Anne’s Story: “My instincts are always to fight”

Recently I have been staying in my studio in Karaköy. This is an industrial area which is deserted at night. We are directly next to the Turkish Central Bank–which has installed surveillance cameras every 3 meters along the length of our street. Usually I do not come home late or walk home alone. However, last night I did.

There are no neighbors in this area save a tekel and a hamam and a few squatters (male and female), and this emptiness make it a good spot for all sorts of shady activity.

Last night I turned onto my street and a block into it, a relatively large, bearded guy with a muslim cap came JOGGING (in a black track suit) from the direction of the nearby mosque. I remarked to myself that it was 1.) weird to see someone jogging in the middle of the night in an abandoned neighborhood and 2.) strange to see a obviously religious man in a track suit jogging.

He ran past me and came going up the road. We did not make eye contact, we did not acknowledge each other, and he continued on up the road. I continued walking in the same direction as he was going, as it seemed like he planned to just run on up ahead of me. I walked another block and realized he started slowing down. When I reached a spot about 5 meters from my building, he turned around and charged me!

I felt at the time that this action was just an afterthought. Like he told himself, “Well, I WAS just out for a jog, but since this woman is in the vicinity, I might as well cop a feel!” I really don’t think he had planned to harrass me, but couldn’t help himself because he saw an opportunity.

When I saw him coming toward me ( I was slightly downhill from him) I yelled at the top of my lungs, “IMDAT!!!” and sort of kicked/tripped him. He just grabbed my ass with both hands and kept running back in the direction from which he originally came (from the mosque). I continued to yell for the tekel–who I know by name, and also threw in random names to make him think there were other men around who knew me.

He just kept running away and I was yelling at him in Turkish that he was a horrible man and that Allah was going to damn him to hell. I don’t know why i did that–I wasn’t really thinking, but going on instinct. My instincts are always to fight, which I find has (by luck alone) come in helpful on numerous occasions in Istanbul. Anyway, halfway down the block he turned around and shrugged his shoulders and ran off again.

He did not see where I went in because he was already around the block. I also did not recognize him as someone who works in the neighborhood. Then I got this feeling that he did not really understand me when I was yelling at him and that perhaps we was not Turkish at all.

I do not want to stereotype or profile anyone, but I have to say that he did not look Turkish. Also, I think it would be extremely strange for a turkish guy to be jogging! There are numerous hotels in the area which cater to Arab tourists, and it dawned on me that he could perhaps be an Arab tourist, out for a jog (in a black long sleeved track suit) around his hotel, he saw a woman, and thought he should grab her. the only reason I mention this idea is that it helped me feel more safe that he was not going to come back and/or was not targeting me specifically.

However, this MUST stop. Tomorrow I will go with one of the men who works in the neighborhood (a religious muslim man) to talk with the imam of the mosque and just let him know that this happened and whether or not the guy was coming from there (who knows–it could have BEEN the imam) that he needs to alert the men in his congregation that this sort of behavior is disrespectful and unacceptable. I don’t think it matters if the guy was a tourist or a member of his mosque–he has a responsibility to send a message that we will fight these backward ideas.

And no, I did not call the police. In my experience in Istanbul that is absolutely the worst idea. they would start by blaming me for walking alone. Then they would ask me where my husband is. then they would criticize me for living in this neighborhood. Then they would do nothing. It is totally not worth it. The only thing they would be good for is for going to the Central Bank to ask them to see their camera footage from last night. And then what? Turkish police alternate being being completely useless and being completely violent.