186. Today in 1920s Turkey: 12 January 1924 (Nation Survives Removal of Public Transit Curtains)
(Column, Karagöz, 12 January 1924, no. 1651, page 4.)
Kalktı da ne oldu, kıyamet mi koptu!
Medeniyet dünyası gazetelerimize baksa şaşıracak, alıklaşacak , onlar biz Cumhuriyet ilan ettik deyince artık Türkler medeniyeti, siyaseti bütün manasıyla anladılar demişlerdi. Fakat şimdi öyle işler çıkarıyoruz ki Avrupalılar da mana veremiyorlar. Mesela İstanbul tramvaylarında kadınla erkek arasındaki perde kalktı diye yazılar yazıyoruz. Sanki mühim bir şeymiş gibi! Sonra millet meclisinde bir hoca efendinin:
-- Herkes Cuma günü gusül abdesti alsın!
diye telkin verdiğini işitiyoruz. Bunlar ne haltlardır, anlayamıyoruz vesselam! “Din” ile “Dünya” işlerinin ayrı gayrı şeyler olduğunu hala kestiremedik! Sanki tepemizde bir pençe varmış gibi düşünüyoruz. Ve bir şey yaparken etrafı kolluyoruz. Neden! Niçin! Tramvaylardan perdeler kalktı, ne oldu, kıyamet mi koptu! İşte hurafeye , manasız ve budalaca telkinlere kapılan ma’sum halkımız anladı ki perdeler kalkmakla namus da kalkmadı. Ve esasen namusu zayıf olanın namusunu siz perde altına, çember içine soksanız da yine kalkar. Fakat kötü bir adet ortadan kalktı. Bizde böyle manasız, saçma, pis bir görenek mahsulu daha ne kadar şeyler vardır. Ve emin olalım ki bunların hiç birisinin “din” ile alakası yoktur. Tramvay perdelerinin din ile alakası var mıdır? Olsaydı Hindistan’da, Mısır’da, Java’da, Tunus’da, hatta İzmir’de bütün Müslüman memleketlerinin tramvaylarında perde olması lazımdı. Hiç birinde yoktur. Bütün Müslümanlar İstanbul’da mı? Eski kafa üzerine buluttan nem kapan, açılmaktan huylanan, medeniyetten kuşkulanan sersemler için ibret olsun. Perdeler kalktı, fakat kıyamet kopmadı! Zaten bu kafadakiler kıyametin kopmasını bekleye bekleye kıyameti yalnız kendi başlarında koparırlar!
What happened when it was removed, did the world end!
If the civilized world looked at our newspapers they would be baffled, stupefied; when we declared the Republic they had said that Turks have now completely understood the meaning of civilization and politics. But now we create such difficulties that even Europeans cannot make sense of it. For instance we keep writing about how the curtains between women and men have been removed in Istanbul’s trams. As if it is an important thing! Then in the national assembly we hear of a hodja’s suggesting that:
-- Everyone should perform full-body ritual ablution on Fridays!
What’s the deal with these, we don’t know, that’s all! We still haven’t been able to perceive that “religious” and “worldly” affairs are separate things! We think as if there is a claw above us. And we lookout when we do something. Why! For what reason! The curtains in the trolleys are removed, what happened, was it the end of the world! Now, our innocent people, who are highly susceptible to meaningless and foolish suggestions, understand that removing the curtains, does not remove honor. And even if you try to put a truly dishonorable person behind a curtain or in a circle, it will (find a way to) emerge. But (now) a bad custom has been abolished. Yet with us, (who knows) how many more things are there that are the products of meaningless, ridiculous, and nasty customs. And let us be sure that none of these have any relation to “religion.” Do trolley curtains have anything to do with religion? If they do, then there should be curtains in the trolleys of all the Muslim countries, in India, Egypt, Java, Tunisia, and even in Izmir. Yet they are in none of them. Are all the Muslims only in Istanbul? Let this be a lesson to those idiots who are thin-skinned, averse to opening up, or suspicious of civilization. The curtains have been removed but the End of Times did not come! By constantly wishing for the Apocalypse, people who think like this have actually only caused an End of Times on themselves!
A motion to remove the curtains that segregated passengers by gender on public transportation vehicles caused some outrage in Istanbul in December 1923. Newspapers articles, columns, and even cartoons reflected the debate surrounding the ban, defending the position of their removal against the criticisms of its opponents. Comical reasons like the notion that mixed-gender transportation will displease God and prematurely bring about the Apocalypse are often repeated in these pieces to draw reader’s attention to the irrational logic of its detractors, who were usually of a religious leaning. In return, rational reasons for the removal of the curtains are enumerated such as the fact that there are Muslim societies who already don’t use curtains on their trolleys and that has not, yet, drawn the scorn of God… so why start with Istanbul? But on a practical note, they also assert that curtains do not make a community virtuous and cannot prevent bad behavior (however those parameters may be defined).
1920s Turkey has covered other newspaper content that considers the abolition of the curtains. A week prior, Karagöz, the same publication from which the present column hails, ran a column about several absurd parliamentary proposals floated by various national representatives. In this rant, the author mentions that some representatives are voicing concerns over Istanbul’s curtain ban at the national assembly and asserts that there are more important issues to be attending to at the national level. Likewise, a cartoon from early January published in Zümrüdü Anka plays on the belief that bad weather is a sign of God’s wrath to suggest that current bad weather conditions are alluding to God’s disapproval of the recent removal of curtains in Istanbul’s public transport vehicles.