Feminicide in Turkey under AKP rule
“Mom, please don’t die!” These are the words of a 10-year-old girl on August 18, 2019, in a cafe in the province of Krikkale. Her mother, Emine Bulut, was attacked by her ex-husband with a knife in front of her eyes. Emine Bulut died shortly afterwards in hospital. Her case became famous because the scene was filmed1 and was spread throughout social media, but in Turkey every year there are hundreds of feminicides, and the number keeps growing. Here we use the word femicide to describe the murder of a woman for the reason of being a woman. The term feminicide includes state responsability in the context of the mass killing of women as an identity and sector of the population
The graph on the side shows the data on feminicides according to two different sources: the data from the Anıt Sayaç2 archive is presented in red, while the data from the “We Will Stop Femicide Platform” (KCDP)3 is presented in yellow. We point out that up to the year 2019, the KCDP data are unitary while for the following years they differentiate, in particular the rates between feminicides and suspicious deaths of women. The data in the chart are the sum of the two; moreover, at the time of writing it is possible that the data for the year 2022 is still incomplete
According to a study4 from 2023, which analyzes the femicides committed in the territory of the Turkish state from 2013 to 2021, the perpetrator who appears most frequently is “Husband + man with imam marriage + ex-husband”. In this study we can read: “The findings revealed that an increase in the female unemployment rate and a decrease in the male unemployment rate increases the number of femicides”. The AKP government’s policies of the past 20 years have explicitly aimed at getting women to marry young, and push them to produce multiple children. When the perpetrator is in most cases the husband or ex-husband, putting psychological pressure on women to get married means putting them even more at risk. Furthermore, political efforts are aimed at preventing women from having a job outside the home, to the extent that working women are blamed to rise in unemployment. (for a more precise and in-depth list, refer to our previous article ‘AKP policies against women’5). All this, if compared with the data of this study, makes us understand how the AKP government is among the infrastructural causes of these feminicides.
Another of the main reasons why feminicides are on the rise so drastically is that following the reports of violence, safety measures for the victims are scarce. In an interview6, Birgit Schwarz (Communications Deputy Director for Europe and Africa at Human Rights Watch) highlighted some of these cases: “Ayşe Tuba Arslan complained 23 times about her husband’s abusive behavior. She divorced him. He then killed her. Only three weeks before Ayşe’s death, her husband was prosecuted for publicly threatening to “shoot and kill” her. The sentence was suspended on condition that he not repeat the offence. The authorities should have known better. Pelda Karaduman was abducted by her cousin when she was 12 years old. She gave birth to two children when she herself was still a child, before her cousin shot her dead at the age of 18. There were lots of opportunities for the authorities to bring her back to her family and prosecute her abuser. She was a minor, after all, when she gave birth to her children and there was a long history of abuse, Yet none of these steps were taken.”
In the Human Rights Watch report “Combating Domestic Violence in Turkey: The Deadly Impact of Failure to Protect”7 reads: “In June 2021, Eşref Akoda shot dead his 38-year-old wife Yemen outside her home in the central Anatolian town of Aksaray. Prior to this lethal assault, courts had on four separate occasions issued preventive orders aimed at keeping Eşref away from Yemen after he harassed her when she filed for divorce. A lawyer for the family said that Eşref Akoda had approached and threatened his wife at least twice, violating the third and fourth preventive orders, but that on these occasions the court had not imposed any of the available disciplinary sanctions on him, such as a short period in detention due to a “lack of evidence”. The prosecutor also declined to bring criminal charges against him, even though Yemen’s lawyer had filed complaints with the prosecutor’s office.”
The list of cases could go on, but what is clear is that, as stated in a joint statement by WWHR, Mor Çatı and Ca.Der 8 “impunity has become the norm in crimes of violence against women and sexual abuse; the civil servants, especially the law enforcement agencies, adopt an approach far from supporting women who struggle to protect themselves from violence; and that malpractices such as discouraging women from filing complaints and attempts to reunite women with men inflicting violence on them go unpunished and unsanctioned.”
Even international organizations like Amnesty International states9: “Victims are often discouraged from reporting offenses and investigations into reports of violence against women are often less than diligent. These attitudes partially explain why many women in Turkey who face violence make the decision not to report it to law enforcement agencies. The gaps in the system of protection and preventive orders are most shockingly exposed by the fact that women are being killed despite being the subjects of such orders.” From this data it is clear that a large part of the increase in feminicides in Turkey is due to the lack of political will of the AKP government to prevent them.
İpek Er, an 18-year-old Kurdish girl from Batman province, on June 16, 2020, tried to end her life with her father’s rifle, she eventually died on August 18 in hospital. On July 7 she had filed a criminal complaint to Siirt Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office on charges of ‘rape, forced abduction and threats’ about Specialized Sergeant Musa Orhan. She said she was abducted, raped, and rendered harmless through the use of alcohol and pills. Er had explained that she felt it would be hopeless to report her abduction, drugging and rape, and that she did not expect authorities to hold Orhan accountable for his crimes.10 Only after Er’s suicide attempt, however, the arrest warrant for Orhan was sent. After that he was released on the condition of judicial control, citing that he would not escape. Only after Er’s death Orhan was actually arrested, and he was released again on August 25th, The court’s decision to release was shaped by the belief that İpek Er had voluntarily entered sexual intercourse with Musa Orhan.11 Not only she was raped by a state official while she was alive, but citizens and members of parliament were also prevented from attending her funeral. 12
Er denounced her assailant despite the social pressure that pushed her not to do it out of shame, and when she saw that her denunciations had no result, she decided to take her own life. On August 20, 2020, the actress Egzi Mola tweeted “Drown in your conscience that let out a rapist scum! You’ve taken away all law, prayer, wishes, requests and hope we had!! I don’t have anything to say!! Shame on you!!”13 and Orhan’s lawyer accused her of ‘insult’ and requested that she serve 2 years and 4 months in prison. In the end she had been fined to the sum of 440USD.14 When the actress Hazal Kaya took the side of Egzi Mola with a tweet, she also got swept with the same charge. She declared: “I don’t think I belong to a legal system where it is a crime to call a rapist ‘a rapist’” and expressed reproach towards “a system in which the perpetrators of violence against women are not punished, but those who speak what is worthy and necessary to those perpetrators are [punished]”15.
A photo of Orhan showing him making a hand gesture of the ultra far right Turkish nationalist organisation, The Gray Wolves, had been released by the media. Referring to that photo, Eren Keskin (Prominent women’s rights lawyer and co-chair of Turkey’s IHD – İnsan Hakları Derneği, Human Right Association) said: “If a perpetrator wears an official uniform, and makes the sign of the Gray Wolves, which is the official sign of fascism, unfortunately he is protected everywhere.”16
Each of these killings must be analyzed in the context of a desire
to kill women as a political, social, ethical entity
We would like to analyze this lack of political will in more detail. We have already highlighted how the AKP government pushes for women not to have a paid job, and how the lack of this affects the probability of being victims of feminicide. We have seen how the AKP government pushes for marriage at a young age and makes it difficult for women to have their own life outside the family, and how in most cases it is the male partner who commits feminicide. We have considered that when women find the strength to report the violence they have often suffered, the provisions of the state are not appropriate and this also leads to feminicide. but this analysis is not complete. What we want to show here is that we cannot consider cases of feminicide as mere isolated events, but, in a world where patriarchy is the underlying ideology of state institutions, feminicide becomes the extreme form of a constant war, sometimes overt and sometimes underground, against women and what they represent. Each of these killings must be analyzed in the context of a desire to kill women as a political, social, ethical entity; and the purpose of this is to erase the forms of society that are built around women.
For thousands of years humanity has handed down its history or promoted values and faiths through stories, myths, legends: in analyzing them we can find the history of humanity and, within this, our own history. There is a myth that represents the first feminicide in history, the myth of Tiamat and Marduk, which we will describe here only briefly. Tiamat is the great mother goddess, like Gaia she represents life and nature, but as the years go by, her children become jealous and no longer accept her strength. They see her as a dark creature, and they say she is creating an army of monsters, and this army is described as animals or elements of nature over which the patriarchal world has no control. Marduk volunteers for the great war against Tiamat. In the struggle Tiamat becomes serpent-like, and the description of Marduk’s first attack closely resembles a rape: “When Tiamat opened wide her mouth to destroy him, he hurled the Evil Wind into it, so that she could not close her lips. The furious winds filled her belly.”17 Then 3 arrows are shot, one hits the belly, symbol of creative force, one hits the heart, symbol of feelings and emotional understanding, and the third goes to destroy the head, symbol of thinking and reasoning. This is how Tiamat is killed, this symbolism today shows that this is how women are killed in the world. The Kurdish women’s movement speaks of feminicide “as a comprehensive, structurally anchored war against women, both in armed conflicts and in everyday life. This war takes place on a physical, military level as well as on an ideological and psychological level”18 and we, as YPJ, agree with this definition. The AKP government also carries out this war explicitly by physically killing women, especially women who represent an alternative to the patriarchal, capitalist and imperialist ideology that forms the guidelines of this government. A real war, ideological and psychological, but also physical and armed is being waged against women who struggle to build a democratic, ecological society based on women’s freedom. Women and girls are killed not only in northern Kurdistan, under Turkish control, but also in the North and East of Syrian territory. In the next article we will supply a list of some of these women who have been murdered by the AKP government.
The best form of self-defense is linked to organization:
the strength of women lies in their union
This war against women is not only carried out by the AKP government, but by all entities that embrace the same patriarchal, capitalistic, imperialist philosophy. Now, in the face of this war that is being waged against us women, it is necessary to defend ourselves. It is necessary for us to resist and fight, because the same nation states and oppressing powers who have started this war will not stop by themselves. It is necessary for us women to fight because in their war against us, they aim to destroy the values of a democratic and ecological society. With every woman in the world being killed, a piece of us all is being killed. It is also for all of this that as YPJ we have decided to take up arms, as a women’s defense unit. Self-defense is not just a military task, but a social, mental and emotional one, because the attacks we receive are of all kinds. The best form of self-defense is linked to organization: the strength of women lies in their union. This is why worldwide networks such as “women weaving the future” are being created.
4“Investigation of femicide in Turkey: modeling time series of counts” Aygül Anavatan, Eda Yalçın Kayacan, 2023
8Joint Press Statement by Women for Women’s Human Rights-New Ways Association (WWHR), Mor Çatı
Women’s Shelter Foundation and Association for Support of Women Candidates (Ka.Der) – 2021 – https://www.big-berlin.info/sites/default/files/uploads/2106_press-statement-24.06.2021.pdf
9“Turkey, turn words into action” AmnestyInternational, 2021
17 https://s.deascuola.it/minisiti/storiadiotti/PDF/01_PrimeCivilta/02_mesopotamia/mito.pdf18 “100 reasons to persecute the dictator – the feminicidial policies of Erdogan an AKP” – Kurdish Women’s Movement in Europe,