Tuesday, September 29, 2015


The world is probably changing too fast for some traditionalist people

MUSTANG – 2015

A very important film and there is very little to say about it. Turkey, five daughters (and sisters) are being raised by their grandmother because their parents are dead. The grandmother is helped in that task by the girls’ uncles. We are in a small city or big village. The girls are wild and the grandmother is probably not up to her task. So the uncles take over when some rumor starts spreading. The girls are locked up in the house, taken away from school, which shows education does not seem to be compulsory for girls, and the uncles decide to get rid of them by marrying them. They marry two. The third one commits suicide and the last two will have to elope and that is going to be difficult.

There is little mention of Islam behind because we are not dealing with Islam here but with a traditional agricultural society where the family is sacred and the girls are the best possession a family has to improve their lot in society by marrying them with an important dowry to a man who is from an important family and who has an important position himself. Marrying the girls is nothing but improving the status of the family. This has been a characteristic of all agricultural societies in the West and it caused the development of a conflict if not unrest when they started turning industrial, and Turkey is part of that West and they are going through that very phase in social development.

When I have said that, there is nothing else to add. They had the same situation in Southern Italy just twenty years ago. Portugal is not much better off on that question and twenty years ago girls had to be married fast and from the day after their marriage they were supposed to dress in black.

What I regret is that the audience is reacting to a film like that as if that was typical of Islam and any Muslim society. And that is a lie. It is typical of all societies that shift from agriculture to industry and in which the family is the core of social hierarchies and prestige. The point for a country like Turkey is that the change that took about four generations if not more in Western Europe and definitely more in the agricultural plains of the USA has to be done and finished within one generation. The shift is directly from total submission for women to eloping, fleeing and escaping.

It is thus an interesting film but nothing really to change the face of history. When Ataturk decided to westernize Turkey in the 1920s he set Turkey on that road and industrialization has only started to really penetrate this country some thirty years ago. The change that is happening at record speed right now explains the desire of the Turks to keep some balance and that’s probably why they turn toward some traditional conservative mildly Muslim party who can more or less guarantee that the change will be done without a blood bath nor a complete destruction of traditions and cultural references, including of course the religious reference.


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