October 10: Leyla, Ankara

Leyla is a pathfinder, a pioneer, a strong woman with a powerful vision.  And someone with whom I was clearly led to connect.  Some of you know the story – a friend in Seattle introduced me to Leyla – “You must connect with Leyla, she said, she is a psychologist in Turkey who works with women.”  When I mentioned her in one of my classes, Diane, a member of the class, said, “I think I work with her son.”  Sure enough, they work together in a non-profit in Olympia, WA in the U.S.

Leyla has been the epitome of graciousness hosting us here in Ankara, the capital city of Turkey- – – she suggested a perfect hotel, shared generously of her time, introduced us to the Castle area  (fantastic views of the city, delightful shops, life as it has been for decades and decades.  She helped us buy our bus ticket to Cappadocia, our next destination, and shared a marvelous dinner with us at an Ottoman home near the old castle area.  The food was delicious, the views spectacular, the 3 piece musical ensemble was perfect – AND, the house itself is worth a trip to Turkey.  The restaurant was on the third floor – and to get there one goes through a number of little niches that beg for stopping for tea, old tools are displayed here and there, pictures of famous folks who have visited, and Turkish textiles everywhere – rugs large and small, cushions, decorative striips with tassels hanging from the rafters . . . .  Oh, and a woman makes their bread there and bakes in on a griddle over an open fire.  Yep, I loved it!  🙂

But much more than any of the sights, including an award-winning archeological museum, we enjoyed talking with Leyla – who graciously answered our dozens of questions, shared stories of her work, introduced us to the history of this country and shared her assessment of the current political and economic situation.

Leyla was born in Turkey, lived here until she was three, was back again when she was in the sixth grade and attended sixth grade here in Turkey – in Turkish.  Over the years she has been back and forth between Turkey and the U.S.  She received her Master’s Degree in Psychology from Antioch Seattle and now is a Ph.D. Psychologist.  The focus of her work is violence against women and domestic violence, her perspective is cross-cultural, and she is motivated by a deep commitment to social justice.

And, yes she is a pathfinder – on many levels.  Living in Turkey as a single woman can be problematic in itself.  She explained to us that the landlord of her apartment seemed quite relieved when her sons came to visit – he could now place her in a family context.  In a country where it is reported that 80% of all women are supported economically by a man (husband, father), single women are clearly outside the norm.

And in her professional work – she holds a pretty unique perspective.  Working with women who have experienced violence and domestic abuse, she is profoundly committed to helping them develop their own autonomy.  This means not making decisions for them and not telling them what to do – instead helping them to develop the discernment and courage to make their own decisions that are in their best interest.  This is counter-cultural.  In many ways she represents the ideal pathfinder: She is compassionate and she is a systems thinker – and in her work the issues are clearly, as we say, both profoundly personal and completely systemic.  When women do find the courage to seek help – there is no structure to support them in creating a different life.  If they seek help from the police, they are likely to be returned to their husband.  Their birth family may be ambivilant about allowing them back home -or will face strong censure, and perhaps, isolation from the community.  There are few shelters – and even fewer that understand what Leyla is so clear about – that the women must learn to think and make decisions for themselves.

Nevertheless, Leyla continues her work with women themselves, and networks with others who do similar work.  She has developed a training manual for staff that work with violence and domestic abuse – and this guide is based on culturally appropriate approaches.  It is nearing publication and will be a significant contribution to this work.  She also finds deep satisfaction in the young women who are persistent in their own determination to become effective staff to serve this population.

May Leyla’s self-direction, wisdom and persistence be an inspiration to all of us!

In appreciation to each of you for the work you are doing in this world,

Good wishes,  Barbara

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