Women expose sexual assaults by novelist in Turkey's #MeToo movement

Turkish women on social media exposed years of sexual assault by Turkish author Hasan Ali Toptaş, much like was seen during the "Me Too" movement that swept through Hollywood in 2017. The author apologized after being exposed, saying that he wasn't aware of his attacks as he hadn't understood what it meant "to be a patriarchal perpetrator."

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A social media user's allegations about Turkish novelist Hasan Ali Toptaş has prompted dozens of women to come forward with their own stories recounting experiences of sexual assault by him, prompting an apology. 

The social media user named Leyla shared a video of Toptaş on Dec. 7 with the caption "How many of us are waiting for this man to be exposed?"

"I and many friends have unpleasant memories of him from our college years. I would have definitely exposed him then if I had the awareness and courage I do today. Classic cis literary guy :/ He's really a huge disappointment," Leyla wrote, prompting immediate support from other women online. 

Leyla received a multitude of corroborating stories over the next 24 hours, she said on Dec. 8, adding that her "inbox was filled with stories of women with similar experiences."

"Whenever he finds a young woman in awe of him and his work, this grandpa tries some shit using his power and literary influence," Leyla said on Dec. 8. "It's astounding that he did the same thing to so many people but nobody ever said anything."

The fact that the novelists' pattern of sexual assault was well-known in the literary community is reminiscent of American movie mogul Harvey Weinstein who assaulted countless women in the film industry for decades without repercussion.

In the criminal proceedings prompted by the widespread "Me Too" movement that began following an extensive 2017 expose in The New York Times detailing the abuse, Weinstein was sentenced to 23 years in prison and still faces six sexual assault charges in California. 

Meanwhile in Turkey, Turkish author Pelin Buzluk spoke out in support of Leyla and confirmed that she too was assaulted by Toptaş, noting the incredible difficulties women face in reporting sexual assault.

"Hiding it is a huge burden. As women, this is a learned behavior. We blame ourselves. He does this because he trusts his reputation will protect him," Buzluk told the daily Hürriyet. "He would have continued to do this to women if had I stayed quiet, so I didn't."

Although dozens of women have reported being sexually assaulted by Toptaş since Leyla's initial exposure of his crimes on Dec. 7, no criminal legal action has been taken as of Dec. 9.

The novelist issued an apology, saying that he didn't realize or think about his assaults and that he committed these acts unknowingly.

"One can make mistakes without knowing, realizing, or thinking about the wounds inflicted on the other party, without understanding what it is to be a patriarchal perpetrator. Today, women are teaching us the meaning of autonomy. I apologize to all the people I hurt, upset, and injured through actions which I took unknowingly," Toptaş said in his apology. 

Many social media users slammed the novelist's apology for underplaying his crimes, and noted the minimizing of his attacks with his use of the term "patriarchal perpetrator."

"What does it mean to be a patriarchal perpetrator? Is it only harassment, or does it include direct actions and activities? Would patriarchal perpetration continue to be considered acceptable and not apologized for if it hadn't been exposed?" tweeted famous Turkish author Buket Uzuner on Dec. 9.

"What is it to be a patriarchal perpetrator? A new version of 'boys will be boys, lol'?" said another social media user.

Social media users also spoke out about sexual assault by other literary figures in Turkey, including authors Hüseyin Kıran and Bora Abdo.

"Hasan Ali Toptaş isn't alone either. There's Bora Abdo. It all started when he separated me from my friend and jumped into my cab," wrote Turkish author Aslı Tohumcu in response to her colleague Pelin Buzluk who exposed Toptaş.

"There were the sexual advances from Hüseyin Kıran on social media," wrote a user named İştar, whose initial accusation was later corroborated by multiple women.

"They are strong in their own filth," İştar stated, "but we are stronger when we stand together. We are not alone."