Turkey has introduced new measures against the pandemic. From now on, it is illegal to be out of the house between 9pm and 5pm during weekdays. Since cafes, restaurants and clubs are closed due to Covid measures, there is not much to do outside anyway.
As President Erdoğan announced those measures, I thought to myself: what does one do outside between those hours anyway? Then I thought: perhaps I’m thinking this because I’m a woman who doesn’t feel sufficiently safe in the street.
I enjoy going for runs. To me, it’s like a therapy. At times, I also cycle, which I believe is one of the best ways of starting the day. Those are the things I prefer to do outside of my working hours. Istanbul is not really a running or cycling-friendly city. It is always too crowded, forest areas are far from the city, one needs to get into huge traffic jams to be able to reach a trail. The best hours for running are the ones when most Istanbulites are still asleep. That is, before the sun rises and after it goes down. Whenever I wake up very early to go on a run, like at 5am, I harbour this fear deep inside me. Though I very much want to run, I struggle with my fears.
What if someone assaults me whilst I run? Will someone hear me if I cry for help? Which route is the safest? The best routes are usually the ones with less light, which makes it more likely that I’ll get assaulted. Such thoughts always circle in my mind. And I know that if something were to happen to me people would ask: “what was she doing outside at that time of the day?”
These thoughts don’t come from nowhere. Several times, a drunken driver followed me whilst I was cycling. He tried to stop me, but I escaped and survived as I thankfully ran into police on the road. Cat calling is of course very common, but it gets very frustrating at times.
So there's a trade off. I can either be active outside during busier hours, which entails dealing with traffic jams, or opt for my “therapy run” and get up early, which entails running the risk of an assault.
It’s as if there were “women’s hours” during the day. It is safer and more “suitable” or even “expected” for women to be outside during those times of the day. Outside of these hours, the streets belong to men. As a woman, if one wants to be on the streets during “male hours”, one is prone to be assaulted or harassed.
Yet the pandemic measures compel men to change their daily lives. Now they can only be outside during women's hours. Men can now empathize with women. Men can have a taste of what it means to not really be able to be outside at some particular hours of the day, and how a restriction even a de facto one, can stifle one at times.