Turkish society may seem patriarchal from the outside, but the role of motherhood remains revered.
An-ne, or the Mother, is a veritable institution in Turkey. Turks are glued to their mobile phones, not least because at some moment in the day An-ne will call and the obedient son or daughter (mostly the latter) must be standing to attention.
If it is already late in the afternoon, the message will be, “But why haven’t you called me? Is something wrong? Didn’t you remember I went to the doctor today?”
Anywhere – in a shopping mall, a bookstore, a cafe, comes the inevitable whine of the needy child. “An-ne! Where are you?” In Turkey, the whole world dotes on these angels who can do no wrong. Their every whim must be indulged.
You might have had the impression that Turkey is a patriarchal society. Wrong. Men only look as if they have power: in reality they exist to serve their women. Even modern young working people usually wait patiently until they have found their marriage partners before leaving home. They live at home where they are waited upon – food is cooked, washing and ironing done and every comfort seen to. Duygu, a healthy woman in her 30s, complains that her mother won’t even let her carry anything.
Ilgin has just turned 40 and works seven days a week to make enough money for holidays. She wouldn’t dream of going without her mother. They live together as do so many Turkish families, mother and daughter. You don’t even ask about father.
When Ilgin needs some entertainment she goes with her mother to one of the many clubs in downtown Beyoglu, the centre of Istanbul’s nightlife. There they listen together to live music and Ilgin takes pictures of them on her mobile phone.
Can it be satisfying? Ilgin is no fool. “I make all the decisions,” she says, gleefully. “I can see who wears the pants. Why leave this comfort for some unknown territory where you may have to be the maid, cook and bottle-washer for some uncertain reward?”
Age cannot wither An-ne because whole armies of hairdressers, beauticians, manicurists and cosmetologists exist merely to preserve her long-lost youth. Only a woman near death will have grey hair.