Turkey as the scene of Kadirova's murder

Sometimes it is not a coincidence when a single criminal case ends up becoming a snapshot of the problems of an era. What occurred after the suspicious death of a 23-year-old woman shows us a picture of Turkey today, with its current labor regime, justice system, immigration policies, violence and discrimination against women, and privileges for those in power.

The date was February 12, 1935. A critically wounded woman, in her thirties, lying in bed at the intensive care unit of Taksim French Hospital, was telling her brother who was waiting for her inevitable death at bedside: "Don't try and do something to people who shot me, they will kill you too!"

Fatma Medeniye, the wounded woman, died shortly after uttering these words. She was the daughter of Mehmet Sabri Bey, who was Sultan Vahdettin's calligraphy teacher. Recep Zühtü Soyak, the person who shot her, was a gunman in President Mustafa Kemal Atatürk's bodyguard team.

Atatürk did not want his bodyguard team to get married. That is why Recep Zühtü, who was loyal to death to Atatürk since Monastery (city in present day Macedonia), could not get married to Fatma Medeniye, his girlfriend of 10 years. This privileged person within the new regime received an informer report on February 10, 1935: Ms. Fatma was seen with another man. On the same night, he stormed the Medeniye's house in Çengelköy, where she was living with her mother. As a man who was the combined product of bourgeoisie, feudalism and religious backwardness, and as a treacherous gunman due to this act, he shot her in her sexual organ. It is said that Kılıç Ali, another bodyguard, reported this to Atatürk immediately and Atatürk said, "what the law says must be done."

But what the law said could not be done. Fatma Mecidiye died at the French Hospital two days after Recep Zühtü shot her. Her cause of death was written in the hospital notebook, against standard practice of the time, in Ottoman Turkish instead of modern Turkish. Recep Zühtü was elected a member of parliament only five days later, for a third term. The prosecution's investigation was conducted as a matter of procedure. But even if they made up an excuse of "accidental murder," he would have to serve at least three years. The only way out was to get a certificate for him that said he was insane. So they wrote the report. Recep Zühtü Soyak was a member of parliament and murderer who was legally insane at the same time. The case regarding Fatma Menediye's death was closed.

This murder story about Recep Zühtü Soyak is instructive in getting a sense of the era's soul. After the fractures of 1925-26 and the Liberal Republican Party (SCP) and the Menemen uprisings in 1930, the environment around the regime had become much more closed. It was getting more corrupt by the day. All the while, the regime would not let “its men” be hurt by anyone. Despite all the claims of being modern, this regime had a “male” attack that occurred at its top levels, and a justice system that didn’t touch this top level. Party accountants would carry suitcases between the bourgeoisie and bureaucracy. It had a media environment that did not have the courage or will to report on issues, and a young woman who did not matter in the face of this system.  

The date was June 24, 1991. Social Democratic Populist Party (SHP) Member of Parliament from Izmir Erol Güngör's 21-year-old son Mustafa was murdered while he was alone at his family's home in a Parliament housing complex. According to the police report, the murderer, or murderers, had used sharp objects and firearms to kill Mustafa. The housing complex where the murder took place had two entrances guarded by police 24 hours a day. In addition, some ministers and parliament members who lived there had special protection. However, the death of Mustafa Güngör was also lost behind an obvious cover-up and was never solved. The names of some parliament members and ministers in the government of the time (the secular Motherland Party, ANAP) floated around concerning the incident... the mafia and crime bosses of the time also made interesting statements. However, this murder which happened at Parliament housing remained unsolved.

1991 was a year that both marked the end of the ANAP government in Turkey and a high point of denial regarding the Kurdish issue, which had started in 1984. An extension of the 12 September, 1980 military coup, the ANAP government lost its “magic” after the results of its treacherous neo-liberal economic policies occurred. And the public workers who shook the country with 1989 spring protests and the mine workers who followed them in protest were what triggered it. While 1991 was a year when both the working class and Kurdish people stood up, Turkish hegemons were losing their temper.

Working class and leftist opposition would be suppressed by police and counterguerrilas, through many kinds of tyranny, including executions, torture, people “lost” while in detention, laws passed in the name of “fighting terrorism,” long jail sentence, and more. 

Things were going to become much more ruthless for Kurdish people as the poorest segments of Kurdish society started to wake up: villagers without land, workers, small business owners who were exiled to cities and stuck there, street vendors, the unemployed, women and children.

1991 was almost the first year of this new “national security regime.” Members of the “old” government, mafia bosses, and security bureaucracy were all implicated. These members of the old order would have accusations against them, or they would be victims, or they would make statements: in short, they were all under the spotlight. When the case, which implicated those previously in power, became an “unsolved murder,” that meant something. Turkey was transitioning into a new “security concept” where all revolutionaries, union members, journalists, intellectuals, human rights defenders, Kurdish politicians, and almost all Kurdish people were under threat under the umbrella of “unsolved murders” and the “fight against terrorism.” 

23-year-old Uzbek citizen Nadira Kadirova died at the home of the current ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) member of parliament Şirin Ünal on September 23. The first reports said that Kadirova was a caretaker for Ünal's sick wife. The Ankara police said in its first statement that the incident was a suicide. But then first her brother, then a close friend came forward with doubts about Nadira's death. Her older brother Ali Kadirova said he went to the house in Ankara and there were police at the door. He was not allowed to go in and he did not even get to see her sister at Bilkent Hospital where she was taken. Close friend Leyla Niyazova said she talked to Nadira not long before her death and learned that Nadira was being sexually harassed by Şirin Ünal. Also, according to information from the Kadirova family, Nadira Kadirova was working at Şirin Ünal's house without a legal working permit. This suspicious death is still under investigation. However, the developments up until the evening of October 6 do not look like a healthy investigation.

But even under these conditions, there are things that can be said without damaging the “authority” of the investigation. Doesn’t this death, or rather the attempt to obscure it—and the lack of punishment and lack of investigation—point to a collaboration between those in power, just like in 1935 and 1991?

Sometimes when a criminal case appears as a snapshot of the problems, or the spirit, of a certain era, it is not a “twist of fate.” In reality, every social relation and every “crisis” are products of both the spirit of the era as well as its material conditions. What occurred after the suspicious death of a 23-year-old woman shows us a picture of Turkey today, with its current labor regime, justice system, immigration policies, violence and discrimination against women, and privileges for those in power. An undocumented woman, employed illegally, died in the home of a powerful person, and despite the allegations of sexual harassment by her friends and family, even the most basic requirements of an investigation were not carried out. And so in this way, all workers, women and migrants in Turkey are also "working in the home of a powerful person."