The Global GAP: Turkey

BBC Radio 4

Global Gap is a series of five programmes where two people who do the same job, one from the UK and one from another country (for this week, Turkey), have a thought provoking conversation, to compare and contrast their working lives and the issues that arise in their jobs.

A predominately Muslim country, Turkey nevertheless straddles Western and Eastern culture – and the series this week focuses on the religious versus the secular, capturing the differences in attitudes and society between Turkey and UK through conversation and recordings in workplaces.

Episode 1 (of 5): The Religious Leader
Rev Canon Rosie Harper, vicar of a small church in Great Missenden and Chaplain to the Bishop of Buckingham, speaks to Ishak Kizilaslan, Imam at the Sultanahmet Mosque in Istanbul. Her father was a non-conformist minister. She wanted to be a vicar from early childhood and was one of the first to be ordained after women were accepted into the Church of England in 1994. She compares her experience and responsibilities as a religious leader to those of Imam Kizilaslan, who was appointed Imam by the Turkish Government because of his understanding of Islam, including having learnt the Qur’an by heart as a 10-year old boy.

Episode 2 (of 5): Women in Business
Leading Turkish businesswoman Nur Ger talks to CEO Anne Walker MBE. Both have built up their companies over the past 30 years and now export all over the world. Both campaign for women to get a better deal and equality in business, although in Turkey the battle for recognition and acceptance is harder for business graduate Nur who would have found it difficult to take the lead on the family business and turn it into a multi-million Euro fashion export company if it hadn’t been for the early death of her father. For dance teacher Anne, being brought up solely by her teacher mother fuelled her ambition. And her mum’s £50 loan to buy her first sewing machine was the beginning of International Dance Supplies (IDS).

Episode 3 (of 5): Sports Teachers
Sports teachers Kerry Barber in UK and Sinem Varder in Turkey share their experiences. Birmingham’s Golden Hillock School has a large number of Muslim pupils, many of whom wear the hijab, and sports lessons with girls and boys segregated – while Sinem’s Turkish school has mixed classes and forbids girls to cover their head. Sinem sees this as liberating for women and is concerned that a proposal by the current Turkish Government to re-introduce the wearing of the hijab in schools is a backward step.

Kerry and Sinem discuss these perhaps unexpected contrasts in their schools, as well as their own international success in male dominated sports – rugby for Kerry and basketball for Sinem.

Episode 4 (of 5): Tour Guides
Chris Allen is a tour guide at St Paul’s Cathedral, and Saliha Kismet is a tour guide in Istanbul taking tourists round the Sultanahmet (Blue Mosque). Chris is retired from ICT and now volunteers as a guide, while 36 year-old Salida, a geology graduate, had to work hard to pass the Government exams to become a professional tour guide.

In conversation, they compare their jobs. They also compare the atmosphere and meaning of two of the world’s most iconic religious buildings. The Blue Mosque is in daily use – tourists are ushered out during prayers, which take place five times daily, and they must take off their shoes to enter and women must cover their heads. St Paul’s, however, is much more than a place of prayer – visitors are often more interested in the architecture and history than the religious nature of the building. It is also a place where people gather at times of crisis or disaster, such as following the 7/7 London bombings (the day Chris went for his interview) and it was a symbol of survival during the Blitz.

Episode 5 (of 5): Nightclub Owners
Blackpool nightclub owner Basil Newby shares his experiences with Suleyman Demir, millionaire owner of the famous Halikarnas nightclub in Turkey’s fashionable Bodrum resort. Suleyman has good connections in Turkey, attracting stars on their mega yachts to the large open air Halikarnas, recently refurbished with white marble and palm trees.

Basil is equally famous in Blackpool with his drag queen show Funny Girls, who performed before the Queen at the Royal Variety Performance, and as the owner other big clubs in Blackpool. Basil often has celebrities from Coronation Street and Strictly Come Dancing, and Joan Collins opened Funny Girls to a huge crowd.

Both have had to resolve issues around bureaucracy and licensing, but in Turkey there is nothing like going to the top man. Suleyman sought permission from the former President before he used one of the largest laser beams in the world, reaching to the Greek Islands, and he was allowed to continue running the Halikarnas at night in 1984 even though there was a curfew following Turkish/Kurdish unrest.

A Juniper Connect production for BBC Radio 4.