Istanbul’s brothels are crammed in some side streets just up from the Galata Bridge in Karakoy. They are legal and entry is controlled by police. Only women registered as prostitutes and male customers may enter. Now two of the brothels will be closed down by the city, according to an article in today’s Milliyet newspaper (click here). It’s unclear what will happen to the many others or what the reason is, since the brothels are legal. They will be replaced by public parks. The decision was made by the Monuments Council on the basis of a law requiring that settled areas must meet suitable health and environmental conditions.
What caught my attention in the article is the persistent repeated reference (much more than called for by the content of the article) to the fact that one of the brothels to be closed is right next to the Surp Pirgic Armenian Church. Close by, the article points out, is the Saint-Benoit school [a French private high school hundreds of years old) and a synagogue. It also mentions the names of two women who own a number of the brothel houses, one of them “Matild Manukyan of Armenian heritage”.
It’s odd that the brothel area would have been allowed for so many decades in close proximity to a church, a synagogue and a Christian school. I would have liked to read in the article something about the history of that area. When was the area formally declared a red-light district? And why there? I suppose the news about replacing at least two of the brothels with a park is good news for the neighbors, although in good Turkish conspiracy-theory fashion, I wonder what is behind the move. Is AKP moving against brothels? If so, why close only two of dozens? Will they be moved elsewhere? Is AKP reaching out to non-Muslim minorities by improving their urban habitat? It is clear, though, by its overemphasis on non-Muslim minorities in the article, that Milliyet was out to smear Jews, Christians and Armenians by associating them with prostitution.