Hey Mister, break the Chain

One billion risingI promised myself I would not get political or too opinionated when I started Love.Life.Istanbul. I wanted to keep it light-hearted and “fluffy” because there’s plenty of blogs out there of a more serious and intellectual nature.

But when I read this article this afternoon I had the urge to honor Özgecan Aslan, and at the same time, support the many women’s advocacy groups worldwide who work to stop the harassment of women; not just domestic violence, not just physical violence – but the direct and passive harassment women can endure in private and public places.

These advocacy groups, usually run by volunteers, work tirelessly to raise awareness, change public policies and speak out on the behalf of women through events and other means. It’s why events like One Billion Rising (featured in the article) should be encouraged to occur, not discouraged by officials. These groups promote a crucial message that rallies people together for the same cause, creating a ground swell of like-minded people to take action and instigate change.

As women our safety is often on our mind either consciously or sub-consciously. We’re conditioned to be mindful of what we wear, where we go, and what to avoid to stay safe. Personally, I long for a world where we reduce the need to teach women to be safe and rather, teach our men to keep us safe.

Now I admit I do wear rose-coloured glasses, but this movement needs to start from the top and filter to the grass roots levels – flooding societies worldwide.  Let women wear what they want, let us walk the streets how we like, ride public transport without the threat of inappropriate touches and let us do what we want freely and without judgement – like dance.

One Billion Rising is an international event held every February 14, coinciding with Valentine’s Day. It’s an event with a message pertinent to societies worldwide, especially Turkey where cases of “femicide” and violence features in the news on a regular basis.

In readiness for the event, women and men around the world learn choreography by Debbie Allen via YouTube and later, on February 14, they congregate in locations in their cities to dance together to the beat and lyrics of the same song (Break the Chain, by Tena Clark).

In Turkey, multiple events are held around the country and a little Turkish flavour is added to enhance the experience. After performing the choreography, participants eagerly join hands and halay (traditional line dance). This can go on for hours and at times joined by local musicians with the zurna (mizmar) and davul (drum). It’s an absolutely empowering experience – one of my favourite moments in Istanbul where I have seen hundreds of women of all ages laughing and smiling…with supportive men by their side. It’s no wonder the event continues to grow in numbers with more men participating.

One Billion Rising, Besiktas, 2014. Photo Love.Life.Istanbul

One Billion Rising, Besiktas, 2014. Photo Love.Life.Istanbul

This year, the event coincided with the tragic news of Özgecan Aslan’s murder in Mersin, southern Turkey. Özgecan, an innocent 20-year-old-woman so heinously taken from those who love her, would have been in the hearts and minds of those participating in One Billion Rising around the country.

Without knowledge of the intention of One Billion Rising, you could agree with the President’s comments in the article. How could anyone dance at such a tragic time on that day of mourning? To that I say: Before judging, read the lyrics of Break the Chain – the song the world dances to for One Billion Rising. Surely the song speaks the words we all seek to achieve for a safer world, and surely, knowing the importance of these words, you would take our hand, dance, “rise up” and “break the chain” too setting a standard for others to follow so no family has to experience the pain that the Aslan family are experiencing today.

Lyrics to Break the Chain (listen here)

I raise my arms to the sky

On my knees I pray

I’m not afraid anymore

I will walk through that door

Walk, dance, rise

Walk, dance, rise

 

I can see a world where we all live

Safe and free from all oppression

No more rape or incest, or abuse

Women are not a possession

 

You’ve never owned me

Don’t even know me

 I’m not invisible

I’m simply wonderful

I feel my heart for the first time racing

I feel alive

 I feel so amazing

 

I dance cause I love

Dance cause I dream

Dance cause I’ve had enough

Dance to stop the screams

Dance to break the rules

Dance to stop the pain

Dance to turn it upside down

Its time to break the chain, oh yeah

Break the Chain

Dance, rise

Dance, rise

 

In the middle of this madness we will stand

I know there is a better world

Take your sisters & your brothers by the hand

Reach out to every woman & girl

 

This is my body, my body’s holy

No more excuses, no more abuses

We are mothers, we are teachers,

We are beautiful, beautiful creatures

 

I dance cause I love

Dance cause I dream

Dance cause I’ve had enough

Dance to stop the screams

Dance to break the rules

Dance to stop the pain

Dance to turn it upside down

It’s time to break the chain, oh yeah

Break the Chain

Break the Chain

 Change can start today and it starts with all of us taking responsibility to make the world safer. Act with compassion – it’s the least we can do to honour Özgecan and the millions of women in Turkey and worldwide who have experienced or who are experiencing violence and harassment in their lives.

My heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of Özgecan Aslan.

Başınız sağ olsun

 

Break the Chain:  Produced by Eve Ensler and V-Day, directed by Tony Stroebel, written and produced by Tena Clark with music by Tena Clark and Tim Heintz, and featuring dancer and choreographer Debbie Allen.

Social media: #‎OzgecanAslan‬, #sendeanlat, #1billionrising, #rise4revolution, and @vday

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