunwali is a tribal code which specifies strict patterns of conduct and swift punishment for transgressors. Its elements are: melmetia, being a good and generous host (to entertain guests and to feed and shelter them in accordance with the obligation of melmetia is a matter of prestige; according to some observers, this is the most important aspect of Pushtunwali); sabat, loyalty; ghayrat, upholding personal and family honor; namus, defending women's honor; nanawati, providing shelter to anyone who needs it; and badai avenging blood with blood (Badal dictates that a Pushtun, whenever he believes that his honor or that of family members has been violated, must seek revenge; revenge can be taken anywhere and anytime, and the avenger is expected to spare no effort in realizing badal; an individual's family or tribe is expected to support the individual).


Other elements of Pushtunwali are: never kill a woman, a minstrel, a Hindu, or an uncircumcised boy; to pardon any wrong (except for murder), when asked to do so by a mullah, the wrongdoer's family, a woman, or a sayyid (an Afghan who claims Arab descent); and the tradition of jirga, an assembly which makes policy decisions.


Pushtuns generally use two types of jirgas. A tribal jirga can settle a land dispute between tribal members, decide whether to wage war or make peace with a neighboring tribe, and to represent the tribe to the central government. A loya jirga is a forum of Afghans from all ethnic groups which serves to represent their causes to the country's national leader.


Taliban rules of conduct lean more towards Pushtunwali derivations than Shari'a, but are still practiced to varying degrees across the areas the group controls. The Taliban's aggressive efforts to impose Pushtunwali in non-Pushtun northern parts of Afghanistan have deepened ethnic divisions because Pushtunwali is not representative of the many other ethnic groups in the country.




THE ORIGIN OF the Northern Alliance (the Taliban's principal opposition) began in the early to mid-1990s when Afghanistan was carved up by regional warlords who fought for control of Kabul, Afghanistan's capital. Regional leaders generally ruled over their respective ethnic groups.


The primarily ethnic Uzbek regions of northern Afghanistan centered around Mazar-e-Sharif were controlled by Abdul Rashid Dostam. Dostam fled Afghanistan to Uzbekistan and later to Turkey when his second-in-command General Malik Pahlawan betrayed him, enabling the Taliban to capture Mazar-e-Sharif in 1997. However, in 1997 Malik defected from the Taliban, recaptured Mazar-e-Sharif and prompted Dostam to return to Afghanistan. Dostam subsequently left the country again in 1998 during a successful Taliban offensive in the north and returned to Afghanistan in 2001. Since Ahmad Shah Massud's assassination on September 9, 2001, Dostam has been the de facto leader of the Northern Alliance.


Before the Taliban's sweep from Kandahar to Kabul, much of the ethnic Pushtun areas of southern Afghanistan was controlled by the Pushtun commander Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. He faced a shortage of financial and military support in 1996 when his one-time sponsor, Pakistan, switched support to the Taliban, causing Hekmatyar to flee to Iran following a series of Taliban attacks around Kabul.


Three provinces in western Afghanistan were controlled by Ismail Khan. Khan was imprisoned by the Taliban after his troops sustained a crushing defeat in 1995, when they were caught by surprise by the Taliban's capture of Herat (Khan's stronghold).


Khan's men had underestimated the Taliban's strength because of their small victory against the Taliban earlier that year. Khan escaped from the Taliban in early 2000 and took refuge in Iran.


The mainly Hazara (Shi'a) north-central portions of Afghanistan were controlled by Ustad Karim Khalili. Khalili fled and was forced to take refuge in Iran when his forces lost much of the area to the Taliban during its major offensive in 1998.


Ahmad Shah Massud and Burhannudin Rabbani of the Jamiat-e-Islami Party controlled the ethnic-Tajik north-east. Massud retained a military stronghold in the northeast, including the Panjshir Valley, although he lost Kabul in 1996 to the Taliban. Massud continued to prevent the Taliban from consolidating its power in the north-east until his assassination by suicide bombers on September 9, 2001.


After the three leaders fled Afghanistan, the groups allied (loosely) under Massud, who commanded his ethnic Tajiks in the north-east regions as well as members of ethnic Uzbek, Hazara, and other groups which continued to fight against the Taliban. The Northern Alliance sought to prevent the Taliban from controlling all of Afghanistan and also was determined to gain international representation. As a result of the Taliban's diverse ethnic composition, however, tensions forced Massud to strike a careful balance between his loyalty to the Hazaras, ethnic Uzbeks, and his own Tajik people. According to numerous reports, Massud distributed aid and war supplies unevenly to the ethnic Uzbek and Hazara troops under his control, especially when his own north-east section was under attack.


From its inception in 1994 to mid-1998, the Taliban military gained control of roughly 80 percent of the country with little actual fighting. The Taliban remained a militia movement focused almost exclusively on achieving victory over the Northern Alliance. Initially, the groups quest to establish order and stability was popular with war-weary southern residents, and tribal leaders and local mujahedin defected to the Taliban's cause in order to maintain their status under the Taliban Administration. The Taliban relied more on force as it moved northward out of Pushtun regions, but after losing a series of battles in 1995 that forced the group to retreat back into the south, it used corruption and bribery to coerce several Northern Alliance commanders to defect, resulting in the rapidfall of Herat, Kabul, and Mazar-e-Sharif, with little major fighting.


The Taliban's sweep over much of Afghanistan left Massud as the only major warlord and the undisputed head of the remaining opposition forces located in the north-east and in pockets of territory in Afghanistan's central provinces. Since then, the conflict had taken on a different tone.


Massud, who repelled nine Soviet invasions into his Panjshir Valley stronghold had several thousand loyal fighters in the northeast. The Taliban's seizure of Taloqan in September 2000 was the group's first significant gain in almost two years. The Taliban's difficulties in adjusting to a new playing field, where instead of relying on defections, they had to conduct sustained battlefield operations to take and hold territory, has slowed the group's advances.




DURING THE TRADITIONAL "fighting season"- roughly from May to October - the Taliban typically conducts major offensives with as many as several thousand fighters in two locations along the north-eastern front.


The Shomali Plains north of Kabul: The Taliban typically attacks northward from the Shomali plains to close up the southern entrance to the Panjshir Valley, which would restrict Northern Alliance access to fronts directly east and west of Kabul. Success on this front would also secure the Salang Highway, enabling easy movement of Taliban fighters and supplies to the north. The Taliban had repeatedly failed to make headway on this front.


> Near the border with Tajikistan: The Taliban attempted on several occasions to advance eastward into Takhar and Badakshan provinces in order to cut off the Northern Alliance's critical supply routes from Tajikistan. In September 2000, the Taliban advanced into Takhar province and took Taloqan, the Alliance's political headquarters. This affected the Northern Alliance supply lines and forced them to rely on higher altitude routes.


Substantial pockets of opposition in the central provinces of Afghanistan were of secondary importance to the Taliban, which calculated that if the Northern Alliance could be confined to the Panjshir, these areas would fall. However, fighting often occurred in Ghowr, Sare-e pol, Samangan, and Bamiyan Provinces, especially in the Winter, when the harsh weather stops military operations in the more rugged north- west. The Northern Alliance typically initiated the fighting in these areas.


The Northern Alliance in early 2001, carried out relatively large-scale offensives against the Taliban in Bamiyan province. It initially seized two strategic towns, Bamiyan City and Yakawlang, although the Taliban subsequently recaptured Bamiyan city.


Taliban Forces have been primarily made up of the following:


Afghan Conscripts: Young Afghan men either recruited or press-ganged into service make up a large portion of the Taliban infantry. Little is know about the training regimens, but it is doubtful that trainees receive more than rudimentary training before being sent into combat. Over the several years until late 2001, the Taliban found it increasingly difficult to draw on local fighters, and reports indicated that many areas had protested recruiting/conscription efforts.


Pakistani volunteers: Several thousand volunteers were in Afghanistan during the height of the Summer fighting season in 2000, and reportedly comprised most of the fighters in one major offensive north of Kabul. Some Pakistani volunteers came from Pakistani militant groups like the Harakat-ul Mujahedin and Jaish-e Mohammadi, which have close ties to Taliban leaders and training camps in Afghanistan. Others emerged from Pakistani madarasas some of which are run by the JamiatUlema-i-Islami (JUI) - and a significant portion were made up of men who grew up in Afghan refugee camps in Pakistan.


Foreign fighters: It has been noted that members of Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida organization and other Islamist militants who train in Taliban-controlled territory, such as Kashmiri groups, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, Chinese Uighur separatists, and reportedly some Chechens, sometimes fight for the Taliban to "prove" themselves and gain combat experience for their own jihads back home. Various sources also indicate that bin Laden-associated Arabs contribute the most to the Taliban war effort of all the non-Afghan fighters. For example: bin Laden's 55`" Brigade is often employed as shock troops and assigned critical objectives during offensive operations. The 55`" provides the Taliban with a reliable and tactically proficient combat formation and is composed of at least 2,000 Arab fighters.


Mercenaries: The Taliban employs a number of professional and trained soldiers drawn from the former communist Administration of Afghanistan to operate and maintain its small supply of sophisticated military equipment. This group includes aircraft mechanics, gunners, pilots and armored vehicle drivers. Reportedly, they are the only military personnel who get a regular salary, and having served in the armies of whoever controls Kabul, are in many cases fighting as mercenaries. Most have no loyalty to the Taliban Administration and are treated with extreme distrust by their commanders. According to various sources, pilots are especially suspect and Mullah Omar has grounded them on occasion in order to prevent defections to the opposition.


The Taliban is essentially a motorized light infantry force which depends on small, imported pick-up trucks in combat and combat support roles. The truck serves as an efficient combat vehicle and is also the principle troop carrier, transporting 10 or more soldiers who can fight in mounted or dismounted formations. This mobility is optimal for large open expanses, but is less useful in mountainous terrain, which characterizes most of the opposition's territory. It is evident that the Taliban's inability to adapt to difficult terrain curtailed their success in recent years.


Even in areas where the Taliban enjoys a high level of offensive mobility, its forces have demonstrated that they lack the experience, discipline, and organizational skills to penetrate prepared defenses or to effectively consolidate positions. For example:


The Taliban advance on Kabul in 1995 stalled near the city for a year after it suffered heavy losses and its heavy losses and defeat at Shindand in Faryab Province around the same time, are indicative of the Taliban's poor combat organization. Poor discipline, in particular, has threatened military successes. After making initial gains during offensives, Taliban fighters have typically rushed to the front lines to "bask in the glory", leaving their units and the Taliban tactical formations unbalanced and vulnerable to counterattack. In mid-1999, the Taliban conducted a well-planned, multiple-axes offensive north of Kabul, but executed it poorly. The operation initially resulted in significant territorial gains, but the Taliban failed to consolidate its gains by constructing defensive lines and conducting mopping-up operations, according to sensitive source reports. Gen. Massud's counteroffensive quickly brought stability back to the front-lines.




THE Taliban EMPLOYS A wide variety of arms in the war against the Northern Alliance, ranging from former mujahedin weapons (rocket-propelled grenades, mortars, rockets, and surface-to-air missiles), to weapons inherited from the former-communist army such as T-55 MBTs, various armored personnel carriers, multiple rocket launchers, and artillery. Except for the AK, which is the standard infantry rifle, standardization in combat equipment is non-existent. Most weapons have been captured during previous battles. The Taliban has virtually little indigenous arms or ammunition producing capability and it is reported that the group initially relied on Pakistan and Turkmenistan to resupply it with arms and ammunition.


The Taliban tends to under-employ the military technology of its weapons. In numerous documented cases, fighters have adapted weapons to more traditional, lower technology methods of warfare:


The Taliban uses ZSU-23-4 in direct-fire mode and does not use the radar;


* The Taliban has shown little ability to conduct effective combined arms operations. Instead of using artillery fire to facilitate the movement of infantry, for example, artillery is often used disjointedly against static targets. Similarly, armor is mostly employed in the single role of fire support, rather than as a means of combining firepower, maneuver, and shock action.


Supporters of the Taliban and Northern Alliance seek to advance their own strategic interests. Foreign assistance from Afghanistan's neighbors and other interested parties fueled the Afghan civil war more than any other factor. The Taliban and Northern Alliance rely on foreign countries for military, logistical, and political support. Having served as the gateway to South Asia and a battlefield for the major powers of the Cold War, Afghanistan's strategic location adds to its importance to other countries. Although a few other nations are sympathetic to the group, only three countries, Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia, have recognized the Taliban as the legitimate Government of Afghanistan. The UAE and Saudi Arabia withdrew that recognition following the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. Pakistan retained recognition to facilitate dialogue.




THE Taliban RELIED, until the current crisis, primarily on Pakistan to provide logistics, funding, materiel, and recruits, but has sought to supplement this assistance from other sources, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Libya, and Turkmenistan.


Pakistan was the Taliban's primary supporter because Islamabad viewed Taliban control over Afghanistan as the way to establish a stable, friendly government in Kabul and to fend off encirclement by India and Iran. The Taliban, like many Pakistanis in the bordering region, is predominantly Sunni and Pushtun. Islamabad hoped to bolster its economy by establishing direct trade routes to Central Asia through Afghanistan by supporting a pro-Pakistani government in Afghanistan.


Pakistan's primary intelligence service, the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI), played a predominant role in formulating and implementing Pakistan's Afghan policy. Evidence indicates that almost all of Islamabad's missions in Afghanistan were staffed by ISI personnel and various reports have confirmed that the ISI coordinated Pakistani efforts to supply weapons, equipment, and military advisors to the Taliban, and provided the group with intelligence on the location, deployment, and plans of the Northern Alliance.




THE SOVIET INVASION of Afghanistan in 1979 was strongly opposed throughout the Islamic world, even by ideological opposites. Afghanistan's role as a safe haven for terrorist and terrorist training had its roots in the reaction of the Islamic world to the 1979 Soviet Invasion.


Thousands of Muslims came to Afghanistan to fight in the jihad, and the support networks and organizations they established remain today to facilitate the activities of groups like al-Qaida. In 1983, Abdul Haq-an, an influential mujahedin commander in the Kabul area, was concerned that over-reliance on Arab funds was a threat to mujahedin unity. In mid1984, one member of a group of Saudis accompanying Afghan faction leader Abdul Rasul Sayyaf on tour into Afghanistan was killed. US officials reported that, while there had been Arabs reportedly spending a few weeks to experience jihad in Afghanistan, this was the first fatality. By 1985, US officials in Saudi Arabia, reported that throughout Saudi society, the Afghan struggle was perceived as a genuine, modern-day jihad. It was also viewed as common ground with Iran.


Sayyaf and Hizb-e Islami faction leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar were the mujahedin leaders most closely associated with the Arabs and other foreign Muslims who traveled to Afghanistan. Both were associated with Abdul Azzam, a Palestinian and the founder of the non-governmental organization Maktab al-KhidmaA an important player in the recruiting of Arabs for the Afghan jihad including Osama bin Laden.


Azzam's anti-US orientation was evident in an interview he gave to a Saudi newspaper in 1987, in which he denied that the US was helping Afghan mujahedin. Earlier in 1987, Hekmatyar and Sayyaf made public statements at an Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) summit in Kuwait which downplayed the US role in what they characterized as a struggle to defend Islam. Abdul Azzam was killed in a bomb attack in Peshawar in 1989.


Hekmatyar and Sayyaf, the most fundamentalist of the anti-Soviet faction leaders, attracted the majority of the "Afghan Arabs"' Most Arabs who fought in the critical mujahedin battle for Jalalabad in 1989 were under their command. Many of the foreign fighters trained in these camps returned to their own countries to take the rebellion against governments they regarded as "insufficiently Islamic". Hekmatyar also pioneered sending mercenaries to other Islamic conflicts. In 1993, he brokered an agreement with the Government of Azerbaijan to send hundreds of his fighters to participate in its civil war.


In the Taliban's early advance across the country, the group quickly captured the areas along Afghanistan's border with Pakistan, where Hekmatyar's and Sayyaf s camps were concentrated. The Taliban pledged to dose camps training foreigners and did shut down several, while allowing camps training Kashmiri jihadists allied with Pakistani religious parties sympathetic to the Taliban to remain open. After bin Laden's return to Afghanistan in 1996, the Taliban permitted as many as a dozen camps training foreign militants to operate in territory it controlled. In addition to extremists associated with the struggle in the Kashmir, the mujahedin network and al-Qaida, members of Islamist resistance groups from Chechnya, the People's Republic of China, and Uzbekistan now train in Taliban areas, heightening regional concerns about instability stemming from the chaos in Afghanistan.




SAMA BIN LADEN took safe haven in Afghanistan in 1996 after his citizenship was revoked by Saudi Arabia and he had been expelled from Sudan. The Taliban continues to offer bin Laden refuge while he used his estimated $300-million wealth to support the Taliban with materials, funding, and Arab trained fighters (who are considered to be more capable than Afghan or Pakistani recruits) as part of a symbiotic relationship. There were, in late 2001, estimated to be at least 2,000 bin Laden Arab fighters in Afghanistan operating against the Northern Alliance; bin Laden reportedly contributed some $12-million annually to the Taliban to support the war effort.


The relationship between Osama bin Laden and the Taliban is based on mutual need. Despite the Taliban's Pushtun-rooted version of Islam, which is not synonymous with bin Laden's broader agenda, an ideological affinity between the Saudi terrorist and the strict fundamentalist Afghan group developed. During an interview in 1998, bin Laden stated: "We support the Taliban, and we consider ourselves part of them. Our blood is mixed with the blood of our Afghan brothers. For us, there is only one government in Afghanistan. It is the Taliban Government."


The relationship between Osama and the Pushtuns is pragmatic, but there is also an echo from the past which no doubt appeals to Osama. The Taliban are essentially a rejuvenation of Wahhabi Islam, which is still the dominant mainstream religious tendency in Saudi Arabia's ruling group. Thus, the true Wahhabi voice has been dislocated to an extent from Saudi Arabia. The complete rejection of compromise with "evil" (the West, McWorld) is reminiscent of the approach taken by Muhammad Abdul Wahhab, the progenitor of Wahhabism and Islamic Brotherhood (Ikhwan) in 18th Century Arabia.


The Taliban weathered UN sanctions imposed on the group and now US and British bombing because of its willingness to continue to safeguard Osama bin Laden. However, in spite of their mutual dependency, the bin Laden-Taliban alliance has experienced periodic tensions, especially when bin Laden's ideological and operational interests have clashed with the Taliban's desire for increased international recognition.


The Taliban argues that its adherence to Pushtunwali, or Law of the Pushtuns, dictates that the group continue to offer bin Laden safety. Because of bin Laden's participation in the Soviet-Afghan jihad and the humanitarian assistance he provides to the Afghan people, he has had public support from some sectors of the Afghan public.




UNTIL RECENTLY, Saudi Arabia recognized the Taliban as the legitimate government in Afghanistan based on the principle of support for a fellow Islamic government.


Relations cooled significantly in 1998, however, when the Saudi Government expelled the Taliban's Ambassador to the Kingdom in September of that year because the Taliban rejected Saudi requests to expel Osama bin Laden.


Much of Saudi Arabia's aid to the Taliban came in the form of private donations, although it was known that some funding was channeled through the Saudi intelligence service, GIS.


The United Arab Emirates also recognized the Taliban as the legitimate Government in Afghanistan, although it does not now and never had particularly close relations with Kabul. The UAE's reluctance to sacrifice its ties to the Taliban reflected the UAE's policy of maintaining strategic relationships aimed at keeping its foes (primarily Iran) off balance and in fear of Taliban retaliation. Private donations from UAE comprised a significant amount of funding for the Taliban.


Libyan leader Col. Mu'ammar al-Qadhafi - who has privately admired and financially supported bin Laden - has been wary of the Taliban's radical Islamic ideology because Islamic militants had threatened his Administration in the mid-1990s. Therefore, Libya had given the Taliban only limited financial assistance, indicating Tripoli's decision to engage the Taliban rather than make new Islamic enemies. Libya's support of the Taliban may have been aimed at monitoring the activities of Libyan dissidents in Afghanistan and to secure their return to Libya. According to Press reports, Libyan Secretary of Foreign Liaison and International Cooperation Abd Al-Rahman Mohammed Shalgam in May 2000 unsuccessfully petitioned Taliban leaders to expel Libyans suspected of terrorist acts in Libya, residing in Afghanistan.


The Turkmenistan Government has been motivated in its contacts with the Taliban primarily by commercial concerns, believing that the Taliban provided the best hope of a peaceful, stable Afghanistan which would allow construction of pipelines to export Turkmen gas to lucrative South Asian markets. While Turkmenistan maintained an official neutrality between the Taliban and the Northern Alliance and its rhetoric promoted a peaceful compromise between the two, it informally supported the Taliban.


While the Turkmenistan Government avoided overt actions of support, such as recognizing the Taliban as the official Government of Afghanistan, it provided the Taliban with important commodities such as electricity and has provided ammunition, small arms, and significant amounts of fuel to the Taliban while also allowing transshipment of materiel through Turkmenistan to the group.






Taliban leader Mullah Omar hold ministerial positions in the Administration but lack the authority, education, and technical expertise to initiate substantive reform.


Two decades of war and poverty have left Afghanistan in disrepair; warfare has destroyed roads, bridges, and canals, while looting and shortages of spare parts has shut down power plants, factories, and telephone systems.


The Taliban's preoccupation to defeat the Northern Alliance, has done little to rebuild Afghanistan, which has been in economic disarray since the end of the Soviet occupation in 1989. Afghanistan exhibits some of the worst social indicators in the world; mother, child, and infant mortality, widespread malnutrition, and a high ratio of widows and orphans in the population. The Taliban has paid little attention to the economic future of the country or the declining standard of living of the majority of Afghans. Little social welfare assistance is offered and the group creates few jobs, and on occasion aggressively hinders foreign humanitarian assistance. The majority of Afghans are rural, unskilled, and illiterate and eke out a living based on subsistence agriculture.


The majority of educated and professional Afghans fled the fighting a long time ago. The war has forced many schools to dose, teachers are rarely paid and abandon their classrooms to find work elsewhere. A survey in 1979 indicated that approximately 90 percent of the population was illiterate, and the statistics are probably worse today.


The United Nations estimated that more than 10 percent of the population had been maimed in fighting or from landmines (Afghanistan is the most heavily landmined country in the world). However, most hospitals and clinics have closed, either from war damage, looting, or lack of basic supplies and qualified personnel.


According to a 1999 UN study, drug abuse is climbing in Afghanistan, particularly among the most vulnerable social groups, women, disabled war veterans, and returning refugees who struggle with poverty, social displacement, and war-related mental health issues. The Taliban does not offer drug treatment programs and typically imprisons or executes addicts.


In July 2000, the Taliban banned women from working for foreign NGOs, effectively shutting down the UN World Food Program sponsored bakeries in Kabul that provided food to widows and orphans. The average Afghan family is forced to sell possessions to make ends meet or migrate in search of relief aid and employment because while the average cost of living in Afghanistan is US$100 per month per family, civil servants earn only $5 to $10 a day while wage laborers earn less than $1 a day.


Agriculture remains the cornerstone of the Afghan economy. Traditional cash crops include corn, onion, potatoes and wheat.


Farmers have continued to engage in subsistence agriculture, although some have changed to the more lucrative opium poppy (the preferred form of collateral to secure informal loans). A United Nations Office of Drug Control and Crime Prevention (UNDCP) report stated that itinerant farmhand wages are a critical source of income that allows Afghans to purchase basic necessities like wheat, teas, sugar, clothes, and medicine. The average Afghan landowner farms his own fields and staggers crop harvests to allow male family members to seek work as itinerant harvesters on large opium poppy farms in other districts.


The preference of farmers to cultivate opium poppy over food crops leaves the populace vulnerable to food shortages and famine, particularly during winter. According to Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) statistics, Afghanistan's inadequate food production is due primarily to the long-term loss in cultivated areas, some 25 percent - nearly one-million hectares have been taken out of production over the past forty years due to shifts in the front lines of war, landmines, and land abandonment. Afghanistan's crop yield has been stunted by the lack of government support for agriculture, no farm credit, poor availability of seed and fertilizer, little irrigation, and damaged roads which hinder the transport of crops to market. The Taliban has not supported the agricultural sector and farmers have limited access to seed, irrigation, fertilizer, and equipment. Average grain yields, the staple food commodity in Afghanistan, are limited to about one-million tonnes (mt) per hectare, compared to the world average of 2.9 mt per hectare (primarily because of lack of fertilizer).


Afghanistan's natural resources include precious and semi-precious stones, minerals, and timber, although there have been few serious attempts to explore and extract these resources. Energy resources in Afghanistan are abundant, with an estimated five-trillion cubic feet of natural gas, 95million barrels of oil and condensate reserves, and 400-million tons of coal. However, due to the volatility of the region, the vast majority of these resources have remained untapped.




THE CHANGING NATURE of the illicit narcotics trade is largely a result of the Taliban's increasing control over Afghanistan and its support for narcotics cultivators, processors, and traffickers. Afghanistan's narcotics industry has undergone rapid expansion since 1996, fueled by an explosive growth in opium poppy cultivation and production, the establishment of more narcotics processing laboratories, and increased heroin flows out of the country. Afghanistan became the world's leading illicit opium producer in 1998, and the upward trend continued in 2000.


Poppy cultivation increased 25 percent to 64,500 hectares and opium production rose by another 28 percent, further solidifying Afghanistan as the primary source country of opiates to Central and West Asia, Europe, and Russia. Over the past several years, Afghan producers have switched from supplying mainly morphine base to Turkish distributors, to producing and supplying more heroin to international markets. The number of narcotics processing sites have more than doubled since 1998, and many of these sites have expanded their operations and potential output capability.


Working with the Taliban has been "the Quetta alliance", a loosely based coalition of four families - Noorzai, Notezai, Rigi, and Shahbakhash - based in Quetta, Pakistan, which has traditionally controlled most of the drug-trafficking originating in SouthWest Asia. Each family contributed a particular strength to the alliance, relying on each other's connections, money, and capabilities to negotiate drug transactions, to assemble narcotics loads, and to transport shipments.


The Taliban gets little revenue from other sectors in Afghanistan's war-torn economy and relies on taxing narcotics production and trafficking as a fiscal cornerstone.


South-West Asian narcotics traffickers have exploited porous borders and weak customs controls, as well as economic and political instability in Central Asia to move opiates to Russia and Europe along new routes Additionally, traffickers have been increasingly using maritime vessels and commercial flights to the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Qatar, and Bahrain to smuggle heroin from Iran and Pakistan, to Africa and Europe. *



Sex Roles: A Journal of Research

January 1, 2005

Volume 52; Issue 1-2; Page 103


Masculinity, femininity, and the Bem Sex Role Inventory in Turkey.


Ozkan, Turker

Lajunen, Timo


The aim of this study was to examine the masculinity and femininity scales of Bem Sex Role Inventory (BSRI) among Turkish university students. Five hundred thirty-six students (280 men and 256 women) volunteered to complete the short-form of the BSRI and answer demographic questions. In factor analyses, the original factor structure (Bem, 1981) was found both in the men's and women's data. Comparisons of the factor structures with target rotation (Procrustes rotation) and comparison indexes showed no difference between the factor structures found among men and women. The internal consistency of the masculinity and femininity scales was acceptable, and t-tests showed that women scored higher on the femininity scale, and men scored higher on the masculinity scale. There were significant differences between men and women only on two masculinity items, but significant differences were found in 8 (of 10) femininity items.

KEY WORDS: BSRI; factor structure; Turkey.


Gender stereotypes refer to "the beliefs people hold about members of the categories man or woman" (Archer & Lloyd, 2002, p. 19). Many social psychological studies have shown that these gender stereotypes vary among different cultures and ethnic groups (Harris, 1994). The first aim of the present study was to examine those stereotypes in Turkish cultural context.


One of the most frequently used instruments for measuring gender stereotypes is the Bem Sex Role Inventory (BSRI) (Bem, 1974). In the BSRI, self-descriptions are used to measure the extent to which men and women describe themselves in terms of personality traits that make up the stereotypes for their own and the other sex (Archer & Lloyd, 2002). Thus, gender stereotypic traits of men and women were defined according to their social desirability determined by society. An individual's gender role was defined as a function of the expression of masculine and feminine traits rather than biological sex. Hence, traits were called "masculine" if they were evaluated to be more suitable for men than women in society. Similarly, "feminine" traits were those that were evaluated to be more suitable for women than men. In addition to masculinity and femininity scores, the BSRI can be used to calculate scores that indicate "androgyny" and "undifferentiated" classifications. Androgynous people are those who score similarly high on the masculine and feminine scales (Bem, 1974), whereas a person who shows low levels of both masculine and feminine traits is called "undifferentiated" (Spence, Helmreich, & Stapp, 1975).


A multitude of studies have been conducted to investigate similarities and differences among countries in gender stereotypic traits and to assess the cross-cultural validity and the structure of the BSRI (e.g., Ballard-Reisch & Elton, 1992; Blanchard-Fields, Suhrer-Roussel, & Hertzog, 1994; Lara-Cantu & Suzan-Reed, 1988; Martin & Ramanaiah, 1988; Schmitt & Millard, 1988; Waters, Waters, & Pincus, 1977; Wong, McCreary, & Duffy, 1990). However, the findings have been mixed. Although some authors have suggested that gender stereotypic traits are universal (Basow, 1984; Pitariu, 1981), others have not demonstrated the universality (Kaschak & Sharratt, 1983; Ward & Sethi, 1986). This inconsistency might be due to several factors. Different research methods, samples, and problems with translation, and adaptation of the instruments to non-English speaking cultures might lead to conflicting results. In addition to methodological differences, inconsistency of results might be related to the characteristics of gender stereotypes themselves. For example, gender stereotypes do not remain unchangeable even within one culture, but change with time together with general cultural values (Twenge, 1997). The second aim of the present study was to obtain current data on gender stereotypes in Turkish society.


Bem (1979) emphasized the role of culture by defining the purpose of the BSRI to "assess the extent to which the culture's definitions of desirable female and male attributes are reflected in an individual's self-description" (p. 1048). By this definition, it is reasonable to expect that the definition of gender stereotypes will vary among cultures and ethnic groups (Harris, 1994; Landrine, 1985). Williams and Best (1990) found that the gap between men and women on the variance of the gender stereotypes was small in highly developed countries, whereas it was larger among countries in which the difference between men and women in educational achievements was large. In addition, they suggested that gender roles are closely associated with socioeconomic development, the importance of religion, urbanization, and high latitudes. In this way, gender stereotypes would be results of many different cultural and environmental factors.


Traditionally, Turkey has been seen as a geographical and cultural bridge between East and West. This mediator role of Turkey is seen in social values too. In studies of collectivism and individualism, Turkish culture has repeatedly been described as a "culture of relatedness" (Kagitcibasi, 1996). As a result, the modern urban family is defined as an emotionally (but not economically) interdependent unit with "a combination, or coexistence, of individual and group (family) loyalties" (Kagitcibasi, 1996, p. 89). Kagitcibasi (1996) also suggested that child socialization is characterized by a trend toward "autonomous-relational" rather than an independent or interdependent self. Other scholars have called this Turkish family characteristic "agentic interdependence" (a combination of task-related independence and relatedness) or "balanced differentiation and integration" (Imamoglu, 1987, 1991). The special role of Turkish culture as a synthesis of "modern" Western values and the "traditional" values of the East should be manifested also in gender stereotypes.


Kagitcibasi and Sunar (1992) pointed out that the socialization of gender roles begins in the Turkish family even before the child is born. In Kagitcibasi's (1982a) study, Turkish parents preferred a son (84%) to a daughter (16%) in a forced choice question. Preference for a son especially in the rural traditional context seems to be related to parents' wish that a male child would carry the family name to next generation, contribute to the family's welfare through financial and practical help, and take care of the aging parents. However, a daughter is perceived as "the property of strangers" (Kagitcibasi, 1982a, 1982b, 1982c; Kagitcibasi & Sunar, 1992). These expectations are likely to be the driving forces to make a child to fit his or her gender stereotype. For instance, Turkish parents let their sons behave more independently and aggressively, whereas more dependence and obedience is expected from their daughters; this difference increases with the child's age (Basaran, 1974).


Sex segregation continues because the family's morality and honor (namus) depends on the chastity of women. It results in supportive same sex-kinship and friendship networks (Kagitcibasi, 1982a; Kagitcibasi & Sunar, 1992; Kandiyoti, 1982), which provide women with emotional support and strength. Gender role differentiation can be seen in the division of labor between man and woman. For example, men are responsible for farm-related tasks, physically heavy jobs, and external relations. Women are responsible for household tasks, gardening, care of domestic animals, and childcare. It is considered as a shame if men do "women's work" (Kagitcibasi, 1982c; Kagitcibasi & Sunar, 1992; see Ortayli, 2002, for a comprehensive monograph for family relations and role of family members).


In addition to different work roles, men and women are considered to have different personality traits. In Sunar's (1982) study, Turkish men evaluated Turkish women as more childish, more dependent, less intelligent, more emotional, more irrational, more submissive, less straightforward, more passive, more ignorant, more honest, more industrious, and weaker than men. Gurbuz (1985) found that the BSRI items "affectionate," "cheerful," "gentle," "sympathetic," "soft-spoken," "eager to soothe hurt feelings," "sensitive to the needs of others," and "loyal" were equally descriptive for both sexes. Also, "independent," "aggressive," and "individualistic," which are instrumental characteristics, were undesirable for both sexes, whereas "dependency" was desirable for both sexes in Turkey. These findings support the notion of Turkey as having a "culture of relatedness."


It seems that gender stereotypes in Turkish society differ from those of Western countries. According to some studies, the content of Turkish gender stereotypes can be mostly accounted for by instrumental and expressive dimensions (Gurbuz, 1985; Kagitcibasi & Sunar, 1992; Sunar & Fisek, in press). Kavuncu (1987) conducted a validity and reliability study of the BSRI in Turkey. Even though test-retest reliabilities of masculinity and femininity scales were found as high as 0.89 and 0.75, respectively, the BSRI was not considered a valid instrument for men. Small sample size and a problematic criterion variable (i.e., the masculine and feminine subscales of the MMPI) were given as reasons for the lack of validity. By taking into account these concerns, Dokmen (1991) showed in her study that the BSRI is a valid instrument for measuring masculinity and femininity among both sexes. It was found that men scored higher on the BSRI masculinity scale than women did, but no significant differences between the sexes on the BSRI femininity scale were found.


In addition to the historical role of Turkey as a melting pot of Western and Islamic values, recent rapid social transition in Turkey makes it an especially interesting country in which to study gender issues. In the last decade, Turkey has gone through a period of fast urbanization, industrialization, and Westernization supported by large-scale exposure to European and North American culture through the mass media. The current candidate status of Turkey for the European Union has seemed to accelerate this movement. In addition, international and regional migration, increasing educational opportunities, the emphasis on secularism, the newly acted civil code of equal property division, the recognition of the value of housewives' unpaid labor, and the increased protection of the rights of working women might also have facilitated changes in gender roles and stereotypes. Therefore, the findings of the previous studies about gender stereotypes in Turkey may not hold any more. It is necessary to replicate these studies and upgrade the knowledge of gender stereotypes in Turkey.






Five hundred thirty-six student volunteers participated in this study. The mean age of the male university students was 21.94 years (range = 19-33, SD = 1.85), and the mean age of the female university students was 21.56 years (range = 18-36, SD = 2.42). Only two students did not report their age.




The BSRI was developed to measure masculine, feminine, and androgynous personality styles among men and women. The original BSRI includes 60 items (20 masculine, 20 feminine, and 20 neutral). The scale reliability coefficients reported in the BSRI manual range from 0.75 to 0.90. In the present study, gender stereotypes were measured with the short-form of the BSRI (Bem, 1981). The masculine scale (10 items) includes characteristics that are perceived as men's characteristics (e.g., assertive, strong personality, and dominant). The feminine scale (10 items) includes characteristics that are perceived as women's characteristics (e.g., emotional, sympathetic, and understanding). The rest of the inventory (10 items) is composed of neutral items, which are perceived neither as men's nor women's characteristics (e.g., conscientious, unpredictable, and reliable). Participants assessed how well each of the 30 personality characteristics describes themselves by using a 7-point scale (1 = almost never true, 7 = almost always true). The short-form of BSRI was translated to Turkish by using the translation-back translation method.




The data were collected in psychology courses at the Middle East Technical University in Ankara. The participants were assured of anonymity and confidentiality. They were also offered an extra course credit point for their participation. The participants filled out the short-form of BSRI (Bem, 1981) and items related to demographic variables.




Factor Structure of the Short-Form of BSRI Among Turkish Men and Women


Factor analyses (principal axis factor analyses with promax rotation) were conducted on the 10 masculine and 10 feminine items separately for the men's and women's data. The neutral items from the BSRI were not included in factor analyses. We decided that there is no reason to expect that the perception of the neutral adjectives would have changed over time. The criteria used to determine the number of factors were Cattell's scree plot and parallel analysis. The results of the factor analysis for the men's data can be found in Table I and for women's data in Table II.


Both the scree plot and the parallel analysis supported the two-factor model in both women's and men's data. Oblique promax rotation was used because correlations between two factors were found, r = 0.27 in women's data and r = 0.48 in the men's data. In both data sets, the masculinity items loaded on the first factor and the femininity items loaded on the second. In the men's data, reliability coefficients (Cronbach's alpha) for the masculinity and the femininity subscales were 0.80 and 0.73, respectively. In the women's data, reliability coefficients for masculinity and femininity subscales were 0.80 and 0.66, respectively. Although the alpha reliability coefficients for both the men's and women's data were lower than in original studies (Bem, 1981), they were acceptable.


Target Rotation and Agreement Coefficients


Visual comparison of the men's and women's data indicate that the BSRI has the same factor structures among male and female students. In addition to visual inspection, target rotations of the men's and women's factor matrices were carried out to test the similarity of the factor structures. Proportionality (Tucker's phi) coefficients were calculated to assess the similarity of the BSRI factor matrices found in the men's and women's data sets. Proportionality coefficient values above 0.90 indicate sufficient similarity between the factors. The values for Tucker's phi were 0.97 for the masculinity factor and 0.95 for the femininity factor. hence, the factor structures found among male and female students were virtually identical and allowed comparisons of the scores.


Sex Differences in Item and Scale Scores


The masculinity and femininity scores were compared both within (pairwise t-test) and between men and women. Men scored lower on masculinity (M = 48.10, SD = 7.97) than on femininity (M = 53.62, SD = 7.84), t(279) = -10.46, p < .001. Similarly, women scored higher on femininity (M = 56.67, SD = 6.62) than on masculinity (M = 46.97, SD = 7.81), t(255) = -16.81, p < .001. Comparisons between men and women showed no statistically significant difference on the masculinity scale of the BSRI, t(534) = -1.67, p = .096, whereas there was significant difference on the femininity scale of the BSRI, t(534) = 4.84, p < .001.


Table III lists item means and SD for men and women and the corresponding t-test values. Table III shows that significant differences were found only on two items of the masculinity scale of the BSRI (items 25 and 28), whereas a statistically significant difference between men and women was found on eight femininity items (items 2, 5, 8, 11, 14, 20, 23, and 26). There were also significant differences between men and women on six "neutral" items of the BSRI (items 3, 9, 15, 18, 24, and 27) (Table III).




In some previous studies, the validity of the factor structure of the short-form of the BSRI has been questioned (Wilcox & Francis, 1998). In this study, the applicability of the BSRI factor structure and gender stereotypes were investigated in a Turkish sample. The results of the present study conducted among Turkish male and female students support the original BSRI masculinity-femininity structure. Moreover, target rotation together with agreement indexes showed the factor structures found among men and women to be virtually identical. Reliability analyses showed that the internal consistencies of the femininity and masculinity scales were acceptable both among men and women, although they were lower than those reported in the original studies conducted in the USA.


It is interesting that the originally feminine item "eager to soothe hurt feelings" loaded on the masculine factor both in the men's and women's data sets. The masculine item "aggressive" had a strong negative loading in the femininity factor in both data sets but was not related to masculinity. These findings might indicate that, among Turkish university students, an ideal man is expected to stay calm in troublesome situations without showing his aggressive urges. According to a study conducted in Turkey by Fisek (1994), women are allowed to express their negative feelings more easily than men, whereas men are expected to "be strong" and provide emotional support when needed. Turk-Smith, Tevruz, Artan, Smith, and Christopher (2000) summarized several studies about Turkish students' definition of an "ideal person" or a "good person." They found that the most important characteristics related to being a "good person" in Turkey were "self-sacrificing" and "non-egoistic." Although Turk-Smith et al. (2000) did not investigate the characteristics of an "ideal person" separately for men and women, it seems that Turkish men are expected to be self-sacrificing and able to control their feelings in a difficult situation. "Aggressiveness" is still undesirable for both sexes (Gurbuz, 1985), and open displays of anger, either toward the parents or other authority figures, such as teachers, are not tolerated (Kagitcibasi & Sunar, 1992; Sever, 1985; Sunar, 2002; Sunar & Fisek, in press). On the other hand, some characteristics, which were earlier reported desirable for both sexes (i.e., affectionate, sympathetic, and sensitive to needs of others) were feminine characteristics in the present study.


One of the most striking findings of the present study is that some instrumental characteristics (i.e., "independent," "assertive," "strong personality," "has leadership abilities," "willing to take risks," "dominant," "self-sufficient," "defends own beliefs") are now desirable for both sexes. This result might reflect the socialization process and change in values. In the past, a woman's social status derived from her husband, number of children, and old age. Nowadays, success outside home seems to be an important source of social status (Ortayli, 2002). Sunar (2002) found that although there are important areas of continuity between traditional and modern families, there are important differences as well. All three generations showed in her study a trend of increasing encouragement of emotional expression and independence for their children. As urban families endorse more "psychological" values (e.g., a loving relationship between parents and children) and the instrumental value of the children as labor force or as a carrier of family's name to new generations decrease, the importance of individual success and achievement increases (Kagitcibasi, 1996; Sunar, 2002; Sunar & Fisek, in press). It seems that these new emphases will help to preserve the nature of Turkish culture as a "culture of relatedness" even as the society Westernizes in other ways.


Both men and women scored higher on femininity than on masculinity. Comparisons between men and women showed, however, that women scored higher on femininity than men, whereas no differences between the sexes were found on masculinity scores. In previous studies conducted among Turkish university students about 10 years ago, men scored higher on the BSRI masculinity scale than women (Dokmen, 1991). Hence, it seems that Turkish female students have adopted a more masculine gender role within the last 10 years. This change in feminine and masculine traits seems to be consistent with Twenge's (1997) meta-analysis results, which indicated that women's self-ratings on masculinity have been increasing and gender differences on masculinity have been decreasing over time. Cultural change in Turkey seems to be the most possible explanation for the change in a woman's gender roles. Changes in legal rights for women (e.g., women's marital rights and rights in divorce), expanded educational opportunities and the rapidly increasing number of female students at universities, urbanization, and new values might have influenced the traditional structure of the gender roles. In addition to these social changes, the masculinity of Turkish culture may require successful and work-oriented women to show masculine traits (e.g., assertiveness) in addition to traditional feminine traits. Hence, modern Turkish women are expected to endorse both masculine and feminine characteristics, i.e., androgyny. Modern Turkish women are expected to be more flexible, more adaptable, and more free to be themselves in response to various environmental situations.


In addition, six of the neutral items that Bem selected for the short-form of the BSRI showed significant differences between men and women. This finding is in line with earlier results that gender-neutral BSRI items actually are not neutral in every culture (Eller & Dodder, 1989; Lara-Cantu & Suzan-Reed, 1988). As the primary focus of the present study was masculinity and femininity, the question about the "neutral" items of the BSRI remains open. More research is needed to clarify the role of these filler items on BSRI.


The present study has some methodological limitations that should be taken into account. The sample of the study included only students at the Middle East Technical University (METU), which limits the generalizability of the results. METU is one of the most respected universities in Turkey, and only approximately 1% of all applicants are accepted to our undergraduate programs. Also, the language of instruction in METU is English, and it is possible that Western values are more dominant in METU than in other universities in Turkey. Hence, it is very likely that the general public has a more traditional view of gender roles than do our university students. In the future, more research and different samples are needed before the BSRI can be applied with less-educated and rural populations in Turkey.


Table I. Factor Structure of the BSRI Among Men


Factor loadings


Item-total Factor 1 Factor 2


correlation Masculinity Femininity Items


.71 .84 Dominant (22)


.58 .76 Assertive (7)


.60 .63 Has leader abilities (16)


.48 .63 Willing to take risks (19)


.40 .50 Independent (4)


.53 .47 Self-sufficient (13)


.52 .43 Strong personality (10)


.30 .42 Willing to take a stand (25)


.41 .38 Defends own beliefs (1)


.36 .34 Eager to soothe hurt feelings (17)


.66 .79 Compassionate (14)


.64 .72 Affectionate (23)


.50 .63 Gentle (29)


.46 .60 Understanding (11)


.42 .54 Tender (2)


.43 .49 Loves children (26)


.28 .46 Take into account other people's


feelings (8)


-.25 -.46 Aggressive (28)


.58 .34 .43 Warm (20)


.48 .33 Sympathetic (5)


Eigenvalues 5.57 2.48




accounted 27.86 12.39


for (%)


Note. Factor loadings below .30 were omitted for the sake of clarity.


Table II. Factor Structure of the BSRI Among Women


Factor loadings


Item-total Factor 1 Factor 2


correlation Masculinity Femininity Items


.70 .81 Has leadership abilities




.59 .73 Dominant (22)


.62 .69 Assertive (7)


.55 .66 Willing to take risks (19)


.46 .54 Independent (4)


.50 .52 Strong personality (10)


.44 .44 Defends own beliefs (1)


.40 .42 Self-sufficient (13)


.24 .34 -.31 Willing to take a stand




.32 .32 Eager to soothe hurt


feelings (17)


.60 .67 Compassionate (14)


.59 .65 Affectionate (23)


.45 .60 Gentle (29)


.46 .57 Understanding (11)


.50 .53 Sympathetic (5)


.47 .51 Warm (20)


-.36 -.51 Aggressive (28)


.30 .45 Sensitive to needs of


others (8)


.32 .42 Tender (2)


.31 .36 Loves children (26)


Eigenvalues 4.79 3.12


Variance accounted 23.98 15.63


for (%)


Note. Factor loadings below .30 were omitted for the sake of clarity.


Table III. Means and SD of the BSRI Items Among Turkish Male and Female


University Students


Men Women t


Items Mean (SD) Mean (SD) df = 534


Masculinity items 48.10 (7.97) 46.97 (7.81) 0.48


1. Defends own beliefs 5.74 (1.23) 5.91 (1.03) 1.78


4. Independent 5.02 (1.37) 5.00 (1.27) -0.19


7. Assertive 4.75 (1.39) 4.83 (1.33) 0.66


10. Strong personality 5.75 (1.21) 5.87 (0.99) 1.30


13. Self-sufficient 5.54 (1.08) 5.46 (1.06) -0.78


16. Has leader abilities 4.99 (1.56) 4.87 (1.50) -0.89


19. Willing to take risks 5.00 (1.55) 4.75 (1.53) -1.84


22. Dominant 4.60 (1.43) 4.39 (1.50) -1.60


25. Willing to take a stand 4.31 (1.64) 3.78 (1.70) -3.66 (c)


28. Aggressive 2.43 (1.43) 2.10 (1.37) -2.68 (c)


Femininity items 53.62 (7.84) 56.67 (6.62) 4.07 (c)


2. Tender 5.23 (1.39) 5.87 (1.02) 6.03 (c)


5. Sympathetic 5.03 (1.28) 5.41 (1.11) 3.66 (c)


8. Sensitive to needs of others 5.49 (1.35) 5.97 (1.08) 4.44 (c)


11. Understanding 5.76 (1.05) 5.96 (0.99) 2.23 (a)


14. Compassionate 5.55 (1.20) 5.89 (0.99) 3.46 (c)


17. Eager to soothe hurt feelings 5.15 (1.41) 5.15 (1.47) -0.03


20. Warm 5.40 (1.30) 5.63 (1.21) 2.17 (a)


23. Affectionate 5.28 (1.21) 5.69 (1.12) 4.08 (c)


26. Loves children 5.38 (1.61) 5.66 (1.60) 1.98 (a)


29. Gentle 5.35 (1.13) 5.46 (1.12) 1.14


"Neutral" items


3. Conscientious 5.86 (1.23) 6.33 (0.73) 5.66 (c)


6. Unpredictable 3.84 (1.67) 3.73 (1.68) -0.75


9. Reliable 6.15 (0.97) 6.32 (0.76) 2.33 (a)


12. Jealous 4.29 (1.76) 4.45 (1.77) 1.06


15. Sincere 5.84 (1.03) 6.21 (0.85) 4.51 (c)


18. Secretive 5.92 (1.27) 6.15 (1.06) 2.24 (a)


21. Adaptable 5.64 (1.22) 5.79 (1.14) 1.47


24. Conceited 3.33 (1.70) 2.92 (1.54) -2.89 (b)


27. Tactful 2.32 (1.30) 2.03 (1.26) -2.59 (b)


30. Conventional 4.49 (1.65) 4.34 (1.68) -1.10


(a) p < .05.


(b) p < .01.


(c) p < .001.




This work was supported by the Turkish Academy of Sciences, in the framework of the Young Scientist Award Program (TL/TUBA-GEBIP/2001-2-14), the Scientific and Technical Council of Turkey (TUBTAK project no: SBB-3023), and the H. J. Eysenck Memorial Fund, and the Graduate School of Psychology in Finland.




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Turker Ozkan (1,2,3) and Timo Lajunen (1)


(1) Department of Psychology, Middle East Technical University, Ankara, Turkey.


(2) Traffic Research Unit, Department of Psychology, University of Helsinki, Finland.


(3) To whom correspondence should be addressed at Department of Psychology, Middle East Technical University, 06531 Ankara, Turkey; e-mail:



Sunday Times (UK)

May 14, 2006

Section: Features; Page 42


Where beast meets west; Investigation


Christine Toomey


On the tourist beaches of Turkey, young women flirt and frolic - but go further inland, and a mere glance in the direction of a man can mean death.


As Turkeyedges towards membership of Europe and western equal rights, Christine Toomey reports on the violent clash of East and West, and the deadly social divide it is leaving in its wake


The room the father ushers me into is small and bare. In one corner stands a tall wooden wardrobe; in another, a television concealed beneath an embroidered cloth. The floor is covered with a carpet that is ragged but clean. It must have taken his wife many hours to wash it of their daughter's blood. For an hour before the father arrives home, his wife has been describing events on the morning 14-year-old Berruan died. As difficult as it is to comprehend any such death, the more she talks about what happened, the less what she says makes sense.


Snow lay thick on the ground that day last January. Her husband and 15-year-old son had left the house. She was tending to domestic chores outside when she heard a gunshot. She immediately thought it must be a hunter shooting birds, she says. "But then my little boy ran outside screaming, 'Come quickly! Come quickly! My sister has killed herself!'"


The mother ran inside and saw her daughter's body lying on the floor of the cramped room that the father later shows me. "At first I thought she must have fallen and hit her head. But then I saw the gun. There was no reason for her to do that," Berruan's mother insists. "She was so happy with us.


She had no problems - no problems at all."


As she talks, we sit on the doorstep of the family's dilapidated home in a small village near Batman in Turkey's southeastern Anatolia. This area has become notorious in recent years for the high number of suicides, particularly of girls and young women whose despair is said to stem from their severely restricted lives. But women's groups and human-rights workers believe a more sinister explanation lies behind many of the deaths.


They're convinced a growing number of girls and women are being locked in rooms by their families, with a gun, poison or a noose, and left there until they kill themselves.


Such deaths are referred to here as "forced suicides" - murder by any other name. Whether Berruan was one of those pressured by her family to take her own life is impossible to know. But such suspicion now surrounds any such death in the community that, shortly after she died, one local Batman newspaper reporting her death carried the headline "Was it suicide or murder?"


Yet those who expose domestic violence risk being rapidly silenced in this country. In recent months, three national TV talk shows have been pulled off the air after two women appearing as guests were shot shortly afterwards - one by her son, another by her husband - for denouncing domestic abuse and so "tainting" their family's honour. Turkey is not a country where the concept of free expression has as yet sunk deep. Those in the media who touch on other subjects considered too sensitive also risk breaking the law - 33 journalists and writers currently face trial on charges of "insulting Turkey's national character". For, as far as many are concerned, Turkey is a country on a knife edge.


That this vast, mainly Muslim country of 71m is where East meets - and often clashes violently with - West, has become a hoary adage. But rarely since Kemal Ataturk founded this republic in the ashes of the Ottoman empire in 1923 and ordered it to "face west" has this been truer than now.


As the country battles to balance its aspirations to continue to modernise, and so improve its chance of becoming a member of the EU, with the desire of many to maintain conservative and often religious tradition, many subjects are thought best swept under the carpet. In recent years it has been Turkish women who have been at the forefront of this battle.


As Berruan's mother speaks, her grandmother kneels close by and mutters: "It was her destiny." Berruan's mother nods. "What can you do if God writes on your forehead that it is time to die?" When I ask them to describe what sort of girl Berruan was, they use words like "beautiful", "strong" and "fearless". They say she did well at school until she left when she was 11, as most girls in this area do - if they go to school at all.


They insist again and again that she was "a good girl" who "never cast her eyes outside the home". But to be born strong-willed or beautiful or clever can be a curse for a girl in parts of Turkey such as this. To attract attention can be a death sentence. Once the words "adi cikmis" - translated roughly as "her name is known" or "she has become notorious" - are uttered, the girl or woman of whom they are said stands little chance of survival. A "family council", or kangaroo court, is convened at which it is decided how she who is "notorious" should die. Such ritualised deaths are deemed by those responsible to be an "honour killing" - a deadly oxymoron meaning her behaviour has offended the "namus", or honour, of male members of the family. Only by killing her, they believe, can the family's honour be restored and its "slate be cleaned".


Turkey is not, of course, the only country where honour killings take place. The United Nations states - and it is believed to be a great underestimate - that more than 5,000 women are killed across the world every year by relatives who accuse them of bringing shame on their families. The majority occur in the Middle East. But British police are currently investigating more than a hundred such suspected crimes among minority communities in this country. In Turkey over the past six years, an average of one or two women have died every week owing to honour killings and blood feuds. According to a recent Turkish police report, the true figure is believed to be three or four times higher.


Such wholesale blood-letting, believed by many to be on the increase, appears to be of little concern to more than a third of the population. A Turkish parliamentary commission set up last year to investigate honour killings found that 37% of those surveyed thought a woman should be killed for committing adultery, while many others supported punishments such as facial disfigurement, with 64% thinking the husband should be the one to carry out such punishments.


In communities such as Batman, and where Berruan died, it is enough for a girl to glance for a few seconds too long where men are gathered to cause lethal offence. Or to request a love song on the radio, or wear jeans, or a skirt that is a little too short. Or, however unwittingly, to catch the eye of boy or man who then flirts with, seduces or rapes her. Death sentences have been imposed here on daughters, wives and sisters for all of the above. The "guilty" have been shot, strangled, stoned, had their throats slit or been buried alive.


Nobody in the small village will say if young Berruan's "name became known". But this is not a place where strangers are welcome. Life here, as in many other rural areas of Turkey, is run along feudal lines little changed for centuries. It is also a predominantly Kurdish area and the heartland of the Kurdish separatist PKK guerrilla movement. Berruan's father, he later mentions in passing, was imprisoned for 10 years as a terrorist. So, as a foreign woman asking awkward questions, my presence on his doorstep triggers alarm.


"What are they doing here?" he shouts at his wife when he returns to find my male interpreter and I in front of the family home. For us to have gone inside would have exposed his wife to the risk of being "talked about"; only he is permitted to show us into the three-room dwelling, which he does, eventually, to point to the room where his daughter died. He eyes us suspiciously, but then decides to adopt a more conciliatory stance. He eventually takes pictures of his daughter as a young girl from his pocket.


"How sweet she was then," he says. "She used to talk about wanting to join the police and even about becoming a lawyer. I told her, 'You are free to do what you want.' But then she decided to stay at home, watch television, help with the cleaning," he says. "Maybe it was from the cleaning that she learnt that I kept my gun on top of the wardrobe."


When I ask if he has any recent photographs of his daughter, he says every trace of her has been removed from the house. "We put everything that could remind us of her in a bag, including her Koran, and gave it to the poor."


When I ask his reaction to the newspaper headline raising questions about her death, he swats the air with his hand, as if batting a fly. The interview comes to a swift conclusion after that.


During the past five years, 281 girls and women have attempted suicide in Batman (population approximately 250,000) - three times the number of attempts by men - and 43 succeeded, the youngest being a 12-year-old girl.


"Every suicide of a girl or woman should be looked at with suspicious eyes," argues Nebahat Akkoc, the director of a women's support organisation called Ka-Mer in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir. Just how many suicides are "forced", Akkoc and other human-rights workers admit, is impossible to say. "One girl who survived told us how her family stood watching as she cut her wrists. They then silently closed the door on her and walked away." Akkoc also talks of other survivors, who have made it to the shelter her organisation runs, describing how their families have told them: "You are going to die anyway, so why let your brother go to prison for killing you? Why not do it yourself?"


In the twisted minds of those who would force a wife, daughter or sister to end her own life, there is a lethal logic. Tragically, it has to do with EU demands for Turkey to improve its record on human rights if it is to stand a chance of being admitted as a member in the next 10 years. (Accession talks formally began in October 2005.) In response to EU demands to crack down on the widespread problem of honour killings in Turkey, punishments for such crimes have been increased. In the past a male relative could argue he had been "provoked" into killing a female relative because she had offended family honour. This would be enough to diminish the severity of his sentence to little more than a small fine or short prison sentence or, in the case of a minor, usually a matter of a few months - a legal get-out that often resulted in a young brother or cousin being ordered by his family to become the one to carry out the murder. But since Turkey reformed its penal code in the past two years, minors are no longer entitled to a reduction in sentence for committing such crimes. The conditions under which "provocation" can be entered as a plea in mitigation have also been severely reduced - though not abolished entirely. On March 3, for instance, a brother convicted of killing his sister by stoning her in a small community near Diyarbakir had his sentence of life imprisonment reduced to 13 years on the grounds that he had been "provoked". His sister, Semse Allak, had been raped by one of her father's friends. It took Semse months to die of her injuries. Her family refused to give her a burial; her body was claimed and buried by a women's organisation.


That those who give voice to women, exposing such atrocities, together with those who dare to speak out on other subjects long considered taboo in Turkey, should be silenced, both by the state and private enterprise, is a damning condemnation of a modern democracy.


Ayse Ozgun drinks coffee in an elegant Istanbul restaurant as she rages against the cancellation of her TV programme Every Day last year. "There is a volcano of women's screams building up in this country, and we were one of the only ways this pent-up anger could be vented," says Ozgun. "They've pulled the shows that looked at the serious problems women face in our society and replaced them with a lot of music and dancing. Ha! Much easier," she laughs bitterly.


Ozgun says she was warned more than 20 years ago, when she was the first to host a talk show aimed at women, that her job was to "entertain, not educate". After just three months the state TV show, considered too controversial, was cancelled. After four years abroad, Ozgun moved back to Turkey and began hosting her new show, Every Day - again aimed at a largely female audience - this time on a private channel. But following a lengthy run, this show was again cancelled in November, after a woman who appeared on the show to discuss how her family had forced her into a marriage was shot dead by her father. "You've ruined the reputation and honour of our family in front of millions of viewers," the father shouted at his 32-year-old daughter, a mother of two, before killing her.


"You cannot change such a sick mentality by expecting rapid change of men, but rather by educating women, informing them of their rights, giving them a voice," says Ozgun. "What we did was go to the nucleus of society, that of the mother and child. Tell people what was going onI This country will only develop if women are allowed to develop, and I won't shut up about that until they shut me up completely," says the feisty 61-year-old, who is now planning to start another programme for women - this time on the radio.


"Where can girls and women go if they have a problem? They have nowhere. I believe there should be a social worker in every mosque in this country,"


she says, while stressing it's not in the teachings of Islam that the fault lies, but in many of the country's outdated customs that regard women as subservient.


Yet Aysenur Yazici, host of one of the other cancelled shows, believes it was partly because she exposed the custom of religious marriages that her programme You Are Not Alone was pulled by managers who claimed it had become "a social problem". This custom, where marriages are sealed with an unofficial religious ceremony and are not registered as civil unions, affords women no marital rights or protection. They can be instantly dissolved by the man, but not the women. "Nobody was killed as a result of my show," says Yazici, for 20 years one of Turkey's most respected news anchorwomen. "But I kept talking about these religious marriages. I kept telling women, 'You don't have to put up with the way you are being treated. You can go to the police, to a lawyer. You can fight!'And many did."


She cites one 15-year-old girl who came on the show who had been sold by her father as a bride to a man in his early sixties for 38 gold coins. "We phoned the gendarme where she lived and her father, husband and the imam who married them illegally were arrested and jailed for six months. We gave girls like her a voice. Now they have no voice againI Maybe I talked too much about democracy and this made a lot of people in the government feel very uncomfortable."


Since 2002 the government of this secular republic has been led by the charismatic ex-mayor of Istanbul, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and his Islamic Justice and Development party. While Erdogan's government is moderate and pro-western, he presides over a complex country increasingly torn between conservative, often religious, tradition and modern western values. The conflict this creates is visible in the contrast between the lives of the metropolitan middle classes, where there is genuine equality between the sexes, and the rest of the country, where the majority are forced to scratch a living in feudal poverty, and where illiteracy - particularly among women - is entrenched.


Since taking power, Erdogan has focused on such uneven development. But he has also made moves to increase religious freedom. His efforts to end the ban on women wearing headscarves in schools and state offices has caused furious debate, as has his unsuccessful attempt two years ago to re-criminalise adultery; in a country where polygamy, though illegal, is practised by about 25% of the population, it was widely believed the latter would mostly be used to prosecute women. Such moves have fuelled accusations that the government is seeking to steer Turkey, the only predominantly Muslim country with strict separation between state and religion, towards Islamic rule.


In addition to highlighting the problems of this sexual battleground, Yazici says her show operated as an informal support network, with viewers offering women refuge and financial help. "Those women have been silenced now. Shows like mine have been replaced with dating games and light entertainment."


This appears to be the fate of Yasemin Bozkurt, the host of the third TV programme recently cancelled, Women's Voice. The show was pulled off air after a mother of five appeared to complain about being forced to marry an abusive husband. When she went home she was shot five times in the head and chest by her 14-year-old son, yelling at her that she'd "disgraced the family". Bozkurt's show has since been resurrected on a smaller private channel. But the day we arrive to speak to her, its content consists of an ageing actress reminiscing, a 77-year-old retired sea captain wanting a new wife, and a man looking for his sister. "Of course, I am very embarrassed murder is committed in the name of honour in my country, and many women here are seen merely as possessions," Bozkurt says defensively. "But men in Turkey are simply not ready to see women talk about such problems. And people had to learn that television is not a court where you can solve your problems."


Critics of the cancelled shows, including members of Turkey's parliament, condemned them for discussing domestic problems "in an indecently open way". But one of Turkey's leading columnists, Haluk Sahin, also a respected academic, has compared watching the original version of Bozkurt's show to "reading Emile Zola or Charles Dickens". Sahin is among the 33 journalists and writers who face up to 10 years in jail for speaking too openly on matters that "denigrate Turkishness". In Sahin's case, this meant daring to write about the massacre of hundreds of thousands of Armenians during the first world war - the same taboo subject that saw the prominent author Orhan Pamuk facing similar charges, until EU pressure led them to be dropped. Up to the late 1990s, only China had more writers and journalists in jail than Turkey.


Regarding the cancelled shows, Sahin argues that it was the "sincerity" of the Turkish shows that was so striking, even "suffocating", he says, in the extent to which they showed the "degree of helplessness of the participants". Part of the reason for this helplessness is that Turkey has just two dozen shelters for battered women. "There is a desperate need for more shelters - if we were to follow EU standards, there should be one per 10,000 head of population," says Hulya Gulbahar, a lawyer defending victims of domestic abuse. There are signs of hope. In addition to tightening its penal code to increase punishment for honour killing, Turkey is one of the few countries where sustained domestic abuse is now legally defined as torture. But in many conservative communities, neither the police nor the judiciary show signs of upholding the new laws. "The key to closing that gap is education, letting men and women know things are changing, and that they must change," says Gulbahar.


In communities such as Diyarbakir and Batman, it is a long haul. Last autumn the British Council helped fund a poster campaign in the area to highlight the problems of domestic abuse, and encourage victims and those who witness it to seek help. While the campaign showed some signs of altering opinion, many of the posters were torn down by those who considered even the mention of such a problem shameful.


More recently, Amnesty International has run a nationwide letter-writing competition in Turkey to raise awareness of honour killings, entitled Talking to Guldunya - Guldunya Toren being the country's most notorious victim of such a crime. The 24-year-old fled her town in the region of Diyarbakir after being raped by a cousin and discovering she was pregnant.


When she defied her family's order to marry the cousin, she was given a rope by one of her brothers and told to hang herself. Instead, Guldunya made the long journey to Istanbul to seek refuge with a sympathetic uncle.


When she gave birth to a son in early 2004 she named him Hope, believing neither he nor she might have long to live. Weeks later her brothers tracked her down and shot and wounded her. In hospital, she made a heart-rending plea for the state to protect her. "Why do they shoot me? They should shoot the one who raped me," she told a newspaper. "I want to live with my baby. But I know they won't want me to live. I'm scared." Soon afterwards her brothers entered her unguarded hospital room and shot her in the head. Her baby was taken into care for fear they would kill the child too.


Sermons delivered in mosques are written by the state, and Guldunya's murder was strongly condemned shortly afterwards at Friday prayers nationwide. Her two brothers were sentenced to life imprisonment. Yet even though the killing received wide attention, a song written about Guldunya by one of the country's well-known singers was banned from state-run TV and radio.


But against the odds, women in Turkey whose expectation of life has been little more than that of a domestic chattel, are learning to stand up for themselves. Even in such conservative regions as the southeast - with a little help.


The fortress-like building that houses one of Turkey's few women's refuges is patrolled by 16 armed guards. The safety of the eight women it shelters is considered so precarious, we have to swear to keep the location a secret before talking to them. It is here that we meet Zozan, 22, from a small community near Batman. Zozan talks nervously of how she was passed from the hands of one man to another after her mother died. She was first pressed into a religious marriage by her father, who threatened to kill her if she dared to disobey him. But when he failed to provide her with the expected dowry, even though she was by then pregnant, her husband beat her, divorced her on the spot and threw her out. After a period of sleeping rough, during which she lost the baby, Zozan entered into a second religious marriage with a total stranger, because she thought this would restore her "honour"


in the eyes of her father. He, too, quickly became violent.


"My father told me I was an embarrassment, and in his eyes I was already dead: it would be better if I killed myself, and if I tried to go home he would kill me." These were not idle threats. When Zozan was growing up, one of her neighbours, a teenage girl, was buried alive by her family after "the word went out" that she had a boyfriend and was pregnant. An autopsy later revealed that the girl was still a virgin.


Zozan eventually went to the police for help. Instead of returning her to the house of her violent husband, as would have traditionally been the case, a sympathetic police officer took her to the refuge where we meet.


Despite the hardships, Zozan is optimistic. During the few months she will be given shelter, she hopes to learn a skill so that she can support herself. "I don't intend looking back. I don't even blame my father, I blame the traditions he grew up with," she says. When asked what she most looks forward to, she does not hesitate. "For the first time I'm going to celebrate July 2," she says, smiling broadly. "That day is my birthday."


Some names have been changed



CITE AS: Bilefsky, Dan.  (July 13, 2006)  [[International Herald Tribune]]  ''"Virgin suicides" save Turks" "honor"''  Issue 3; Section: News; Page 1.


International Herald Tribune

July 13, 2006

Issue 3; Section: News; Page 1


"Virgin suicides" save Turks" "honor"


By Dan Bilefsky


BATMAN, Turkey: For 17-year-old Derya, a waif-like woman, the order to kill herself came from an uncle and was delivered in a text message to her cellphone. ''You have blackened our name,'' it read. ''Kill yourself and clean our shame or we will kill you first.''


Derya said her crime was to fall for a boy she met at school. She knew the risks: Her aunt had been killed by her grandfather for seeing a boy. But after being cloistered and veiled for most of her life, she said, she felt free for the first time and wanted to express her independence.


When news of the love affair spread to her family, she said, her mother warned her that her father would kill her. But she refused to listen. Then came the threatening text messages, sent by her brothers and uncles, sometimes 15 a day. Derya said they were the equivalent of a death sentence.


Consumed by shame and fearful for her life, she said, she decided to carry out her family's wishes. First, she said, she jumped into the Tigris River, but she survived. Next she tried hanging herself, but an uncle cut her down. Then she slashed her wrists with a kitchen knife.


''My family attacked my personality, and I felt I had committed the biggest sin in the world,'' she said from a women's shelter where she had traded in her veil for a T-shirt and jeans. She declined to give her last name for fear her family was still hunting her. ''I felt I had no right to dishonor my family, that I have no right to be alive. So I decided to respect my family's desire and to die.''


They call them the ''virgin suicides.''


Every few weeks in this Kurdish area of southeast Anatolia, which is poor, rural and deeply influenced by conservative Islam, a young woman tries to take her life. Others have been stoned to death, strangled, shot or buried alive. Their offenses ranged from stealing a glance at a boy to wearing a short skirt, wanting to go to the movies, being raped by a stranger or relative, or having consensual sex.


Hoping to join the European Union, Turkey has tightened the punishments for ''honor crimes.'' But rather than such deaths being stopped, lives are being ended by a different means. Parents are trying to spare their sons from the harsh punishments associated with killing their sisters by pressing the daughters to take their own lives instead.


Women's groups here say the evidence suggests that a growing number of ''dishonored'' girls are being locked in a room for days with rat poison, a pistol or a rope, and told by their families that the only thing resting between their disgrace and redemption is death.


Batman is a grim and dusty city of 250,000 people where religion is clashing with Turkey's secularism.


The Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk featured Batman in his last novel, ''Snow,'' which chronicled a journalist's investigation of a suicide epidemic among teenage girls.


In the past six years, there have been 165 suicides or suicide attempts in Batman, 102 of them by women. As many as 36 women have killed themselves since the start of this year, according to a United Nations official's finding on violence against women. The UN estimates that 5,000 women are killed each year around the world by relatives who accuse them of bringing dishonor on their families; the majority of the killings are in the Middle East.


There have been so many unnatural deaths that the United Nations dispatched a special envoy to the region last month to investigate. After a fact-finding mission, the envoy, Yakin Erturk, concluded that while some suicides were authentic, others appeared to be ''honor killings disguised as a suicide or an accident.''


''The calls keep coming,'' said Mehtap Ceylan, a member of Batman's suicide prevention squad. Just hours before, Ceylan had received a call about a 16-year-old girl who had committed suicide, her family said, because they would not let her wear jeans. When Ceylan visited her house, the neighbors told her the girl had been a happy person and had been wearing jeans for years. Ceylan said she suspected some abuse within the family, possibly incest.


''The story just doesn't add up,'' Ceylan said. ''The girl's family says their daughter was eating breakfast, walked into the next room and put a gun to her head. They were acting as if nothing had happened.''


Psychologists here say social upheavals in a region rocked by terrorism have played a role in the suicides. Many of the suicide victims come from families in rural villages who have been displaced from the mountains to the cities because of warfare between Turkey and the Kurdistan Workers Party, a guerrilla group that wants an independent state in this southeastern region of Turkey.


Young women like Derya, who have previously led protected lives under the strict moral strictures of their families and Islam, are suddenly displaced into the modern Turkey of Internet dating and MTV. This can create dangerous tensions, sometimes lethal ones, between their families and the secular values of the republic that the young women seek to embrace.


Modernity can come at a heavy price. Once a woman is suspected of engaging in sexual relations out of wedlock, her male relatives convene a family council to decide her sentence. Once news of their shame has spread to the community, the family typically rules that it is only through death that their honor, or namus, can be restored.


Human rights groups say the recent trend of forced suicides is an unintended and sinister consequence of the European Union's pressure on Turkey to stiffen its punishments against so-called honor killings.


The European Union has warned Turkey that it is closely monitoring its progress on women's rights and that failure to make progress could impede its drive to enter the Union. Until recently, family members of a dishonored girl, usually a younger brother younger than 18, would carry out the death sentence and receive a short prison sentence because of his youth. Sentences also were reduced under the defense that a relative had been provoked to commit murder.


But in the past two years, Turkey has revamped its penal code and imposed life sentences for murders in the name of honor, regardless of whether they are committed by a minor. This has prompted some families to take other steps, such as forcing their daughters to commit suicide or killing them and disguising them as suicides.


''Families of disgraced girls are choosing between sacrificing a son to a life in prison by designating him to kill his sister or forcing their daughters to kill themselves,'' said Yilmaz Akinci, who works for a rural development group. ''Rather than losing two children, most opt for the latter option.''


In an effort to bring honor killings out from underground, Ka-Mer, a local women's group, has created a hotline for women who fear their lives are at risk. Ka-Mer finds shelter for the women and helps them to apply to the courts for restraining orders against relatives who have threatened them.


Ayten Tekay, a caseworker for Ka-Mer in Diyarbakir, the regional center, said that of the 104 women who had called Ka-Mer this year, more than half had been uneducated and illiterate. She said that in many cases the families had not wanted to kill their relatives but that the social pressure and incessant gossip had driven them to murder.


''We have to bring these killings out from the shadows and teach women about their rights,'' she said. ''The laws have been changed, but the culture here will not change overnight.''


Derya, fiercely articulate and newly invigorated after counseling, said she was determined to get on with her life. ''This region is religious, and it is impossible to be yourself if you are a woman,'' she said. ''You can either escape by leaving your family and moving to a town, or you can kill yourself.''


Derya said the deep problem was inequality between the sexes, even though the Prophet Muhammad argued in favor of empowering women.


''In my village and in my father's tribe, boys are in the sky while girls are treated as if they are under the earth,'' she said. ''As long as families do not trust their daughters, bad things will continue to happen.''