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I was walking home late one night, I was with a friend but he was pretty drunk so I told him to just go home and that I could walk the last 5 minutes to my house by myself just fine. There were no people on the streets except for one man, walking on the same sidewalk as myself. When we were about to pass each other he reached out and grabbed my wrist. He said something in Turkish that I did not understand and I told him to let go. He then whispered at me in English, “this is our moment” and tried to pull me towards him but I twisted out of his grip and began to walk away. He then chased me and grabbed me again but I told him no in Turkish and again twisted out of his grip. As I walked or maybe ran away, he reached out to try and grab my crotch and butt from the back but he only touched my butt. It was fucking disgusting and it made me feel disgusting as well.
I was also harassed again recently in Gulbag, it was early Sunday night and I had to walk between two cars and a man was coming the opposite direction. He wouldn’t really move out of the way for me but I moved pretty quickly to avoid him and he reached out to try and touch my crotch but missed because I moved so quickly. I was so confused, I thought maybe it was an accident but he gave me a sick little smile and I was too in shock to say anything. Mostly I just thought, what the fuck is wrong with people? I also saw a Turkish woman get spit on on the metrobus, I’m getting really fed up with the patriarchal culture here, it makes me absolutely fucking sick.
I am training for the Istanbul marathon and went out for a long run this morning. Near Besiktas a man on a bike cut me off, a little while later I realized he had doubled back and was following me. He started talking to me a bit and I tried brushing him off. He went away for briefly and then came back and asked me to have tea with him. I told him no I am running. Not far from the palace he got off his bike and obstructed my path, I tried to get around him and he grabbed me, I started pulling away and thrashing and he held on tighter and I started shouting let go of me and finally got away and ran in the opposite direction of him and called a friend crying who then came and picked me up. It was really upsetting to me that he made me afraid while I was just trying to do what I love to do, run. Also I lived in Morocco and have traveled elsewhere in the Middle East and have found Turkey to be more comfortable but this was my most intense experience with harassment on the streets anywhere.
After living in Turkey for an extensive amount of time, I was used to the general “cat calls” and typical Turkish men’s expressions while walking down the street. No matter how I dressed, I was always looked at as if I were a “piece of meat”, or as if the Turkish men had never seen a girl before. Many of these men were in their late 40s or 50s, which was quite disgusting.
While visiting my host sister in Sakarya (a city not too far from Istanbul), I was shocked at how the Turkish men behaved. Before it was just looking, but now it was constant verbal abuse. My sister and I couldn’t walk anywhere in the city center without being followed and verbally harassed, mostly by teenage boys around our age. Although I tried to consider the harassment flattering, I just couldn’t help but feel violated. I was always nervous that one of them would actually make a move to touch me, and I constantly felt uncomfortable, as if it were my fault that the boys reacted in such ways. Even when we ignored the boys, they still wouldn’t leave us alone. We would have to hide in a store or quickly find a place to escape so they would no longer follow us. Often times we would have to call some of our close guy friends as a means for protection. This is simply not fair. Turkish women, all women in general, should not have their freedoms violated in this way.
Women should be able to dress however they please; whichever way is most comfortable for them and not have to worry about being harassed for doing so. They should be able to go wherever they’d like without worrying about getting unwanted attention. This behavior from men is absolutely unacceptable. Why is this happening?
I was once shouting at a guy who’d followed me for 30 minutes in his car insisting I gave him my phone number & a pair oof oldish Turkish gentlemen stepped in to demonstrate they would happily use their fishing rods to teach him a lesson! It was very sweet but unfortunately equally worrying when they then insisted they must give me a lift home in their fisherman van! Eventually they accepted I’d call the police if I had any further difficulties with the man but to be fair I’ve not had great experience with them either – young females are have really no options in Istanbul in my opinion!
I was followed by a guy who just started staring at me on the ship. When I got down he was walking in front of me but still looking back. When I stopped he stopped and waited for me. I understood this and I got a bit scared, he looked quite crazy. It was afternoon and a lot of people on the street in Kadıköy I tried to get rid of him. I turned back from a corner and I let him go ahead. İ asked few guys about some shop and I wanted to continue my way, sure that the man has gone. Surprise! he was waiting at the corner. İ screamed at him: “What do you want?” and suddenly 3 guys from the shops came: “do you have any problem abla?” İ explained the situation and they went after him; the guy ran away. They were feeling very proud that they protected me: “Don’t worry, they said, he will not come back anymore.” I felt really good and it is not for the first time when I encountered the kindness of strangers here. After a while I saw the man again, in the boat, he stared again but he was with his wife and kids.
I am living in Kadikoy, and I want to help other women avoid some of the uncomfortable situations that I’ve experienced. Thank goodness I speak Turkish, because the other day I was stalked on my way to class by a man who shouted at me and followed me for blocks. Luckily, I was able to ask a random couple on the street for help and they took me to the police station. When the man realized that I was being helped by them and that I spoke Turkish, he ran off, but it was a scary experience.
In the early days of living here in Istanbul 3 years ago, I was walking back to my vacation rental apartment next to the Sokullu Camii one evening, around 7pm. It was winter, so it was dark already and I was only 100 meters or so from my front door. Two young men, in their 20s, came out of nowhere and started asking in broken English where I was from. I kept walking, quickening my pace. 95 meters, 92 meters, almost to the front door. They began shoving me against walls as we walked, hissing “Do you want to fuck a Turkish guy?” I kept walking and they kept shoving. They never pinned me against the wall luckily, they just seemed to find it satisfying enough to scare and demean me. I wanted to run, but I felt like it would only take their game to the next level. Somehow, I endured it long enough to get to my door, quickly slip my key in and slam it behind me before they could follow. Once in my apartment,I turned all the lights on. The possibility of what could be lurking in dark corners had me rattled all night. I was even afraid that those boys knew where I lived. Thankfully, it was only a short term rental.
First of all I would like to thank everyone who is fighting for women’s rights, and because I believe such movements are important and beneficial to all of us, I wanted to participate by sharing my story. Last year, after a tiring shopping spree, I was sitting at the Eminönü square, watching the sea. A middle aged guy sitting opposite of me was eyeing me, smirking and winking. As I was uncomfortable, I changed my seat but he somehow found a seat across from me again and continued making me uncomfortable with his gestures. I was fed up, and decided to leave although I wanted to enjoy the scenery still. The guy, seeing me get up, was alarmed at what I might do. I started walking rapidly and when I turned to look back after making my way, I saw that he was running after me. Panicked, I got into the first cab I saw.
Although what I’ve been through might not be a very bad story, I couldn’t do something as simple as enjoy the sea because of this man. And I was very frightened because I didn’t know how dangerous the situation could become.