Turkey Watch

Watching the Turkish nail being put into Europian coffin.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Polygamy a holdover in Turkey

From Chron.com

ISIKLAR, TURKEY - With his five wives, 55 children and 80 grandchildren, 400 sheep, 1,200 acres of land and a small army of servants, Aga Mehmet Arslan would seem an unlikely defender of monogamy.

Yet if he were young again, said Arslan, a sprightly, potbellied, 64-year-old Kurdish village chieftain, he would happily trade in his five wives for one.

"Marrying five wives is not sinful, and I did so because to have many wives is a sign of power," he said, perched on a divan in a large cushion-filled room at his house, where a portrait of Turkey's first president, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who outlawed polygamy in 1926, is prominently displayed. "But I wouldn't do it again."

Banned by Ataturk as part of an effort to modernize the Turkish republic and empower women, polygamy remains widespread in this religious and rural Kurdish region of southeastern Anatolia, home to one-third of Turkey's 71 million people.

The practice is generally accepted under the Quran.

Polygamy is creating cultural clashes in a country struggling to reconcile the secularism of the republic with its Muslim traditions. It also risks undermining Turkey's drive to gain entry into the European Union.

"The EU is looking for any excuse not to let Turkey in, and polygamy reinforces the stereotype of Turkey as a backward country," said Handan Coskun, director of a women's center.

Because polygamous marriages are not recognized by the state — imams who conduct them are subject to punishment — the wives have no legal status, making them vulnerable when marriages turn violent.

Two years ago, Prime Minister Tayyip Recep Erdogan tried to attack polygamy by criminalizing adultery, after prominent members of his Justice and Development Party were rumored to have taken second wives.

Even though the EU condemns polygamy, it criticized him for intervening in the nation's bedrooms, leading him to back down.

In Turkey, polygamy experts explain the practice as a hangover from the Ottoman period's harem culture.

Remzi Otto, a sociology professor at Dicle University in Diyarbakir, who conducted a survey of 50 polygamous families, said some men took second wives if their first wives could not conceive sons. Some also take widows and orphan girls as second wives to give them a social safety net.


Post a Comment

<< Home