The women of Turkey are known for their roles in the growing movement of feminism and their voices that challenge the superiority of a male patriarchal society. In the early 1930’s, they were granted suffrage, courtesy of the reforms under Mustafa Kemal Ataturk’— the founder of Turkey — conversion of the country.
However, the definition of rights for women differed for certain groups, as there was a hijab ban in Turkey heavily practiced after 1997. Despite Turkey being a secular state, 98% of its citizens are registered as Muslim, and although Ataturk who made the state secular did not oppose hijab, he did not support its public display in institutions.
Luckily, starting in 2013, women were able to wear their hijab in state institutions. Equality and the empowerment of Turkish women has been visibly shown to audiences around the world, through TV shows and women’s role in government.
However, looking at the data for the number of women killed in domestic violence relationships for the sole year of 2018, it is evident that women are not always treated the way they are shown to the public.
‘We Will Stop Femicide,’ an advocacy group situated in Istanbul, tracks the number of women whose deaths were the result of domestic violence through communication with the victims families and news. According to their data, 2,600 women have been killed since 2010.
“Men can’t accept that Turkey is a modern country where women have rights,” said Fidan Ataselim, We Will Stop Femicides general secretary. “Some of these men don’t even think we have the right to live.”
The murders committed against women in domestic violence relationships — whether by their partner, family member, relative, close friend, or male acquaintance — has been ongoing for years. The seriousness of the predicament erupted on social media when on August 18, when a mother by the name of Emine Bulut was at a restaurant in Kirikkale, Turkey, with her 10 year old daughter. She was stabbed and killed by her ex husband.
According to BBC News on their article, “Emine Bulut: Anger in Turkey over mother’s murder,” the video that was shot in the cafe through a cell-phone showed Bulut saying “I don’t want to die,” clutching her wound with her daughters helpless cries in the background.
The husband was seen escaping in a cab after the incident. Although he was able to escape the scene, he and the other men that the women in their lives once trusted with their life, will never be able to escape the guilt and blood on their hands.
Another unfortunate rape and death of an innocent Turkish women in 2015 had also grasped the anger and attention of social media. Ozgecan Aslan was a 20 year old college student who was on a bus alone when allegedly the driver took her to the woods with the intention of raping her. She was beaten, her hands were cut off and the suspects father and friend were known to help burn her body and throw her into the river.
This gained a burst of consciousness on Twitter, with the hashtag ‘#sendeanlat’ meaning ‘#tellyourstorytoo,’ where women shared personal stories of their fears, experiences and thoughts.
In an opinion article written by Christina Asquith, she goes in depth on how the men in these relationships can easily get away with the murder.
“I have worked alongside Turkish women’s rights activists researching dozens of domestic violence cases in which men have received little or no punishment for their crimes,” said Asquith. “In 2014, a man in eastern Turkey who stabbed his wife multiple times was given a reduced sentence after he argued she was wearing ‘provocative’ leggings and speaking with another man.”
The young generation of Turkey refuses to be silent over these murders. On September 5, 18 Turkish music artists teamed up to compose a music video named “Susamam,” which went over many conflicts in Turkey and the world, with violence against women, environmental issues, animal and child abuse, educational equality, fascism, etc. The music artist Ezhel followed along with his own song named “Olay,” which showcased snippets of many Turkish and international news clips consisting of elections, war, murders, politics and issues unsolved.
In this same month of September, Turkish artist Vahit Tuna, hung 440 pairs of shoes evenly on the wall in the city of Istanbul, to represent the women killed in domestic violence relationships in 2018.
“So while those who killed Ozgecan Aslan should, and probably will, receive the heaviest possible penalty, what guarantee is there that the next victim, with less media attention, will receive commensurate justice?” said Asquith.
There are many more women shut away from the world, stuck in these relationships that their abusers trick them into, manipulating them with their words of “love.” The problem starts when we put our phones down after checking the last women murdered saying “This is sad, but surely someone will bring awareness.”
The number of women deaths have escalated thoroughly in just 2019 alone in Turkey, allegedly in the 200’s. Turkish officials and spokespersons are preaching the country as a modernized, women’s liberation advocating state, while in the same metro and store they shop from there is a man who casually beats his wife, that being his modernized state.
Victims of this domestic violence are not only females but are children as young as six, and street animals who commit their full trust to the society around them.
It is us who must raise awareness to this topic, and to alert ourselves as more women are facing this near us, other than in Turkey or other countries.