Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘International Women’s Day’

Elif Safak’s Women

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 10th March, 2013

Elif SafakInternational Women’s Day fell during the Liberal Democrats Brighton Conference and among several events pegged to the occasion was a fringe meeting with the Turkish writer Elif Safak, which was put on by Liberal Democrat Friends of Turkey. Elif won many friends among London Liberal Democrats when she spoke at our autumn conference in Croydon in October, when she read from her latest novel. This time, she spoke of the two women who had made a big impression on her in her childhood: her mother, a Westernised, free-thinking woman who went on to do university studies; and the grandmother who subsequently raised Elif — a much more conservative, irrational, superstitious woman. In a sense the two personified different aspects of Turkey, an immensely complex and changing society. In principle the theme of the Brighton Conference fringe meeting was women and post-feminism in the Muslim world, which is a subject that fell within Elif’s own postgraduate studies, as well as the sort of thing I teach at SOAS in the summer term. But as usual with her much of what she talked abut was autobiographical, weaving into the story both considerations of the multilayered aspects of self as well as elements of Turkey’s Ottoman past, in which there was far greater diversity than is acknowledged today and there was an indigenous women’s movement. We should also not forget that Turkey gave women the right to vote before France did, for example. And women fill high positions in all sorts of sectors in the labour force. And yet much of Turkish society, whether ethnic Turk, Kurdish or Armenian, remains patriarchal and there are still occasional so-called honour killings, often involving brothers killing sisters who have formed a romantic relationship with someone deemed unsuitable or, worse still,who have lost their virginity. Such contradictions in a country that has an enviable growth rate and is making its mark in the modern world are part of Turkey’s fascination, of course, and will provide Elif with many more themes for her novels. Liberal Democrat Friends of Turkey, meanwhile, is playing a crucial role in reaching out to the extensive Turkish, Kurdish and Turkish Cypriot community in Britain, much of that based in London.


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No Woman’s Land

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 9th March, 2012

To celebrate International Women’s Day and highlight the dangers faced by female journalists, Thomson Reuters hosted a panel discussion at its Canary Wharf headquarters this (Thursday) evening, chaired by my former BBC colleague Lyse Doucet, on behalf of the International News Safety Institute (INSI).The event also served as a book launch for No Woman’s Land, an illustrated collection of essays by women correspondents who have served on the frontline (including Lyse), with a foreword by Lara Logan, the American journalist who was sexually assaulted in Tahrir Square during last year’s tumultuous uprising in Egypt. Before the discussion — which was televised and streamed online — we participants stood in silence as the rollcall of women journalists who had been killed over the past decade was displayed on the screen. Many perished in Iraq and other parts of the Middle East, but other fatal zones included Russia, Mexico and the Philippines. In all, over 1,000 journalists — male and female — have been killed since 2001, 174 last year alone. These days, journalists are often specifically targetted — as happened in Homs in Syria recently, the veteran war correspondent Marie Colvin being one of the casualties. Moreover, as several members of the panel and audience testified, women reporters increasingly find themselves the subject of sexual harrassment as well as intimidation. Yet this evening was by no means one of total gloom, as several female correspondents argued that their sex had not usually been any impediment to being given challenging assignments. And as Lyse Doucet said, while we must remember the fallen, today was also a celebration of the way women have established themselves more forcefully within the labour force and life in general, even if there is still a long way to go in some areas.

The book No Woman’s Land is available through priced £20. Proceeds will fund INSI’s safety training for women working in the media

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