Names of the Turkish Women

By: Fethi Yaşar

Hatice Soysal, Feride T., Merve Abasiyun, Selma Taşkömür, Kristina Noystka, Vildan İnce, Sevda Kösecik, Aslıhan Dal, Unknown, Sevgi Tekin, Ferdane Kurt, Nergis Beyaz, Gonca Pekşen, Şükran Biroğlu, Zerda Cunka, Dilan K., Aleyna Yurtkölesi, Neriman Kıvrak, Canan Acer, Türkiye El Mohammed, Ayşe Özgecan Usta, Şule Yıldırım, İkram Kaplan, Cahide Türkoğlu, Melek Gürler, Gülsüm Berk, Güler Kaya, Ayşe Yaylan, Döndü Bakır, Aygül Çakan, Melek Güngörmüş, Hatice Bodur, Şadiye Öztürk, Feride Yılmaz, Süryan Büyük, Mürebba Gökçe, Nasıma Sharıfı Pınar Can, Nebahat Kurt, Halime Türkaslan, Saniye Kaçar, Semiha Peker, Sibel Aksu, Nuran Koçer, Samira Lkhadır, Saime Ü., Raziye Özcan, Karanfil Özcan, Nur Cemil Hüseyin, Nergiz Sarıkaya, Gamze Gider, Gülbahar Asabay, Mediha Aygün, Futem Alhamadi, Yağmur B., Gizem Canbulut, Hatice Yıldız, Rabia Doğan, Serpil Fikirli, Elif Atay, Beyzanur Özel Fidan, Zilfunur Bakır, Meral S., Unknown, Sezen Ünlü, Necla Demirtaş, Unknown, Meryem Güneş, Kader Balcı, Hatice T., Hatice Helvacı, Hacer Çetin, Gonca Akbulut, Birgül Y., Hanım Pınarlı, Fatma Kovan, Zeynep Çubuk İkinci, Mihrican Ekmenci, Gülistan Şaylemez, Gamze Kaçar Bozkurt, Emel Tokkal, Meral Şen, Hanife Yenisu, Ayşe Nazlı Kınacı, Bensu Narlı, Hüsna T., Miraş Güneş, Işık Gülsen Güder, Reyhan Korkmaz

89 lives… 89 femicides have been committed in Turkey this year as of today, April 4th. It is estimated that at least one reported/known femicide is perpetrated per day. On March 20th, Turkey woke up to the country withdrawing from the Istanbul Convention with an authoritative presidential decree. Turkish democracy has been backsliding over the years, inflicting pain on Turkish women struggling to achieve gender equality day by day. This final stroke of the withdrawal decree has profoundly regressed Turkey’s gender equality, exposing women and girls to all forms of subjugation and violence.

Although Turkish women were among the first in Europe to achieve the right to vote and run for elected office in 1934, the journey towards full gender equality in all aspects of life has been an elongated process, gaining momentum since the 1990s. In 2011, Turkey played a predominant regional role in the signature of The Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence – a human rights treaty of the Council of Europe against all forms of violence against women and domestic violence. The convention was opened for signature in Istanbul, Turkey, driving it to be known as the Istanbul Convention, and has been signed by 45 countries and the European Union by 2019. Among these countries, Turkey was not only the first country to sign and ratify the convention but also the first country to withdraw from it after ten years, ironically and tragically demonstrating the extent of paradigm shift of the government regarding the perception of women, gender, and equality.

Although the Turkish judiciary recognized the Istanbul Convention on de jure means, the judiciary has not regarded the convention on de facto terms in the last years. People, especially women, have been protesting for months in an effort to compel the judiciary to conclude legal cases against femicides, sexual harassment and assault, and domestic abuse according to the articles of the Istanbul Convention. March 20th marked the day when the Turkish women were deprived of their de jure legal bindings subjected to the convention with a presidential decree.

As a young Turkish man who has always believed in and valued the importance of gender equality and empowerment of women, the news has terrified my soul and shaken my core for a long time. Every day, I open my eyes to the news of: a woman was stabbed by her ex-husband in front of her 10-year-old daughter while screaming… A female university student was sexually assaulted, choked to death, and thrown out of a building by her ex-boyfriend … A young woman’s burnt body was discovered. She was murdered, raped, and burnt by a minibus driver and two other men... I close my eyes and cannot breathe every time I see criminal murderers/assaulters who show up at courts with ties and suits and testify, “it was a one-time rage and a mental breakdown” to receive good conduct abatement. As a young Turkish man, but above all a human being, I am horrified.

I reserved the beginning section to commemorate the women whose lives were brutally punctuated: 89 lives... 89 is the number of innocent women murdered by spouses, former partners, brothers, fathers, or strangers; 89 is the number of contempt. What is even more shameful is that this number is likely to rise by the end of 2021 because 405, 421, and 409 women were murdered in 2018, 2019, and 2020 respectively. What is even more disheartening is that this number could have dropped with the Istanbul Convention.

Years ago, Duygu Asena, a female Turkish author and activist for women’s rights, voiced “The Woman Has No Name”, marking the struggle of all Ayşe’s, Fatma’s, Hatice’s, Aslı’s, Pelin’s…all Turkish women who are condemned to an unjust, unequal, and unfree future and metamorphose into anonymity. Today, the withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention unlocked the door for the lives of Turkish women to be at risk – at risk of becoming an additional number displayed in the news.

Anticipating the days of equality, justice, and freedom for all…