Murder case highlights problem of violence against women in Turkey

Murder case highlights problem of violence against women in Turkey
By Kristina Jovanovski
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Large demonstrations expected in Istanbul for International Women's Day


Sule Cel’s father Ismail looks at all that he now has left of his 23-year-old daughter: memories.

“She is in front of my eyes; every moment, every minute, every hour. I always loved her so much,” he says.

Sule was studying at a university in Ankara. She worked part-time to fund her studies. She was in an office late one evening last May with her boss and his friend. Her body was found later that night outside the building, after having either fallen or been thrown 20 floors down.

The two men were questioned and released, claiming she committed suicide. So her friends set up a social media campaign. Along with a hashtag calling for justice. And it went viral.

Hurriyet Daily News reported an autopsy showed evidence of forced sex and her manager’s DNA under her fingernails. The two men were eventually charged and are now on trial.

They say they are not guilty. Sule’s family lawyer, speaking from Ankara, says the case symbolises how female victims are treated.

“Just because she’s a woman,” argues Umur Yıldırım. “She’s regarded as someone who could easily commit suicide.”

Sule’s case will be one of many that are bringing activists to the streets today on International Women’s Day to highlight violence against women.

A Turkish women’s NGO stated there has been a steady rise in the number of women killed. It says there was about a 75% increase of those killed by a relative or partner from 2013 to 2017.

The government puts the numbers lower. Activists say part of the rise is the Turkish government’s push towards conservatism. And the patriarchal mindset of society.

These marches are a rare show of public protest in an increasingly authoritarian-leaning country. It is one of a few issues that can find common ground across political lines in Turkey.

The government has taken some measures. Turkish police created an app for women to send alerts if they are in danger. Activists like Fidan Ataselim say the widespread support for these marches is because the issues touch so many across society.

“That's why, whatever their belief, idea, social position is, women are resisting against it,” she says.

Even pro-government media reports on the problem, citing a lack of coordination between different government agencies as one of the factors.

The marches and increased focus brings Sule’s father hope that other families won’t go through what he has in the future. Until then, he is left standing in his dead daughter’s bedroom looking at her old belongings.

“It’s like she is always in front of my eyes, she is always in my mind,” he says. “She is in my mind as if she were still alive.“

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