A deepening tragedy in Turkey – Regional


Seeking justice: Women holding portraits of a victim as they demonstrate in front of a courthouse in Izmir. — AFP

Seeking justice: Women holding portraits of a victim as they demonstrate in front of a courthouse in Izmir. — AFP

Izmir (Turkey): As she did most afternoons, Pinar Unluer was waiting to collect her six-year-old son from his school in Turkey’s Aegean city of Izmir.

She was then shot dead in broad daylight only metres 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.

Since 2010, 118 women have been killed in Izmir alone, even though the city, Turkey’s third largest, is considered its 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.

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’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 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, 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

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