Mersin Province, Turkey

Turkish Village Women Say No Water, No Sex

September 12, 2008 04:53 PM
by Anne Szustek
The perceived laziness of local men in getting water to a Turkish Mediterranean village has inspired their wives to deny them access to another staple of human life.

Kica Women Reward Inaction with No ‘Action’

Women in Kica village, located near the Mediterranean town of Silifke in Turkey’s Mersin Province, have had enough of carrying water in tanks and water cans from a source located some eight miles away.

“Our water used to flow abundantly. But now, as you see, even the main fountain in the village square has dried up,” the Turkish Daily News quoted the women as saying.

The duty of carrying water ultimately falls to women. So until men start pulling their weight around the village, women are banning their husbands from the bedroom. Osman Arslan, the administrative head of Kica village, has said the bedroom ban, which has come to be known locally as the “Pants Suit,” may spark divorces.

Arslan has arranged for a water tap to be installed about a mile and a half away from Kica.

Background: Silifke; Turkey’s water shortages

Silifke, located on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast, is named for its founder, Seleucus I Nicator, a general of Alexander the Great. Established in the 3rd century B.C., Silifke is home to several historical sights, including a Byzantine fortress, ruins of a Roman Temple of Jupiter and mosques dating back to the Seljuk period.

The water scarcity facing Silifke’s rural environs are part of a wave of water shortages across Turkey. The country’s three largest cities, Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir, have all seen their reservoirs run dry due to below-average rainfall.

Turkish capital Ankara faced several days of water cuts during the summer of 2007. Lawns went unwatered, increasing the risk of fire. Hospitals reported increases in the number of gastrointestinal disorders.

Fingerpointing ensued. Ankara Mayor Melih Gökçek accused the State Water Works of inaction regarding Ankara’s potential water problem. The government group fired back, saying that the mayor’s office was informed four years earlier that Ankara needed to shore up its water reserves, yet warnings went unheeded. Calls rang for Gökçek’s resignation. Sparking the most controversy, however, was his call to pray for rain. A member of Turkey’s ruling party, the Islamist-leaning Justice and Development Party, he said, “I want those who have the word Allah in their mouths to pray for rain, and those who do not, they may not pray at all...”

Meanwhile, Istanbul’s reservoirs were in danger of depletion the same summer. A campaign launched by local environmental foundation TEMA helped the city cut its average water consumption by 18 million tons between July and September 2007. But, according to Turkish columnist Cengiz Aktar, water shortages were again a concern this year due to bureaucratic bungling in the winter of 2007–08.

This past summer, Izmir’s three primary reservoirs, Tahtali, Ürkmez and Balçova, were at critically low levels—at 7.3, 1.85 and 6.87 percent of capacity, respectively. Compounding the water shortage was the detection of arsenic in Izmir’s drinking water.

Historical Context: Withholding sex for peace

The ploy worked for the ancient Greeks, at least on stage: in Aristophanies play, Lysistrata, the women withhold sex so the men stop going to war. “Lysistrata then reveals her plan: The women shall refuse all marital relations until Sparta and Athens make peace.

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