Turkey’s tragedy of mur­dered women

2017 shows chill­ing in­crease in femi­cide

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

As she did most af­ter­noons, Pi­nar Un­luer was wait­ing to col­lect her six-yearold son from his school in Turkey’s Aegean city of Izmir. She was then shot dead in broad day­light only me­ters away from the school, by a man whose mar­riage pro­posal she had re­jected. The 29-year-old was among 210 Turk­ish women killed or forced to com­mit sui­cide in 2012 in misog­y­nist at­tacks by men, ac­cord­ing to the women’s rights group We Will Stop Femi­cide.

Since then there has been a chill­ing in­crease in the num­ber of women killed, of­ten at the hands of men they know. News­pa­pers re­port al­most daily on mur­ders of women by men they knew, and the rights group says 328 women were killed last year. In the first five months of 2017, 173 women were killed across Turkey com­pared with 137 in the same pe­riod of 2016, the group said in its monthly re­port in May. “When a woman is killed, I feel the same pain. I see them as my daugh­ters,” Pi­nar’s fa­ther, Zeki Un­luer, said. “When my daugh­ter was laid to rest, my wife and I died.”

Cri­sis

Since 2010, 118 women have been killed in Izmir alone, even though the city, Turkey’s third­largest, is con­sid­ered it’s most pro­gres­sive and a bas­tion of sec­u­lar so­ci­ety. Women’s ac­tivists said that the rise in killings had come as more women sought to ex­er­cise their rights, in­clud­ing di­vorc­ing abu­sive part­ners. “Women are chang­ing but men are not. Men can­not keep up and there is a cri­sis,” said Gul­sum Kav, a found­ing mem­ber of We Will Stop Femi­cide. The Turk­ish gov­ern­ment has said that the num­ber of women killed ev­ery year is un­ac­cept­able, but ac­tivists warn that the prob­lem is get­ting worse.

Our women are dy­ing

The no­to­ri­ous at­tempted rape and mur­der of a 20-year-old stu­dent, Ozge­can As­lan, by a minibus driver in south­ern Turkey in 2015 sparked na­tion­wide protests and hopes that ac­tion would fi­nally be taken to re­duce the killings. But even though Pi­nar Un­luer’s killer is now serv­ing a life sen­tence in prison, her fa­ther said he had seen no change, and de­nounced what he called le­gal loop­holes that let per­pe­tra­tors es­cape long sen­tences.

“I would ask (to a min­is­ter): ‘If it were your chil­dren, your daugh­ters, your moth­ers, what would you think? Our women are dy­ing, you are do­ing noth­ing’.” He said that Pi­nar’s killer had sought a re­duced sen­tence by claim­ing he had been pro­voked, a tac­tic of­ten used in such cases. Ac­tivists also say the killers try to get re­duced sen­tences by claim­ing in­san­ity, al­leg­ing that a woman had in­sulted them or that they had been cheated on. Eda Okut­gen, de­scribed by her sis­ter Na­zli Okut­gen as hav­ing “a heart of gold”, was stabbed mul­ti­ple times in Novem­ber 2014 by her ex-hus­band in Izmir. He was ini­tially given life in prison for her mur­der, but a higher court an­nulled the sen­tence, and he is now claim­ing in­san­ity in a re­trial, Na­zli Okut­gen said.

Can be stopped

Over 37 per­cent of Turk­ish women said they had ex­pe­ri­enced phys­i­cal or sex­ual vi­o­lence-or both-ac­cord­ing to an ex­haus­tive 2014 sur­vey of 15,000 house­holds by the coun­try’s fam­ily min­istry. And ac­cord­ing to the Ankara-based Foun­da­tion for Women’s Sol­i­dar­ity, the state of emer­gency im­posed after last July’s at­tempted coup has wors­ened the sit­u­a­tion. In a re­port, the group says that many women’s com­plaints are treated dis­mis­sively by po­lice of­fi­cers, who claim they are too busy or han­dling “more im­por­tant” af­fairs.

In one ex­am­ple in the re­port, an of­fi­cer tells a vic­tim: “There has been a coup, the po­lice have other busi­ness.” Turkey has rat­i­fied the Coun­cil of Eu­rope’s 2011 Is­tan­bul Con­ven­tion, the world’s first bind­ing in­stru­ment to pre­vent and com­bat vi­o­lence against women. There are also Turk­ish laws to pro­tect women and pun­ish per­pe­tra­tors of as­sault, in­clud­ing law 6284 — passed in 2012 to pro­tect fam­i­lies and pre­vent vi­o­lence against women.

But ac­cord­ing to Kav, of We Will Stop Femi­cide, of­fi­cials were not putting the law into prac­tice. “These mur­ders are some­thing that can be stopped. There are so­lu­tions,” she said, point­ing to the drop in women’s mur­ders from 180 in 2010 to 121 the fol­low­ing year, a de­cline she at­trib­uted to the law’s de­bate which shone a spot­light on the prob­lem. “The law is there giv­ing women the right to be pro­tected,” she said, “but when women go to po­lice or the pros­e­cu­tor for pro­tec­tion, they are ei­ther sent back home, they try to rec­on­cile (cou­ples) or they re­ceive a pro­tec­tion or­der only on pa­per.”

Con­ser­va­tive mentality

Ac­tivists also say gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials have, on oc­ca­sion, failed to help by mak­ing in­flam­ma­tory re­marks on how women should be­have: Last year, Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan in­fu­ri­ated many by say­ing a woman was “in­com­plete” if she failed to re­pro­duce. And while gen­der equal­ity should be a pil­lar of the sec­u­lar repub­lic, as set up by Mustafa Ke­mal Ataturk in 1923, the only fe­male cab­i­net mem­ber is Fam­ily Min­is­ter Fatma Be­tul Sayan Kaya, and women make up just 79 of the 548 law­mak­ers in par­lia­ment. Rey­han Ka­plan, of the Izmir Women’s Sol­i­dar­ity As­so­ci­a­tion, crit­i­cised the gov­ern­ment for a “con­ser­va­tive mentality which in­ter­venes in a woman’s life”. But the main rea­son for vi­o­lence is “men not see­ing women as equal, see­ing them­selves bet­ter than women”, she said.—AFP

IZMIR, Turkey: Women hold a por­trait of a vic­tim, dur­ing a demon­stra­tion in front of the court­house in Izmir.—AFP

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