Istanbul protest against the murder of 20-year-old Ozgecan Aslan. (photo: Ozan Kose/AFP/Getty Images)
Rape and Murder of Young Woman Sparks Mass Twitter Protest in Turkey
By Helen Davidson, The Guardian
17 February 15
The murder of a woman who tried to stop a man raping her has sparked mass protests in Turkey and prompted women to share their stories of sexual harassment, violence and fear in a growing Twitter campaign.
Twenty-year-old student Ozgecan Aslan was traveling on a minibus in the south-east seaside province of Mersin on Wednesday when a man tried to rape her, according to local media.
Reports said Aslan pepper-sprayed the man before he stabbed her and beat her to death with an iron bar. He then enlisted the help of his father and a friend to dispose of her body in a river in Tarsus, where it was found on Friday showing evidence of burns as well as the fatal injuries.
A 26-year-old man, Ahmet Suphi Altındöke, was arrested on Monday and confessed to the crime,the Hurriyet Daily News reported. Altındöke’s 50-year-old father and 20-year-old friend were also arrested.
Turkish women have taken to social media, in response to the murder and the alarming rates of sexual harassment and violence in the country.
Using the hashtag #sendeanlat (tell your story), women have told of their experiences of violence, intimidation and harassment, as well as tactics they have resorted to, such as wearing a wedding ring or getting off a bus early to avoid being the last passenger.
Turkish model Didem Soydan has shared a number of her stories, including of the the abusive text messages she received after she gave her number to police when she witnessed a woman’s assault.
As of Monday, more than 440,000 tweets had been shared under the hashtag, and it was the third highest trending topic worldwide on Sunday. Another hashtag, #ozceganaslan, was even more more popular, trending as the highest topic worldwide on Saturday and Monday with more than 2.5m tweets, according to Al Jazeera.
Data on gender-based violence in Turkey varies. In 2014, 56% of the 281 women murdered in Turkey were killed by a husband or partner, according to data compiled from news reports by Turkish press organisation Bianet. The organisation said another 27 women had been murdered in January of this year.
The number of deaths was a 31% increase on the previous year.
Bianet also said 9% of those killed had previously filed a complaint or sought a restraining order against their aggressor. A third of rape victims were between 12 and 17-years-old.
Last year the European court of human rights found a “pattern of judicial passivity in response to allegations of domestic violence” when it ruled Turkey had failed to adequately investigate the suicide of a woman known to have been abused by her husband, Human Rights Watch reported.
Large rallies were held in numerous Turkish cities, including Istanbul and Ankara, over the weeked, with thousands of women and men taking to the streets wearing black in mourning and protest for Aslan, chanting slogans including “you will never walk alone”. Hundreds of women attended Aslan’s funeral in Mersin.
There were multiple reports of police crackdowns on protesters and accusations of heavy-handedness.
Aslan’s murder has drawn condemnation from political and civil society leaders. The country’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, decried the death and said violence against women was the “bleeding wound” of Turkey. Erdoğan tweeted his horror at the crime and said those responsible deserved “the heaviest punishment.”
However, he then drew ire by criticising women for protesting by dancing, saying it was not part of Turkey’s culture. The protest, held on Friday, was a One Billion Rising event to raise awareness of rape and sexual harassment.
Erdoğan has a troubled history with women’s rights and advocacy in Turkey. Shortly after winning the presidency – after 12 years as prime minister - he sparked outrage by saying women and men could not be equal because it “goes against the laws of nature”.
He has also proposed limits on abortion and caesarean sections, and his deputy prime minister, Bülent Arınç, made comments suggesting women should not laugh in public, which prompted a social media trend of women photographing themselves doing just that.
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