The following interview is not new, but it is quite relevant to current events, especially given the Swiss minaret ban and the recent OSCE roundtable on gender equality and violence against women. It appeared in the Austrian newspaper Die Presse on April 24, 2008, and has been translated by JLH:
Forced Marriage: Do Not Be Silent
German-Turkish author Seyran Ates accuses society of hiding problems like forced marriage and honor killing, because it is afraid of appearing hostile to foreigners.
Die Presse: You see multiculturalism as organized irresponsibility. Are we too good to immigrants. Seyran Ates: That doesn’t mean that we should treat them worse. I don’t think that we treat them too well, either. What I mean is that there are people who think of themselves as good, because they think of foreigners as good. And they won’t say that something is wrong, because they do not look closely to see how things really are for people. Presse: Politically correct, but ignorant? Ates: In parallel societies, it is the women and children who suffer the most. When a multiculturalist says, leave them to themselves, that is giving support to patriarchal structures, which are (therefore) maintained and are not questioned. Presse: Is being a do-gooder [Gutmensch] a bad thing? Ates: I want to be a good person, too, naturally. But there are people who believe they are the sole proprietors of “Being Good.” I am more likely to think of myself as a good person, than them. Presse: Is harshness toward immigrants better for coexistence?
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Ates: What is needed is not so much harshness as openness, clarity and honesty. We must look at what is happening in these communities, and whether it is compatible with our constitution and values. In exactly the same way, we must look at the Austrian, German, European side, to see how we deal with minorities. It will not do to be outwardly friendly and then discriminate legally and socially. Presse: The Netherlands were often mentioned as a model. The multicultural society there has come apart. Ates: The multicultural society there was glorified and it was said that everything functioned wonderfully. But most of the do-gooders (who say this) don’t know a single foreigner or people from a different culture. Presse: So, were the right-wing populists right ten years ago? Ates: Absolutely not. They used the subject for their own purposes. I also reproach the left and liberal do-gooders for that. We are playing into the hands of the right-wing populists, when we do not speak about forced marriage, honor killing and domestic violence, because it could be perceived as hostile to foreigners. Presse: You write that Turkish babies are aborted if they are girls, in Europe as well, but you offer no evidence. Ates: Tell me, who is going to admit that? You talk to doctors, but what doctor can talk about that? Presse: So you have to let that [the lack of evidence] be an unanswerable argument? Ates: I report on things that I hear. And unfortunately, I am correct. In 1983 I first spoke about forced marriage. Then, too, there was no proof. In the meantime, it has been accepted that this happens in Austria as well. It has long been said that genital mutilation does not take place here. But now there are examples of doctors who perform it. Presse: In the big picture, however, it [abortion of girl children] is a dwindling minority. Ates: I don’t accept that characterization. Every single [aborted] child is one child too many. Presse: You are holding all other immigrants hostage. Ates: Here again, the do-gooders have caused this with their unanswerable argument. They should offer some ideas on how to prevent this. If you say that everything is an “isolated incident,” it changes nothing for women, girls and children. Presse: Well, where is the great outcry from Muslim women? Ates: How many women dare to say publicly that they are wearing the hijab unwillingly? In the 1970s, Alice Schwarzer began the project “I Aborted.” How long did it take before women could admit that? Why is the standard different for Muslim women? Why does one expect that they can suddenly speak freely? Presse: But there are, in fact, many women who wear it willingly. Ates: That is what you say. An assertion that you can’t prove. Presse: I have spoken with many of them. Ates: Have you asked: if a school-age child must wear a hijab, can she take it off when she is a grown woman? And why should the child tell you she isn’t wearing it because she wants to? Presse: Many wear it as a protest against their parents or the assumptions of the majority population. Ares: With that, you prove my contention that it is a political provocation. I would rather women emancipated themselves in other ways. Presse: Is it helpful that many watch exclusively Turkish TV by satellite? Ates: It is a preconception that people are exposed only to the old traditions in television programs from home. On Turkish television they see treatment of the subjects of honor killing, domestic violence, and forced marriage. Presse: Is Turkey further along with these themes than we are? Ates: Yes. There, it isn’t hushed up with disguised indifference.
Seyran Ates, born April 20, 1963, is a lawyer and author living in Berlin. In her book, “The Multi-Culti Mistake,” she reports on experiences with women clients who were pushed or dragged into marriage. During her work at a counseling service in 1984, she was shot and severely wounded.