Sit wherever you like, just not in these seats.
Actually, you can’t sit in the seats in the Istanbul’s central district because the municipality has removed them. Not all the seats, though. Just those that are two-person seats outside cafes, bars and restaurants.
“When we came to open up our cafe one morning a week ago, we realized some seats were missing. The municipal police had removed 12 of our two-person seats and taken them to a storage depot in Kasımpaşa without notifying us,” said Murat Kahraman, one of the owners of Bodega Kafe.
“When we went to the depot, we saw the seats were broken. We paid 70 Turkish Liras for transportation and repaired them. When I asked why only our venue had been targeted, they said they were going to do it to everyone,” Kahraman said, adding that municipal police had previously asked them to remove the seats without explaining why.
Police have been visiting other venues in the area, demanding the removal of two-person seats. The municipality’s official position is that owners are required to replace old outside tables and chairs. But when Muhammed Şimşek and Derya Göksu from Café Nero asked the police if the seats were removed to prevent couples from sitting next to each other, the police said that was “a good insight.” They were going to fight the order, while other café owners said they would comply because they didn’t want to be fined.
Regulating public behavior has ancient roots. In ancient Greece there was the Supervisors of Women, which fined disorderly women. Most notorious for its moral police in the modern world is the Taliban who routinely beat women for exposing their feet and amputated fingers for being covered with polish.
Then there is the American Yiddish newspaper, Der Tzitung. After the raid on bin Laden’s home, it, too, published the photo released by the White House of Obama and aides watching the even unfold in Pakistan. But what it published was doctored.
Here is the original photo:
And here is the photo as it appeared in Der Tzitung:
Hilary Clinton and Audrey Tomason, director of counterterrorism, are gone, wiped out for all to not see, at least those who read the ultra-Orthodox newspaper. They fixed the photo despite the directions from Washington when it was released requiring that it not be altered in any way. One rabbi wrote changing the photo the paper violated Jewish law, as it is a form of deceit. By posing as the original, the newspaper has presented a false picture of history.
For that the paper has apologized. The spokesman said that it was an oversight. They hadn’t read the fine print. And if they had, would they have printed it in its original form? No. Der Tzitung didn’t care to manipulate the historical record, only protect women.
“Because of laws of modesty, we are not allowed to publish pictures of women, and we regret if this gives an impression of disparaging women, which is certainly never our intention,” a statement from the newspaper said. “We apologize if this was seen as offensive.”
Removing outdoors two-seated tables isn’t meant as an offense against women, the Istanbul cops say; it is to protect women from the prying eyes of possible predators. And the Taliban’s enforcement of women completely covering themselves while in public is also not to be construed as anti-women, they say, but to provide females with the safety they deserve.
Couples, please—sit inside; women, please—don’t been seen in public; Clinton and Tomason—looking at your is offensive.
The cops in Istanbul, the Taliban in Afghanistan, and the publishers in Brooklyn all see themselves as good people, guardians of morality holding strong the fort from the assault of barbarians. Really they are the guardians of moral conventions that belong only in history books.
What these stories say to me is that the rights of minorities, recently won, are fragile, tenuous and, in some places, not yet accepted.