Femicides in Turkey: “I don’t want to die!”

Janet Kimani
Source: DW/H

On Tuesday, July 21st, Pinar Gultekin, a 27-year-old Turkish University student, was found dead in the woods after she had gone missing for about a week. The autopsy revealed the horrendous details of her murder: she was battered, strangled and burned. Lastly, concrete was poured all over her charred body presumably in an attempt to discard off any evidence.

However, amidst investigations, Pinar’s ex-partner, Cemal Avci, confessed to the murder claiming she provoked him by threatening to reveal their relationship to his wife. This murder thus adds Pinar to the long list of Turkish women who have died at the hands of their partners: former, present, and aspiring.

Femicides in 2020

Protests have thus broken out all over Turkey, with women taking the streets to demand action and justice from their government. Protestors have carried purple banners with the names and faces of some of the victims of femicides so far, as they expressed outrage about the increasing levels of violence imposed on women. Unfortunately, femicides in Turkey only soared in 2020 amidst the Covid-19 crisis.

The We Will End Femicide Platform, an organization dedicated to tracking, and curbing femicides in Turkey following the government’s inefficiency, reports that 21 femicides had already been committed within the first 20 days of quarantine i.e. between March 11 and March 31. According to the report, 4 of the women are confirmed to have been killed by their partners for seeking autonomy over their own lives, such as financial independence, for wanting to leave abusive partners, or simply creating social media accounts.

Holistically, femicides in Turkey all seem to stem from the prevalent sexist notion of men being the custodians of women’s bodies, properties and lives in general. These same misogynistic ideals are a major barrier to any progress being made in the fight against femicides in Turkey as a substantial percentage of Turkish men have openly expressed their fears of feminist movements working to erode traditional Turkish family values and traditions. Moreover, some of these same traditions such as honor killings undoubtedly disable the efforts being made to lobby for women’s’ rights. In response to this, and to the perpetuating femicides, the leaders of various women rights platforms have made it clear that they will not stop marching until their pleas are heard, calling for an end to sexism in both discourse and practice.

The hashtag #pinargultekin is also trending on social media as users flood the platforms to express their outrage, spread awareness and call for allyship especially from their government. Governmental support is especially crucial because femicides in Turkey continue to occur despite the ratification of relevant treaties. The Istanbul Convention of 2011, an European agreement aimed at mitigating gender based violence, was ironically primarily ratified by Turkey. The country also adopted the 6284 Turkish law in 2012 to protect family, and prevent violence against women. As unfortunate as it is ironic however, femicides have doubled since these laws were adopted, exposing the governmental negligence.

Repeat Offender

Unfortunately, this pattern is not novel to Turkey, as almost exactly a year ago, in August 2019, the hashtag #idontwanttodie was trending. These were the last words of Emine Bulut to her 10-year-old daughter who begged her not to die as she was being gruesomely stabbed by her ex-partner. The horrendous video of the woman screaming those infamous words before her death went viral, and enraged Turkish women who resorted to social media to protest and call for a change. However, one year and 424 more femicides later, not much has changed.

Nonetheless, Turkish women remain determined to fight for their rights. As the passionate university student Nisa Bosnak from Trabzon city writes to TNGO:

“This is an inhuman event…
We are fighting for the acceptance of the Istanbul Convention in our country. What we all want as all women is to live fearlessly and freely. This was not the first and may not be the last, we will prove the power of being a woman by bringing our struggle to victory.”

Therefore, as the protests continue, and as the world gains more awareness of the situation, joining in solidarity, Turkish women remain tireless in crying out to their men, their government, and to the world: “I don’t want to die!”

  • In light to the use of social media in movements such as the #metoo movement, how can social media be utilized in Turkey as a tool for justice in the fight against femicide?
  • Are the current protests more likely to be successful than the previous ones in Turkey due to the current global social and political climate?
  • How can other countries show support and allyship to Turkish women in such moments?
  • Are forms of social media activism such as the black&white #ChallengeAccepted challenge effective/sufficient forms of activism?

Suggested further readings:

2020 March Report of We Will End Femicide Platform

‘Mum, don’t die’: Murder of Turkish woman in front of daughter ignites anger

What #ChallengeAccepted Has to Do with Turkey – And Femicide

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Femicides in Turkey: R…

by Janet Kimani time to read: 3 min