This is horrible news.
Seyran Ates, lawyer, writer, and human rights activist was attacked at the beginning of June…by the screaming husband of one of her clients. “You whore”, the man shouted. “What ideas have you been putting into my wife’s head?” No one intervened when Mehmet O. lashed out at Ates, her client and another woman. Now Ates is facing the consequences. She has handed in her law licence and also her membership of the women’s rights organisation Terre de femmes. “This acutely threatening situation has brought home to me once more how dangerous my work as a lawyer is, and how little protection I have had and have as an individual,” Ates explains.
Great. The bullies win, the human rights activists lose. Spiffy.
The “ideas” to which the jealous husband was referring form part of the biographical adventures that bind the writer Seyran Ates with her colleagues Necla Kelek, Serap Cileli and Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Long before she used the term “feminism” to describe the thing that so preoccupied her, she had had an urge for freedom that was nothing less than a small miracle. Who can explain why of all the girls from Anatolia who headed off to the Eldorado of Germany with their mothers and fathers, this one would decide to throw overboard everything she knew and had learned? Suddenly becoming appalled by things that had been utterly normal for generations – boys’ circumcision and wedding nights with blood-soaked sheets which were endured by all involved with fear and horror, beatings, sadistic excesses, forced marriages, humiliations and bad jokes? How does individuality suddenly awaken out of a collective?
How indeed. A question I’ve been pondering for a long time. What does it take for people to push away the carapace of habituation just a little, just enough to look at things a little bit slant?
Her gratitude towards German society in which one can become a student rep, write essays and then go on to study law, even against the wishes of one’s parents, was construed by the politically correct as betrayal. “Aren’t you frightened,” Ates was asked in an interview with die Tageszeitung, “of being cited by conservative politicians as the chief witness for repressive measures?” No she was not. She answered that it was essential to think about sanctions against forced marriages, and that she had nothing against the questionnaire (compiled by the state of Baden-Württenberg for Muslims applying for German citizenship) in which 17 of the 30 questions concerned women’s rights…
It takes nerves of steel not to be frightened of that.
Ates, like her fellow fighters, gets furious with people who romanticise immigrants and are willing to pass off their brutality as a “cultural feature.” “Kreuzberg…is colourful because the Germans there are colourful; the Turkish culture there is grey. No one looks upwards. That’s where the women are who are not allowed to participate at any cost, they look out from behind the curtains. Women who sometimes don’t even know where they are, locked away.” And the Green party, which could have got the Turkish feminists on board as the “true patriots” also preferred at their “Future Congress” on September 1 to stick with female immigrants keen to talk about German racism. German courts have long passed only manslaughter sentences for honour killings – because cultural influences qualify as mitigating circumstances.
And now German courts have lost Ates. Bad, very bad.