How Erdoğan's government lets women die

Despite the government's pledge to combat femicide and domestic abuse, 474 women were murdered by men in 2019 in Turkey. Women’s rights advocates have repeatedly said the system is too weak to protect women.

When she arrived home, her clothes were cut into pieces, her cosmetics and other personal belongings thrown in the bin. That was what she ex had threatened to do. And though their little boy begged him not to, the ex went on a frenzy - scissors and knife in hand.

That was when she made her first appeal. Yet it wouldn’t be the worst of what was to come. In total, she made 23 appeals to the local police and court, fearing for her life. Listing the details of the threats and abuse of her ex husband, she wrote:

“He says he will kill me, throw acid on my face, burn down my house…”

The last time, she wrote in vain: “Will you pay attention to me after I die?” 

The answer is clear. Ayşe Tuba Arslan is dead. Her ex-husband Yalçın Özalpay, attacked her with a chopper on a busy street in Eskişehir on October, 2019. 40 days after the brutal attack, she died at the hospital.  

Her family’s lawyers released a statement a few days ago, citing the wrongdoings, neglect and responsibility of the officials. Arslan managed to get a “preventive measure” from the court, the state obviously failed to protect her. 

Özalpay got acquitted from all his inquiries, pleading not guilty. Each time he got away with it, things got worse. At times, Arslan could not go home and would hide in her workplace in fear. Özalpay repeatedly told her and others that he would kill her. 

Hatice Meryem wrote about the mindset of such men in her latest book ‘Bir kadını öldürmeye nereden başlamalı?/Where to start to kill a woman’ (*) by Iletişim Publications. Meryem told the Cumhuriyet Book Supplement "in this country, women get killed because manhood can’t be questioned. They kill because they feel free and yes, comfortable to do so. Fathers, brothers, husbands have told us for years: You don't know men. They probably knew the dark side of their gender.’’

Tuba Arslan’s story is just one of the many, gruesome femicides that, as Meryem remarks, were conducted with unsettling ease. 

Officials knew her life was at risk. But though the state was obliged by law (Article 6284) to protect her, she was to fend for herself.    

The lawyers point out that the prosecution office, Family Courts, criminal court and the Center To Monitor and Prevent Violence (Şiddet Önleme ve İzleme Merkezi-ŞÖNİM) don’t communicate effectively and regularly. In that sense, they didn’t take the necessary precautions. 

This evaluation is valid for all domestic violence cases. The government introduced some solutions to combat femicide and domestic abuse, such as ŞÖNİM. The police and judiciary have underwent sustained training thanks to funds from the European Union. Still, in 2019, 474 women were murdered by men, mostly by their close relatives in Turkey. This number marks the highest number of femicide in the last decade (Source: Kadın Cinayetlerini Durduracağız Platformu).

Women’s rights advocates have repeatedly said the system is too weak to protect women. Arslan’s case is just one of many grave examples to prove them right. 

Aside from the implementation of law, the AKP government introduced many problematic approaches in domestic abuse. For instance, the Family Courts can decide for reconciliation in domestic abuse cases. The idea of the government is to prevent divorce rates and ‘protect’ the family. 

How can one protect the institution of family when more than 3,000 women were killed and hundreds of children were orphaned in the past decade? 

How can one protect women whilst letting underaged girls getting married? How can one even talk about making it legally possible for sexual assaulters to marry their victims?