The independence of the judiciary has become one of Turkey’s most important problems in recent years. In these times, when people are struggling with unemployment and hunger, we encounter a judicial scandal almost every day. A significant portion of these scandals concerns the impunity of perpetrators of violence against women and children.
The most typical examples of this impunity are seen in unexpected, sudden and suspicious deaths, which seem to have increased during the pandemic. Such suspicious deaths can potentially be described as murders that are made to look like suicides or accidents. We can also count violent occurrences that force or cause the victim to kill themselves. For instance, the Musa Orhan case, which talked about for a long time recently, and the Ümitcan Uygun case that caught public attention again a couple of days ago. I think referring to these cases by the name of the suspected perpetrator is much more appropriate. The reason is that these suspected perpetrators are walking freely among us and we should constantly remind the public of their names.
Apart from their status as suspicion deaths, another common aspect of both of the cases is Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu. In the case of Musa Orhan, in a comment Süleyman Soylu made in reference to the fact that Musa Orhan was a member of the military, Soylu almost legitimized the crime. On the other hand, in the Ümitcan Uygun case, following the death or murder of mother Gülay Uygun, the father and son shook their fingers at people in front of cameras. The two voiced how far-right and nationalistic they were, sending a message. Right after this, a photograph where the father of the suspected perpetrator, Durak Uygun, who happens to be the head of the shoemakers chamber in Ankara, in which he posed side by side with Süleyman Soylu circulated on social media.
When we argue that the political power structure is teaching perpetrators “how to get away with crimes,” we are referring to exactly this. Perpetrators, now, know that no matter what they do, they will not be punished. They will walk free; at worst, they will be sentenced to the minimum penalty. Criminals know very well how to accuse their victims and how can make a murder seem like a suicide. They know how to convey certain messages to certain people. The worst part is that it is the government that taught them these clues over time. There was a clue, a tip in each attack against women’s acquired rights. Perpetrators, would-be criminals, learned something with each action. It was a teaching and learning process when they attacked our alimony rights, when they wanted to pardon abusers, when they tried to mediate between the perpetrator of violence and the victim of violence, and when they said they cannot use womens’ testimony equally. They also said that women must have at least three children, that women who are not mothers are half women. When feminists were detained at each protest, when their marches were banned, when the sentences of violence offenders were pardoned, when the reasoning that goes “Well, she should not have dressed like that” was brought up each time, the teaching and learning continued. It continued, as well, when they did not close down the Ensar Foundation even though child abuse was discovered there. Actually, moreover, they honored the foundation by attending the general assembly of Ensar. It also continued when they detained those who intervened in violence on the street, and when Emine Bulut was murdered by her ex-husband, no investigation was launched for police officers who did not protect her. It taught them when family law number 6284 was accused of breaking up marriages and when the Istanbul Convention was declared to be “perverted” and they tried to withdraw from the agreement. It was then when the perpetrators learned by example; it was taught to them.
This is merely the part that refers to women and children — in this country, they have done many acts to legitimize violence in general. They have encouraged gangs, murderers, and racists. They keep on doing so. They have armed untrained and uneducated watchmen. They have authorized certain security units to patrol the streets with no clear prospect about to whom and where they report. They were not able to control people arming themselves. They patted the backs of those who declared they would shed blood. They jailed journalists for doing their jobs just because they disagreed with them. When they freed jailed journalists, they made them targets. They encouraged attacks on members of parliament. All in all, they polarized and separated people and created animosity. When the prisons were full, they pardoned inmates.
They have systematically politicized the judiciary. They amended the constitution. They appointed high court judges themselves. They were able to reverse many release orders into arrest orders overnight. The lawyers were dragged on the floor. They made unlawful arrests without evidence. They performed these arrests so often that the victims were dragged to their deaths. Judges were summoned to meet them (and the judges obeyed). They instrumentalized the head of the bar associations to achieve their goals (he consented). They unilaterally made laws, endorsed them and celebrated them with the aim of separating and weakening the bar associations. They searched for ways to ban and silence lawyers. They shook their finger at the head of the Constitutional Court. They did many, many more things.
From all of these government actions and operations, perpetrators learned how to commit crimes. The perpetrators were given courage by each step taken. They took one step, and perpetrators committed crimes. They took another step, and the perpetrators were not caught. They took yet another step, and the perpetrators were released and joined the crowds to commit new crimes.
Then people started looking for justice on social media. They started asking for favors from singer Haluk Levent, including asking him to hire a lawyer for them. Decisions were publicized on social media, and several of them were made by the public. Perpetrators were sometimes arrested due to public pressure, but other times, even this did not work.
After all, we no longer “feel safe” — we live in fear. We watch our backs when we are walking on the street. We jump when we hear a sound behind us. Let us note, as an aside, that the fact that we are in fear when we walk down the street does not stop us from taking to the street…
Legendary U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died on Sept. 19 at the age of 87. She was an inspiration to all women despite all the intimidation and obstacles. Her words “I dissent” became a feminist slogan.
Long story short, violence in this country did not escalate coincidentally. But we should not accept this as our fate. The number of Ruth Bader Ginsburgs is increasing by the day. Women do not accept injustices; they are dissenting more. At the same time, everyone is much more aware of what is going on. We need to fight against these systematic and intentional interventions against our rights. The pandemic, the obligation to earn a living and any kind of pressure should not stop us from our struggle. While maintaining our faith in equal, free and fair days, we need to continue on with a clear consciousness… and we will meet our goal, one day, for sure.