For weeks, women in Turkey have been campaigning for women’s rights and the upholding of the Istanbul Convention, which has become a source of discussion thanks to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). While the Central Executive Board (MYK), dominated by male AKP members, considers withdrawing from the Convention, hideous cases of women being abducted, killed, raped and subjected to violence run unabated.
This week, the death of an 18-year old woman led to uproar on social media. The hashtag “MusaOrhanTutuklansin” (Musa Orhan should be imprisoned) was used in more than 160 K tweets in just a few hours. In fact, the news had come out a month ago: Special sergeant Musa Orhan raped I.E, a young woman who later committed suicide after being hospitalized for more than a month in the Southeastern city of Batman.
I.E’s tragic death bears the failings of the Turkish judicial system as well as that of the Kurdish issue.
When she was hospitalized a month ago, doctors said her organs were severely damaged and that if she survived, there was an 80% chance that she would be left paralyzed. The perpetrator, Musa Orhan, was detained upon complaints from the victim’s family after they found I.E’s letter. Despite that, Orhan was released with judicial control because he claimed he had been “intoxicated.” And as he is a special sergeant in the Kurdish region, the authorities attempted to cover up for him.
Though Orhan was released, the pro-Kurdish news site Jiyan, which reported the incident, was under threat. İdris Yayla, the grant holder of Jiyan, was investigated under the act “To insult and/or provoke the public’s feelings of hate and hostility” in the Turkish penal Code. A confidentiality order was imposed on the case following media reports. No other opposition party aside from the HDP made the case public.
Had I.E. not died, this case would have probably been forgotten. Another specialized sergeant in the Southeastern province of Şırnak was recently accused of attempting to sexually abuse a 13-year old girl. The people of Şırnak flooded the streets after she was saved and the authorities declared that the sergeant would be suspended. There was no confirmation of his subsequent arrest or suspension.
I.E was buried in the cemetery of Batman under high security. The police prevented HDP politicians or people from entering the site.
“I’m ashamed of myself and the Turkish Republic. There are so many victims like her. I want justice”, her father told the daily Cumhuriyet newspaper: “Musa Orhan tricked her, intoxicated her, took advantage of her for days. Then he vanished. We went to the prosecutor one week before her suicide attempt, when we found the letter she had written to Orhan.”
Lawyers told MA (Mesopotamia Agency) that their objection to Orhan’s release had been accepted and that the Chief Public Prosecutor would push for his arrest. Orhan has allegedly been suspended from his duties.
Yet according to the Human rights Association (IHD) lawyer Nesrin Bilge who spoke to the daily newspaper Birgün, Musa Orhan was released a month ago and could easily spoliate evidence that would help him get away.
I.E’s family is adamant on seeking justice. But one must bear in mind that there are many cases in which the family does not get the authorities involved, and are mostly unaware of sexual assault cases as women are afraid to speak out.
According to “Kadınlar Birlikte Platform” (roughly translated as “Women Stronger Together”) only 7 out of 100 women report being subjected to violence to the police, and 42% of reports are “resolved” by “repairing” the victim’s relationship with the assailant.