Handicapped in Turkey Gain A New Voice

Caption: I know the value of my vote. Because I'm an active citizen.

An interview with Şafak Pavey, newly elected CHP member of parliament representing Istanbul. Pavey, former head of the Secretariat for the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) at the United Nations Human Rights Office, is herself handicapped (see here). Click here for the full article.

It gives Şafak Pavey goosebumps to talk about it: the thousands of disabled children in Turkey who live hidden from view, out of sight of neighbors, of guests, of the community.

“When I visit very poor houses in areas in Istanbul, or the Black sea or Izmir,” said Pavey, 34, a newly-elected member of Turkey’s parliament from the country’s main opposition party, who lost her left arm and leg in a train accident, “in every other house, there is a disabled kid hidden in the back garden. If I stay for long enough, for an hour or two, they come out.”

According to a 2002 government study, an estimated 8.5 million disabled people live in Turkey, at the time nearly 13 percent of the population, which has since grown to 79 million people. But walking around a major city like Istanbul, one would never know. The disabled are kept sequestered at home, a source of shame for the family. And how could someone with physical challenges navigate such a city anyway, with its steep hills, busted-up sidewalks and crowded, cobblestone streets?…

10 Responses to “Handicapped in Turkey Gain A New Voice”

  1. Perhaps the magic cure that her fellow party member Mehmet Haberal will do doubt use to regain his health to work in the parliament can be applied to get rid of other people’s disabilities also?

  2. From TFA:

    According to a 2002 government study, an estimated 8.5 million disabled people live in Turkey, at the time nearly 13 percent of the population, which has since grown to 79 million people. But walking around a major city like Istanbul, one would never know. The disabled are kept sequestered at home, a source of shame for the family. And how could someone with physical challenges navigate such a city anyway, with its steep hills, busted-up sidewalks and crowded, cobblestone streets?

     
    About the sentence I highlighted: Can anyone confirm this that we “sequester” the disabled? I certainly cannot.
     
    I just re-checked who the author was: “Anna Louie Sussman is a New York-based writer whose work focuses on human rights, gender, social issues, and culture. She lived in the Middle East for the last five years.”
     
    IOW, another Claire Berlinski. They both gained their respectable expertise in the short space of 5 years. They are also similar in the sense that Ms Berlinski –while living right in the middle of Istanbul– makes sweeping generalizations about issues/places/things she has no idea; and now we have a brave new Ms Sussman who lives/lived somewhere in Middle East for 5 years and all of a sudden have become an expert about Turkish customs..
     
    Wow!..
     
    JW, you do have a way with picking these experts –I wonder if you thought you were such an expert when you were at their age.
     
    Anyway, now about Ms Safak Pavey.. Well, yes, she is an intelligent woman. Yes, she has plenty of drive. Etc. etc.
     
    But, what she doesn’t have an iota of knowledge about the people/country she has suddenly found/slotted herself in a position to speak on behalf of.
     
    She fell in love and got married to someone called Paul Pavey at the age of 17 and moved to CH with him –incidentally, a year or two later, he abandoned her at the hospital immediately after the accident in Zurich which left her permanently physically handicapped. Ever since, (for the last 15 years) she has been living abroad –London mainly, with her mother Ayse Onal.
     
    That wouldn’t be relevant if she had spent much time outside central Istanbul, Ankara etc. But, she didn’t –she was too young anyway.
     
    So, what we have is Ms Pavey –who knows next to nothing about Turkey (she actually didn’t know she was nominated either) and has been parachuted into a deputy seat in TBMM– becoming a reference to someone (Ms Sussman, the expert journalist who’s hardly spent time in TR) who, in return, gets to be quoted by Jenny White who gets invited to places as an expert on TR..
     
    And, I sit here wondering..
     
    Was it really a slow news day?
     
    [BTW, I do have a lot of respect for Ayse Onal, her mother, who was an incredibly brave journalist as well as a staunch leftist militant in her youth. But, Safak the daughter? Nah. She is an unproven quantity AFAIC. And, the reason why the disabled shy away from her is, IMO, because her body language must be signaling as if she has just walked in from another universe.]

  3. CA,

    At this point, if an alien (I would prefer either ET or the Gremlins) promises to make some things better without using the “but this is Turkey” pretext, it has my support. By the way, were Gremlins coming from another universe or were they made in China?

    Thanks for Pavey’s background too. I had no idea.

  4. Cingoz,

    At this point, if an alien (I would prefer either ET or the Gremlins)

    You must have noticed, I did not use the word ‘alien’ and I did (not do) so deliberately.
     
    ‘Alien’ in the legal sense of the word is OK with us, they sort of blend in fine –like, e.g., Banu Alkan, Suna Yildizoglu or even Meryem Uzerli etc.– in their ghettos/niches; but, the ones that have been away for too long stand out from a mile and also take too long (if ever) to become “one of us” for the general public.

    promises to make some things better without using the “but this is Turkey” pretext, it has my support.

    You’re of course welcome to support anyone you like; indeed, Safak Pavey too seems to have been well supported.
     
    Only time will tell whether she owes that support to her celebrity status –which appears very much so ATM.
     
    Speaking of imported political celebrities, Lord knows, we’ve had many –starting with princes of Turgut Ozal all the way Mehmet Ali Bayar (leader of ‘Demokrat Turkiye Partisi’) to Mehmet Sahin– and we churn them out like hell, until they become part of the landscape which they rarely do.
     

    By the way, were Gremlins coming from another universe or were they made in China?

    No. Neither. They usually come manufactured in the West –see the above list and more.
     
    These dudes and dudettes step out of the plane with an amount of self-confidence that would more than double the per capita self-confidence of the country. They think they know everything and can make everything right overnight…
     
    That confidence stems both from their successes at the jobs they were doing back in the West (little they realize that they were pigeon-holed in those jobs and never had the kind of responsibility they would be given here) and consider everyone here inferior. After all, if they weren’t inferior, why would they go all that trouble to import him/her?..
     
    Then, after a few scandalous flops, they realize that they were brought in as window dressing by the seasoned conniving leader to put the blame on and to prove he is much better than these excitable and bright buds.
     
    I am sure Safak Pavey is also that confident –after all, she is a graduate of London School of Economics, no less. But, much like a statistic I had read years ago that TR and GR were the 2 countries which had highest numbers of Mercedes-Benz cars per capita, she’ll find that there are more than a few of them around and that certificates don’t mean much as far as political offices are concerned.
     
    Having said all this, I do hope she doesn’t get burnt out too soon; but, yes, this is Turkey.
     
    And, that is not simply a pretext; it is the unspoken reality.
     
    BTW, I wish her mother (Ayse Onal) ran. That would be something worth talking about.

  5. CA, check my posts under ‘handicapped’ for information.

  6. CA, check my posts under ‘handicapped’ for information.

    JW, please check Internet for my responses.

  7. I have looked into Ayse Onal, here’s where she’s letting Nuh Gonultas have it:
    http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=125884750825320

  8. I wish she really let him have it. Half of what she said was –I am paraphrasing– “I respect your Muslim religion.”

  9. I don’t know about Istanbul, but in Ankara somebody who is physically disabled might not be able to go even outside of his/her own home without help, not to mention that the public transportation system is not designed to serve handicapped people, thus limiting severely their movements.

    I don’t think social views on disability but the lacking infrastructure is the reason why you might not see many of them around. Yet, in downtown Ankara, you get to see a lot of disabled people begging (something that breaks my heart everytime i see it), which with the adequate help could be working.

    I don’t know this woman, but if people like her can do something about it then she is most welcome.

  10. This is one of those things only a willing government can solve; the rest of us can raise awareness. Sufficiently large apartments should, for example, have elevators and ramps. Common bus routes should be served by special buses, and so on.

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