Kareteci Kız

This got posted by a friend on Facebook and I nearly died laughing.


I enjoy the title because it sounds quite like the “Karate Kid” and I love me some Mr. Miyagi. I prefer the one with Hilary Swank, which works here since she’s a Kareteci Kız. Also, the thought of a Turkish version of the Karate Kid would probably be spectacular. It would also likely be very sad, and would end with the brutal murder of every main character.There would be  a lot of shots of Ataturk, who would be revealed at some pivotal point to have been an excellent Karate master, freshly inspiring the main character to follow through and prevail. But, like I said, he will die a cold death anyway.

After watching the clip above I was curious, so I googled the film and was brought to the IMDB page which reveals the following:

Zeynep lives with his old father. She has lost her ability to speak because of an accident. She needs an operation in order to be able to talk again. One day, five prison fugitives come to their house and kill Zeynep’s father. The fugitives take their money and attack Due to the shock, Zeynep regains her ability to speak. The fugitives are arrested but Zeynep wants to take revenge, therefore she says that the fugitives are not the ones who have attacked them. The police appoints Murat to make her give a statement. Murat teaches her how to use a gun and some karate, but she still doesn’t know he is a cop. They fall in love and decide to get married. On their wedding, the prisoners kill Murat. Nothing can stop Zeynep now from taking revenge. She becomes a policewoman and traces the fugitives one by one.

Gender confusion and comically short/incomplete sentences aside, this description is interesting. I have the following comments:

  1. Why does she need to lose the ability to speak?
  2. Under what circumstances would a presumably psychosomatic speech problem be curable through surgery?
  3. Yay extra-judicial justice!
  4. Why is a police officer teaching a crime victim how to use a gun?
  5. Why does he know karate?
  6. Of course they want to get married. Of course.
  7. What is on that guy’s face? Is this like that horrible shaved eyebrow craze? It kind of reminds me of Seneca Crane in the Hunger Games:


Right? Right?



Riding the 830 from the Bayrampaşa Otogar to Taksim Square, we pass a seedy section that branches for a few blocks between İstiklal and Tarlabaşı Streets where one can see a handful of transexual prostitutes, and a little further in the occasional semi-discreet brothel and a gay bar or two. Being gay in Turkey has got to be extremely difficult, even if one lives in Istanbul where you may find relative safety in the anonymosity of a metropolis. But, being gay anywhere else has got to be really, really difficult. Then it occurred to me, I have yet to meet one openly gay person in Turkey.

With so many openly gay friends in the States, this struck me as a sign of my own ignorance. They must be around me, right? Then I started thinking about a conversation I had with some friends.

A few days ago I was sitting in a punk-ish death-metal-ish themed beer garden (the beer was SO cheap it was worth putting up with the music) with two ex-pat friends who were complaining about the Western media’s coverage of the Muslim world. While it’s good to have friends from Turkey, I do find I learn at least as much from veteran ex-pats as my quote-un-quote native ones.

While the two bantered back and forth complaining about the poor understanding the average American journalist has for the Arabic language, I kept my mouth shut. I’m at least as linguistically ignorant as the common journalist. Their beef was this: Individuals are commonly referred to by only part of their name like ‘Ibn or Bin, which are not actually names but rather a prefix meaning “son of” and therefore a name that can not ever be used alone, think the Irish Mc. And while this isn’t an earth-shattering mistake, it shows the depths of the ignorance of not only the journalist but also the entire editing staff. Anyone with a cursory knowledge of Arabic should catch this.

This then lead to a discussion of the poor translation and explanation of the cultural context required to understand speeches from leaders in the Eastern world. Ahmadinejad’s 2007 speech at Columbia University was brought up. In his highly contested speech, Ahmadinejad declared that the Muslim world doesn’t have homosexuality like it exists in the West:

‘No homosexuals in Iran’: Ahmadinejad

(AFP) – Sep 24, 2007

NEW YORK (AFP) — Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad skirted a question about the treatment of homosexuals in Iran on Monday, saying in a speech at a top US university that there were no gays in Iran.

“In Iran we don’t have homosexuals like in your country,” Ahmadinejad said to howls and boos among the Columbia University audience.

“In Iran we do not have this phenomenon, I don’t know who has told you that we have it,” he said.

This of course led to a discussion of the differences in understanding of homosexuality in the East. That is, there is a categorical difference between a homosexual and a man who has sex with men. And, while the American Red Cross may use such terms to weed out the blood of undeclared homosexual men (recognize that question, “Have you ever had sex with a man that has had sex with men?”), I must say, there is a stark difference in this part of the world.

Apparently being on top matters. Being on the bottom matters. And while individuals in the States may make distasteful jokes about such things, here in the East, the man on top is not considered to be homosexual. There is a distinct difference between them, and n’er the two shall meet. My friend offered up this anecdote in explanation: His friend went home with a man and in the heat of things, began, well, feeling around. The other man, outraged, stormed out saying something that roughly translates to “I’m not the passive one.”

I had come across this concept once before in an article about the US military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. The article discussed Turkey and their policy, referred to by the author as, Do Ask, Must Tell. Turkey has mandatory military requirement for all men. All men. There is no such thing as conscientious objection here. Every Turkish man is required to serve five months if he has a university degree and 18 if he does not. He receives almost no money from the government either, and while Turks are enamored with their military, a significant portion doesn’t actually want to have to play soldier. For free. For a year and a half.

One way out is by declaring one’s homosexuality. Why? Because according to Selma Aliye Kayaf, the Minister for Women’s and Family Affairs, homosexuality is a “disease that needs treatment” therefore barring the “sufferer” from military service. The article also discussed that because service is so loathed, the government is astute to those who fabricate homosexuality. The author spoke to individuals who were told they must document their homosexual acts, showing themselves in photographs or video at (excuse the bluntness) the receiving end.

So, my friend argued perhaps this is what Ahmadinejad meant when he said the Arab world doesn’t have homosexuals like in our country. And, even if it’s not what he meant, that’s the reality here. I honestly can’t make heads or tails of the situation. I’m not a gay man, I’m not Turkish and like I said I unfortunately have yet to make the acquaintance of any openly gay Turks. I’m not sure what this kind of conceptualization of sexuality really means either. While some may say (rather optimistically) that it opens up a discussion about the categorization of preferences, I feel such an argument is false. The only narrative here is a heteronormative one. But it definitely made me think, that’s for sure.