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Demand for women-only buses in Istanbul

Demands for women-only buses indicate a deeper debate about Islamization of Turkish public space.
A woman wearing a traditional head-scarf smokes a cigarette inside a damaged bus used by anti-government protesters as a barricade in Istanbul's Taksim square June 10, 2013. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis (TURKEY - Tags: CIVIL UNREST POLITICS) - RTX10IVP

I met Zehra in Istanbul during the summer of 2012. She was working as a waitress at the café I frequented at Taksim. Always with a big polite smile, Zehra answered my endless questions about how to move around in Istanbul. She would explain to me which ferries to take, which streets are shortcuts, and which buses to avoid. She was what every woman would want to have in a city like Istanbul: a shrewd native of the city who knows the “nooks and crooks” of town. I will never forget the time she pulled her Taser gun from her purse and said, “I only use this when I’m groped.”

Sexual harassment on the streets of Istanbul is anything but the “norm.” When Allyson Neel reported the situation from Istanbul in January 2013, Elif, a young single woman working as an assistant to a prominent politician, criticized the piece as orientalist and commented on Twitter that the situation in Istanbul is nowhere comparable to that of India. I had a rather intense exchange with Elif. She was adamant that if you acted properly no men would harass you.

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