A social selfie as reflected in Seda Sayan

Source: Birgül Demirtaş, “Seda Sayan aynasında sosyal selfie, (“A social selfie as reflected in Seda Sayan,”) Birgün, September 14, 2014,  http://www.birgun.net/news/view/seda-sayan-aynasinda-toplumsal-selfie/5467

Seda Sayan drew significant and rightfully widespread anger by hosting Sefer Çalınak, who murdered his two spouses, on her TV show and by presenting and advertising him as a killer with a smile[1]. However, we should approach this not as an individual issue but as part of the social hysteria that we live in. To treat the events as a case of calculated social hysteria that worships power and authority and that believes whoever holds power will provide us with clues about the bigger picture.

Indeed, the case of the police officer who took selfies[2] while a civilian was attempting suicide on the Bosphorus bridge on September 1st2 is directly related to the Seda Sayan phenomenon. Both [incidents] involve actors who are inured to death and who try to find fame and reputation even in an atmosphere of death. To try to get higher ratings while normalizing women’s murders by men is quite equivalent to the situation of the police officer who tried to increase his popularity by advertising to the world that he was witnessing a suicide.

In fact, one should also, repeatedly, watch the episode where Seda Sayan responded to the criticisms she received after hosting a murderer. She said she slept fine at night because she, who was “raised right in the middle of violence,” meant to identify this person and to prevent other women from becoming victims to similar murders. Ms. Sayan cited herself as an exemplary person by recounting how she convinced her mother, who was beaten and kicked out to the street by Sayan’s father, to return to the house. Her message to the Turkish [sic] woman [sic] was clear: “Whatever you live through, you shall return to your house and continue submitting to the monster there, enduring the ordeal silently!” To sum up, those who are “weak” should accept it, be patient, and strive to continue the shared life in response to the powerful who use force.

Additionally, the issue is not just Seda Sayan, nor is it the police selfie. We cannot separate these [events] from the accident in Soma where 301 people were murdered, nor from the case of the 10 workers who died in the construction of a luxury residence in Mecidiyekoy. The problem, for a large part, is a society that experiences the trap of a trauma of sorts, which transforms the evening news into death bulletins. This is a pathological situation where life is transformed into something out of the ordinary and death into an everyday and normalized occasion. Turkey ranks top in statistics of sexual harassment of women; 40% of women in the country experience sexual harassment. How are we to explain the increase of murders of women in the last 10 years by 1400 cases? How about the fact that we come first in European and third in world rankings for workplace accidents? And how about Turkey’s top position in Europe in traffic accidents per 100,000 vehicles?

The workers we lose because no preventive measures are taken in the workplace… The lives we lose in those traffic accidents to which we have become accustomed… The women who are killed in what seems very much like a genocide… The youth murdered during protests… The murderers who boast themselves to be “legends”… It is precisely this condition of dementia that conceives such cases as Seda Sayan. Seda Sayan is right. We should understand “well the Seda’s and their hearts,” as she says. Because as long as we do not do so, we will not be able to recover our lost hearts and spines, our conscience, our reason…

As long as we cannot understand how fearful those who lost their hearts are, we will continue to perceive death as normal and life and out of the ordinary. We will thus continue normalizing the dignification of murderers. And yet, to live humanely and to construct systems that allow humane lives is in our power. All we need to do is to realise the fearfulness of those without a spine.


[1] Seda Sayan is a folk singer and TV hostess in Turkey. In September 2014, she hosted two men, one serial rapist and one murderer (who killed two of his spouses). She drew criticism after praising both men, describing the latter as “having a great smile” and the former as someone who “she knew would not commit” such a crime, while depicting their victims as deserving the violence they were subjected to (source), a common myth deployed to legitimize violence against women both in Turkey and abroad.

[2] In September 2014, a yet-to-be identified police officer was caught on camera taking a selfie on the Bosphorus bridge as a 35 year old man was attempting suicide. The man jumped off of the bridge, was found unconscious, and was declared dead some time later (source).

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