On the tourist beaches of Turkey, young women flirt and frolic — but go further inland, and a mere glance in the direction of a man can mean death.
........we sit on the doorstep of the family’s dilapidated home in a small village near Batman in Turkey’s southeastern Anatolia. This area has become notorious in recent years for the high number of suicides, particularly of girls and young women whose despair is said to stem from their severely restricted lives. But women’s groups and human-rights workers believe a more sinister explanation lies behind many of the deaths. They’re convinced a growing number of girls and women are being locked in rooms by their families, with a gun, poison or a noose, and left there until they kill themselves.
Such deaths are referred to here as “forced suicides” – murder by any other name.
Yet those who expose domestic violence risk being rapidly silenced in this country. In recent months, three national TV talk shows have been pulled off the air after two women appearing as guests were shot shortly afterwards – one by her son, another by her husband – for denouncing domestic abuse and so “tainting” their family’s honour. Turkey is not a country where the concept of free expression has as yet sunk deep. Those in the media who touch on other subjects considered too sensitive also risk breaking the law – 33 journalists and writers currently face trial on charges of “insulting Turkey’s national character”.
........to be born strong-willed or beautiful or clever can be a curse for a girl in parts of Turkey such as this. To attract attention can be a death sentence. Once the words “adi cikmis” – translated roughly as “her name is known” or “she has become notorious” – are uttered, the girl or woman of whom they are said stands little chance of survival. A “family council”, or kangaroo court, is convened at which it is decided how she who is “notorious” should die. ........Death sentences have been imposed here on daughters, wives and sisters for all of the above. The “guilty” have been shot, strangled, stoned, had their throats slit or been buried alive.
In the twisted minds of those who would force a wife, daughter or sister to end her own life, there is a lethal logic. Tragically, it has to do with EU demands for Turkey to improve its record on human rights if it is to stand a chance of being admitted as a member in the next 10 years. (Accession talks formally began in October 2005.) In response to EU demands to crack down on the widespread problem of honour killings in Turkey, punishments for such crimes have been increased. In the past a male relative could argue he had been “provoked” into killing a female relative because she had offended family honour......
.........other survivors, who have made it to the shelter her organisation runs, describing how their families have told them: “You are going to die anyway, so why let your brother go to prison for killing you? Why not do it yourself?”
Ozgun says she was warned more than 20 years ago, when she was the first to host a talk show aimed at women, that her job was to “entertain, not educate”. After just three months the state TV show, considered too controversial, was cancelled. After four years abroad, Ozgun moved back to Turkey and began hosting her new show, Every Day – again aimed at a largely female audience – this time on a private channel. But following a lengthy run, this show was again cancelled in November, after a woman who appeared on the show to discuss how her family had forced her into a marriage was shot dead by her father. “You’ve ruined the reputation and honour of our family in front of millions of viewers,” the father shouted at his 32-year-old daughter, a mother of two, before killing her.
This appears to be the fate of Yasemin Bozkurt, the host of the third TV programme recently cancelled, Women’s Voice. The show was pulled off air after a mother of five appeared to complain about being forced to marry an abusive husband. When she went home she was shot five times in the head and chest by her 14-year-old son, yelling at her that she’d “disgraced the family”.
Sahin is among the 33 journalists and writers who face up to 10 years in jail for speaking too openly on matters that “denigrate Turkishness”. In Sahin’s case, this meant daring to write about the massacre of hundreds of thousands of Armenians during the first world war – the same taboo subject that saw the prominent author Orhan Pamuk facing similar charges, until EU pressure led them to be dropped.
Guldunya Toren being the country’s most notorious victim of such a crime. The 24-year-old fled her town in the region of Diyarbakir after being raped by a cousin and discovering she was pregnant. When she defied her family’s order to marry the cousin, she was given a rope by one of her brothers and told to hang herself. Instead, Guldunya made the long journey to Istanbul to seek refuge with a sympathetic uncle. When she gave birth to a son in early 2004 she named him Hope, believing neither he nor she might have long to live. Weeks later her brothers tracked her down and shot and wounded her. In hospital, she made a heart-rending plea for the state to protect her. “Why do they shoot me? They should shoot the one who raped me,” she told a newspaper. “I want to live with my baby. But I know they won’t want me to live. I’m scared.” Soon afterwards her brothers entered her unguarded hospital room and shot her in the head. Her baby was taken into care for fear they would kill the child too.....
........Yet even though the killing received wide attention, a song written about Guldunya by one of the country’s well-known singers was banned from state-run TV and radio.