Fırat Bulut / DUVAR
Female students living in Pir Ali dormitory in the eastern Turkish province of Bingöl say that they have faced harassment by strangers, incidents of suicide and violent attacks in the building. Despite this, they say, dormitory management does little to keep them safe.
This week, dozens of these female students gathered to protest in the garden of the dormitory after an unidentified man was allowed to access the third floor of the building and harass female students. This incident they say was just one of many.
One student committed suicide by jumping off the fourth floor of the building in the middle of the night, and when her friends wanted to investigate the incident, they were told there was no security camera footage. Further, the administration said she simply “fainted.” Another time, a student wandered the halls of the dormitory with a knife at night, saying she was “inspired to kill them.” The administration told students they had imagined the incident.
When students reported these incidents to the dormitory administration, they were allegedly threatened with retaliation, told they would be kicked out of the dorms if they formally reported what happened.
One student who asked to be identified only as L.B. for fear of retaliation said that this is the product of a systematic failure to protect these young women.
“There is patriarchal pressure at the root of what we are experiencing. A nationalized patriarch. A uniform life is imposed on students. They are asked not to object to anything and to accept the terms set for them unconditionally,” L.B. said.
She also said that two students previously stabbed each other in the building.
The students are terrified in the face of administration inaction, L.B. said. When they go to sleep at night, they pile furniture and belongings behind their doors to make sure no one can enter. Many students have dropped out as a result of the fear, and no matter how many times they complain, the administration does not investigate the incidents. When the harasser was allowed to enter the building, L.B. said, they reached a breaking point.
Despite the administration’s failure to investigate any of the incidents, she added, there are rumors that they have started an investigation into the students who participated in the protests.
Another student who asked to remain anonymous said that many of the security guards assigned to the dorm are hired under the table and are unqualified. She said that many of the girls in the dorm date police officers and professors, and that they are allowed to bring these “girlfriends” back to the dorm. The security guards do not object to these outsiders coming into the building.
“There are so many examples of sexual abuse, but none of us can talk,” she said.
After videos of the protests went viral on social media, the Bingöl Bar Association’s Women’s commission filed a criminal complaint against the managers of the dormitory. The lawyers say the administration failed to protect the young women by allowing a strange man to enter the building and harass women in the middle of the night.
Lawyer Nuran Aydın, who spoke on behalf of the commission, said that they began their investigation of the situation when they heard about the suicide at the dorm. When they found out there had been no functioning security cameras to capture the incident, they realized there had been a neglect of duty.
Aydın also cited issues in the laundry room and cafeteria. She said these students were being forced to pursue their educations under harrowing conditions. She also noted that when students complained about the violence or poor conditions, they were told they could leave.
“There is a serious security gap. We have initiated a legal process. If the problems are not resolved, we will also meet with the governorship,” Aydın said.
Bingöl President of the Women's Branch of the Republican People's Party (CHP), Gülten Baylas, also condemned the incident and the state of security at the dorm. In the wake of the suicide, she said, measures should have been taken to ensure nothing further could happen.
“Where were the security guards when all this was happening? How could he go up to the third floor? Even though there was a suicide incident just a week ago, why aren't adequate security measures being taken?” she asked.
The Provincial Directorate of Youth and Sports on Dec. 8 announced that they had launched an investigation into the dormitory administration over the allegations. In its written statement, the directorate said that the man who had entered the building was identified and had Down syndrome.