Nicosia [Cyprus], January 4 (ANI): On December 29 in Istanbul, a man named Kemal Delbe set on fire his former girlfriend Aylin Sozer, a lecturer at the Istanbul Aydin University, pouring a flammable liquid on her. Her murderer narrowly escaped lynching by Sozer's neighbours when taken in custody by the police.
Her case is indicative of the serious problem of femicide in Turkey, which the Islamist Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu, recently tried to downplay saying that the murders of women in his country are exaggerated and that in 2020 there were only 234 women killed in Turkey and not 353 as the femicide watchdog "Counter Monument" documented.
Femicide is defined by the World Health Organisation by asking the question of "If the victim was a man, would he still be killed?" If the answer is no, it is femicide. What is causing concern is that the patriarchal Turkish society and both the right-wing and left-wing press views violence against women as something acceptable, frequently justifying the murder of women as "a matter of honour," or "crimes of passion."
On the same day, that is in December 29, in addition to Aylin Sozer, three other women were killed. They were Selda Tas, Vesile Donmez and Betul Tugluk. As the Counter Monument points out "even before the women are laid to rest, the massacred women are turned into targets in the press. The massacred women are presented as guilty. Even after they die, women are forced to prove that they did not deserve to die. It is debated whether they deserved it or not."
Last November a women's rights group called "We want to Live Initiative" submitted to the Turkish Parliament 600,000 signatures they collected demanding that the Turkish authorities fulfil their duties to end violence against women and comply with the relevant European Convention and Turkey's Law no 6284 to protect the family and Prevent Violence against Women. The Initiative says:" We know that femicides and rapes are on the rise as male justice issues more verdicts awarding murderers with impunity and women who act in self-defense are punished."
According to the Seattle-based non-profit organization Borgen Project Femicide in Turkey is on the rise.
"The Turkish government has admitted to not keeping records of violence against women, but the Turkish feminist group "We Will Stop Femicide" reported that 474 women were murdered in Turkey in 2019, mostly at the hands of relatives or partners. These numbers are expected to skyrocket in 2020 due to coronavirus lockdowns.... Gender-based and domestic homicides are often referred to as "honor killings."
Anti-female sentiments are deeply engrained in Turkish culture. The President of Turkey and other members of the Turkish government have made many comments publicly degrading women. The usual rhetoric is that women are not equal to men and that women without children are deficient. Members of the Turkish government have also publicly encouraged verbal harassment of women wearing shorts. The country's former Deputy Prime Minister, Mehmet Simsek, blamed the rising unemployment rate on women seeking jobs. Former mayor of Ankara, said that women who are victims of rape should die before they have an abortion."
Many women in Turkey, especially in the west part of the country, have organised protests about this horrible state of affairs and demand protection from the state against the killings and the degrading statements by political parties and government officials. In some cases, the Police arrests protesters and use disproportionate force to disperse them. Some protesters are illegally detained, beaten and abused.
It is ironic that in 2011, Turkey became the first country to adopt the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence, which is called the "Istanbul Convention". However, it did very little to implement any of the provisions of the Convention and many conservative and ruling party AKP politicians see the Istanbul Convention as "a means by the West to hurt Turkey".
The government of President Tayyip Erdogan, together with fanatical Islamists and conservatives are pondering whether to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention, arguing that it is incompatible with the moral character of the Turkish society. If this opinion prevails, Turkey will become the first country to sign and then leave the Treaty. Of course, women organisations which demand that the problem of violence against women no longer be swept under the carpet would strongly react and stage massive protests against such plans.
Another serious problem is the way the Turkish legal system treats cases of violence against women. Courts allow offenders to get reduced sentences if they display signs of regret, or try to find extenuating circumstances for the crimes committed, while men's lawyers, as a rule, claim that the victimizer was provoked by the victim, or that he defended his honour or the honour of his family.
Mina Tumay, a media specialist at the Ethical Journalism Network, examining the way femicides and violence against women is reported in Turkey's media says: "Government-backed and opposition media outlets are both guilty of unethical reporting of gender-based violence. We see a pattern of victim-focused, murder-excusing, melodramatic reporting styles that often disclose more information about the victim and the subtext than the offender, and that fail to give context to the crimes, or show how femicide is the last act of control in a relationship." (ANI)