November 1, 2006

Trying the 92-year-old academic for writing about the history of the headscarf.

The country is, unsurprisingly, Turkey, and the story of the headscarf -- as told by Muazzez Ilmiye Cig -- is sexy enough to insult the people:
Muazzez Ilmiye Cig, ... a 92-year-old academic who specializes in Sumerian culture and history, went on trial on charges that she “insulted the people” and incited hatred in a book last summer in which she wrote that the head scarf was first used in religious rites by women who worked in Sumerian temples to initiate young men in sex, in order to differentiate them from women who worked as priests. Ms. Cig, who has translated about 3,000 stone tablets and published a number of books and papers, faces a prison sentence of up to three years if convicted of all charges.
Here's an article from last February quoting her, as an expert on the Sumerian language, explaining the oldest love poem:
"They did not have sexual taboos in love," she said. "Instead, they believed that only love and passion could bring them fertility, and therefore praised pleasures."

In the agriculture-based Sumerian community, she said, lovemaking between the king and the priestess would have been seen as a way to ensure the fertility of their crops, and therefore the community's welfare, for another year.

Ms. Cig said she worked with Professor Samuel Noah Kramer in 1951, and that he had identified the tablet, among 74,000 others, during years of studies in the Istanbul museum. Their translation of this tablet also shed light on the Song of Solomon in the Old Testament, she said, because some phrases are similar to poems sung during Sumerian weddings and fertility feasts. "This filled the missing link between religious texts of the different periods," she said...

As she held the transcription of the poem, Ms. Cig smiled. "After all these years, very little has changed," she said. "There's still jealousy, unfaithfulness and sexuality in affairs of love as in the times of Sumerians. I just wished whoever has written the poem could see how popular the tablet has now become."
Having written all that, I Googled for an update and see she was acquitted today!
In a trial that lasted less than an hour, Cig rejected the charges saying: "I am a woman of science. ... I never insulted anyone," private NTV television reported.

The court ruled in her favor on grounds that her actions did not constitute a crime....

The trial against Cig was initiated by an Islamic-oriented lawyer...

13 comments:

Mark Daniels said...

Recent events in Turkey indicate that the country has a decided desire to, at the least, be acceptable to western society. No doubt part of the motivation is entry into the EU, a Turkish project for about twenty-five years now.

Several of my friends and acquaintances have visited Turkey within the past few months. One couple went there some three months ago and reported that many Turks were at pains to tell them how much they loved the Americans...and their tourist dollars. More recently, a colleague who has visited Turkey many times--and written several books about the country, visited again and reported that there was more tension, more fear created by radical Islamic elements, than has been present before.

A real battle over whether Turkey will be a pluralistic democracy or a radical Islamic state is bubbling below the surface. Orhan Pamuk's recent acquittal, along with that of Muazzez Ilmiye Cig, indicate that progressive forces are working to tip Turkey toward the democratic vision.

My mother-in-law visited Turkey, spending a lot of time in Ephesus, last year. She has traveled all over the world over the past seven years or so. She says that there is no place more beautiful or interesting than Turkey.

Mark

Ann Althouse said...

They have the problem of bad laws on the books exacerbated by the bad procedure of allowing lawyers initiate prosecutions

MadisonMan said...

the bad procedure of allowing lawyers initiate prosecutions

That's what struck me about the article. Imagine if that were the case in the USA! One half of congress would continually be prosecuting the other half. As it is, we only have to put up with DAs pursuing nonsense in their quest to be elected.

Anyone know the history behind this custom in Turkey? I assume it has something to do with do-nothing judges/Distric Attys.

George said...

Enter the Shrine of Inanna, O Unbeliever!

http://inanna.virtualave.net/inanna.html

Behold!

Lament for the Flutes of Tammuz!

Her lament is the lament for the corn that grows not in the ear.

Hymn from Inanna to Tammuz!

My honey-man, my honey-man sweetens me always.
My lord, the honey-man of the gods,
He is the one my womb loves best.
His hand is honey, his foot is honey,
He sweetens me always.

My eager impetuous caresser of the navel,
My caresser of the soft thighs,
He is the one my womb loves best,
He is lettuce planted by the water.

I think Inanna must have been the Poke Salad Annie of Ashurbanipul.

Goesh said...

The trial against Cig was initiated by an Islamic-oriented lawyer.. I would have never guessed

Dave said...

To add to Mark Daniels' comments: my ex wife is half Turkish and as a consequence I spent some time in Istanbul, Izmir (Turkey's third-largest city and home to one of the largest NATO bases), and Cesme (a town on the Aegean sea opposite from the Greek Islands and a an hour's drive from Izmir.

Cesme is a resort town not much unlike the south of France or the Greek islands (including nude bathers). Izmir is a humid industrial town. And Istanbul, of course, is a huge, cosmopolitan city replete with the requisite Eurotrash and American tourists, thriving night life, high end world cuisine, and more fashion boutiques than any city save Paris or Milan.

A lot of the press reports we Americans hear about the politicization of Islam in Turkey comes from Turkey's religious leaders, not its wealthier and well-educated business community. If America and Europe want to stanch the threat of radical Islam they would do well to consider the benefits that Turkey's engagement with the West brings.

Too much attention is focused on the words of religious leaders and too little is focused on the degree to which parts of Turkey have become integrated with the West. Turkey's real challenge is to bring its agrarian Anatolian frontier (which area includes its capital, Ankara) to the twentieth century (forget about the twenty-first). The more help that Europe and America can provide in that regard, perhaps by pressing for reforms that allow for the creation of wealth (see Hernando de Soto's theories about peasants holding title to property) the better.

Fenrisulven said...

Mark, my limited interaction with Turks indicated they are deeply frustrated with the "cold shoulder" Europe keeps giving them. Does that dovetail with any of your friends experiences?

JohnF said...

This contains good advice on one way to convince my wife that there is a better technique to insure that her gardens will flourish. The wisdom of the ages!

ignacio said...

There's a lot of good poetry devoted to Inanna; however, I do not associate Sumer so much with Turkey as with the Tigris-Euphrates River valley ((Babylon, Ur, Assyria, and now Iraq).

Tarkan is a great singer and his album "Karma" rubs in that he is Istanbul's answer to Prince (back when he was still Prince).

A good friend of mine who lived in Beirut for quite a while and has traveled extensively in the region said to me the other day that Istanbul is beautiful but that Turks are somewhat cold. He went on to say that Turkish Kurdistan is as bad an area as the Gaza Strip.

I read a biography of Mustapha Kemal (Ataturk) many years ago and recommend this to anyone interested in understanding the Middle East.

PatCA said...

But Dave, until the secular Turks use the apparatus of the state to destroy the political will of Islamism, it will remain a danger, not just a harmless minority subculture.

And if there is any movement that could use a little relaxation of sexual mores, it's the "Islamist-oriented" movement! I am waiting, waiting for Western feminist theorists to analyze the crippling misogyny and sexual repression of this once vibrant culture...

Until then, I salute the valorous Ms. Cig.

Mark Daniels said...

Fenrisulven:
Yes, the observations I hear, including those of a young man now in a doctoral programming focused on Turkish history, indicate that the Turks are very frustrated they appear to be getting from Europe. My feeling is that, especially with Iran and an unstable Iraq so close by, the Turks need to be helped with integrating into Europe and the West. Turkey is an example of how democracy can take root in Islamic soil, but it's far from a done deal.

Dave:
Great insights!

Mark

Mark Daniels said...

Let me try translating what I just wrote into the English language...

Fenrisulven:
Yes, the observations I hear, including those of a young man enrolled in a doctoral program focused on Turkish history, indicate that the Turks are very frustrated by the cold shoulder they appear to be getting from Europe. My feeling is that, especially with Iran and an unstable Iraq so close by, the Turks need to be helped with integrating into Europe and the West. Turkey is an example of how democracy can take root in Islamic soil, but it's far from a done deal.

Dave:
Great insights!

Mark

Harry Eagar said...

Turkey is an army dictatorship masquerading as a democracy.

To join Europe, Turkey will have to become more democratic. That is, the army will have to give up its veto.

If Turkey becomes democratic it will become Islamic. Ataturk figured out how to get on the tiger, but not how to get off.