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Published On: Sat, Sep 9th, 2017

Violence against women the new “normal” in Islamist-ruled Turkey

Christof Lehmann (nsnbc) : An Istanbul court sentenced Abdullah Cakiroglu to three years and ten months behind bars for slapping a young woman for “wearing inappropriate clothes” on a public bus. Yes, Cakiroglu was sentenced and “no” this is not an isolated incident of violence against women in Turkey. committed by a madman. It’s contemporary Turkey. Vacation in “sunny Turkey to be groped, slapped in the face or worse for wearing shorts? No thank you.

Avesgül Terzi_Istanbul_Girl slapped for wearing shortsNo, Turkey doesn’t have a Saudi Arabia-style religious and morality police – yet – but with its Islamist AKP government and president Turkey continues heading in that direction – fast.

Abdullah Cakirogly was sentenced by an Istanbul court on Thursday, September 7. Istanbul’s 40th Court of First Instance said in its ruling the sentence was given on charges of “prohibiting the freedom of belief and opinion,” “deliberate injury” and “insult.”

Lawyers of the Family and Social Policies Ministry, Turkish Bar Association, Istanbul Bar Women’s Rights Center, İzmir Bar Association and the NGO named “We Will Stop Femicides” were also present at the sixth hearing of the trial under as participants.

aysegul-t_istanbul_turkey_womenCakiroglu kicked Avesgül Terzi, a female nurse, on September 12, 2016, on a public bus in Istanbul. In fact, he, kicked her in the face for “not wearing appropriate clothing”. He admitted to having committed the act because he “found Terzi’s outfit inappropriate”.

After the assault Terzi filed criminal charges against Cakiroglu who was arrested by police. Ironically, his arrest sparked about as many objections as the violence committed by the perpetrator.

A court then ruled to release him but upon public outrage over his release, he was arrested again and stood in the dock for the initial hearing that took place at an Istanbul court on October 26, 2016. The court then adjourned the trial while again ordering his conditional release.

Abdullah Cakiroglu_Ankara_2017_man who kicked woman for wearing shortsOn September 7, the court asked Cakiroglu for the final words in his defense. “I was not going to say this, since it is disgraceful, but her [Terzi’s] underwear could be seen while she was sitting down. I would like to know where our state draws the line. This is Turkey and it is an Islamic country … I have been provoked. Also, I had not taken my medication [the day of the attack], which had an influence,” he said.

Systemic problem, not an isolated act of a madman

The oppression of women, harassment, groping, violence, rape and slaps over the wrists on rape charges, arranged marriages of underage girls, and other issues are systemic. The “kick in the face” Terzi experienced was not the isolated act of a zealous religious madman. It’s contemporary Turkey – what you would expect if you follow developments there since the Islamist AKP came to power.

In a separate incident, locals in the Kolej neighborhood of the capital Ankara have reportedly filed a complaint about a woman for “wearing shorts.” Neighbors reportedly complained to the manager of the apartment building where the woman lives, demanding that she keep her curtains closed as she was “wearing shorts in her home.”  The woman, an English teacher identified only by the initials T.E., said she had been “monitored” by her neighbors and workers at the construction site across from her apartment for a long time and had been abused through her social media accounts.

“I am constantly being monitored and abused in my home near Kızılay, where I have been living for around a year, by workers in the front, people living in the apartment building nearby and my neighbor’s son,” T.E wrote on her social media account on September 6. “Now, those who monitor my home because I wear shorts have complained about me to the building manager. The manager has warned me to keep my curtains closed for my own sake,” she added.

A happy couple according to AKP interpretation of Turkish values - child marriages on the rise again.

A happy couple according to AKP interpretation of Turkish values – child marriages on the rise again.

In May 2017 Turkey’s Islamist AKP government banned television dating shows and dating services by decree under emergency laws. The decree was published in Turkey’s Official Gazette on April 29, describing such shows as incompatible with Turkish cultural values. It’s noteworthy that the same AKP government, in 2016, removed the minimum legal age clause that previously prohibited sex with minors under the age of 15.

The AKP government declared a state of emergency following the attempted military coup on July 15, 2016. Ironically, the military mystery coup resulted in the AKP’s grab for power in a constitutional referendum that according to OSCE observers as well as the opposition CHP and HDP was plagued by irregularities. It is noteworthy that the referendum that resulted in the introduction of an executive presidential system, the weakening of the judiciary, and the reintroduction of the title “head of State” also was held under emergency laws.

With a decree issued in May 2017 the AKP government banned televised dating shows. The shows are very popular in Turkey, but Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus signaled already in March that such shows would be banned because they are not consistent with Turkish traditions.  On March 16 Kurtulmus said:

“There are some strange programs that damage the institution of the family, taking away its nobility and sanctity. … God willing, in the near future, we will remedy this with a state of emergency decree. Efforts are at their latest stage.”

However, the decree does not merely ban the televised dating shows. The decree also targets advertising for dating / matchmaking services. The decree, published in the Official Gazette on April 29, stipulates:

“In radio and television broadcasts, shows where people are introduced to each other and/or brought together to find friends … cannot be made.”

Officials from Turkey’s ruling, Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP) claimed dating shows receive thousands of complaints every year. Moreover, Turkey’s Radio and TV watchdog the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) levels fines against them for violations of broadcasting principles almost every week. RTÜK has also been involved in draconian censorship measures against media. According to the decree, stations that violate the ban more than 20 times per year will not be able to broadcast for up to five days.

So, what does the AKP government consider as “consistent with Turkish values”?
Shutterstock

Shutterstock

The decree stipulates that “programs and TV series encouraging family life” will be promoted in cooperation with the Family and Social Policies Ministry.  Istanbul lawmaker Sezgin Tanrıkulu, a member of the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP)commented on the decree and said that such sweeping laws “remove the function of parliament” and stressed that the decree is entirely unrelated to security or the state of emergency.

Speaking with the daily Birgün on April 29, Tanrıkulu stressed that the latest decrees “include regulations that are against basic human rights.” He asked rhetorically “Was the coup attempt staged by marriage programs? Was the state of emergency issued to address marriage programs?”

But wait – promoting child marriage and underage sex is also consistent with the AKP’s interpretation of Turkish values, isn’t it?

In August 2016 Turkey’s Constitutional Court ruled on the issue after a district court complained that the current law does not discriminate between age groups in cases of child sex abuse. In practice, the law makes no difference regardless whether an adult has sex with a 14-year old or a 4-year old.

Human Trafficking_Sexual Abuse_Child Sréx Abuse_USA_SP_OCThe district court noted that the law does not provide legal consequences for the “consent” of victims in cases where the child victim is from 12 to 15 years of age and able to understand the meaning of the sexual act. The District Court added that: “This creates an imbalance between legal benefits and sanctions that should be preserved in crime and punishment”. In a 7 – 6 decision the judges at the Constitutional Court agreed with the District Court and annulled the provision. The new (old) rules were to come into effect on January 13, 2017.

The ruling prompted protests from women’s rights activist, child rights activists as well as from prominent academics who stress that all persons under the age of 18, under international conventions to which Turkey is a party, are children. Nazan Moroğlu, the coordinator od the Istanbul Women’s Association and lawyer criticized the Constitutional Court for even considering the District Court’s application in the first place.

Moroğlu stressed that the ruling will lead to children being vulnerable to sexual abuse and rape and will lead to more female children getting married at an early age without getting an education. She added that the problem with child brides is already acute in Turkey, noting that there are some 3.5 million of them already and that the ruling guaranteed that their numbers will increase.

Sabit Aktas, the head of the Child Rights Center of the Ankara Bar Association, warned that many children will be affected and suffer due to the Constitutional Court’s decision. Aktas said:

“We can foresee what this decision will bring about. Those jurists who are distant from society in their ivory towers should go to courtrooms to see and hear what those children go through when describing their experiences. They should only make a ruling on this issue after doing that”.

In 2013 the Turkish AKP government under the then Prime Minister R. Tayyip Erdogan adopted the so-called 4+4+4 educational system for Turkey. A large number of Turkish experts in social sciences and education stressed that this new educational law especially encourages young Turkish girls to leave school at a very early age rather than seeking education.

Statistics from 2013 showed that 853 women were murdered in the last four years;  15% of them were killed because they wanted to divorce, 66% were killed by their ex-husbands or boyfriends. 12.5% were killed by their husbands, even though they filed a complaint and were provided with protection by the state. Violence against women in Turkey is more prevalent in the countryside where girls more often are taken out of school at an earlier age and where child marriages are more common.

CHILD_BRIDE_TURKEYIn October 2013 a study conducted by researchers a Gaziantep University revealed that one in every three marriages in Turkey is a child marriage. The marriage of Turkish child brides to older men has repeatedly led to fatal tragedies. Among the most known cases in 2014 alone, is the death of two so-called child brides.

In January 2014 one 14-year-old teenage girl died from “several” allegedly self-inflicted gunshot wounds in what was declared a suicide. Police investigations suggested that the girl may have been as young as ten or eleven years when she was married away to a significantly older man. In July 2014 the 15-year-old Seter Aslan succumbed to a gunshot wound in what was declared a suicide.

Could one feel tempted to extrapolate that the AKP government’s interpretation of “consistent with Turkish values“, in this context, can be translated into “keep women uneducated, dressed up and ready for the man at home, kick them in the face if they don’t obey orders,” and “please stop watching dating shows and go and have fun with your kids instead”?

CH/L – nsnbc 09.09.2017

About the Author

- Dr. Christof Lehmann is the founder and editor of nsnbc. He is a psychologist and former independent political consultant on conflict, conflict resolution and a wide range of other political issues. In March 2013 he established nsnbc as a daily, independent, international on-line newspaper. He can be contacted at nsnbc international at nsnbc.wordpress@gmail.com

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