Social Issues

The firefighting women blazing a trail in conservative Turkey

By Ilya U. Topper

Istanbul, Oct 6 (EFE).- The historic 100-year-old firefighting department in Istanbul since the summer has welcomed women in Turkey, a majority Muslim country ruled by the Islamic conservative AKP, to its ranks.

“When I grow up I want to be a firefighter” was not something any of these 37 women ever said when they were girls. Even though there have been female firefighters in some towns since 1988, seeing a woman wielding an axe and hose in Turkey is still extremely rare.

“It’s not considered a woman’s job, but since I was little I used to do things that are seen as boys’ jobs, so my family didn’t see anything unusual about it,” says Ceyda Cirik, 22, at the fire station in Basaksehir, a suburb of Istanbul.

She has just returned from an operation in a burned-out factory, along with her colleagues Esra Ücler and Rüveyda Tös.

The three of them are part of a team with about 10 men who, after initially viewing the new recruits with suspicion, soon got used to the novelty.

“At the beginning there were prejudices, but little by little they dissipated, we showed what we can do,” Rüveyda tells Efe.

“Recently we went to a fire, I asked where to go upstairs. The partner showed me the ladder, ‘but you can’t go up there,'” he stressed.

“What do you mean? Of course I went up. They were surprised,” Rüveyda says with a laugh.

Esra, 25, says she never felt rejection at work, although she admits that sometimes men try to exclude them because of the “difference in physical strength”.

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