Women jailed for killing their abusers in Turkey speak out on brutal murder of Başak Cengiz

Two women jailed in Turkey for killing their husbands issued statements this weekend over the death of Başak Cengiz, 28, who was killed by a stranger with a samurai sword in Istanbul. They said they, too, could have shared her fate had they not fought back.

This collage photo shows the murdered Başak Cengiz (L) as well as the imprisoned Çilem Doğan (C) and Öznur Gülten Efeoğulları.

Duvar English

Two women who killed their abusive husbands have issued statements on the death of 28-year-old Başak Cengiz, murdered by a stranger, 27-year-old Can Göktuğ Boz on the street in Istanbul. Çilem Doğan and Öznur Gülten Efeoğulları decried the crisis of femicide in Turkey, saying they could have met the same fate. 

“I would have been killed by my husband with a knife,” Efeoğulları said in a statement. “I could be in a grave just like Başak, who was killed with a sword and put into the ground.”

Efeoğulları stabbed her husband when he was drunk, in the midst of a violent argument. She was arrested on Oct. 20 in Adana and has remained imprisoned since. She said that when she heard of Cengiz’s death she was heartbroken.

“A young girl has fallen victim to brutal violence. It hurt me when I heard it. I thought about how hard it is to live as a woman,” she said. “We can die for no reason while walking down the street.”

Cengiz, an architect, was visiting Istanbul for work when on Nov. 9 Göktuğ Boz attacked and killed her with a samurai sword. Cengiz did not know Göktuğ Boz, and her body was returned to her family in Ankara in a coffin. Her death sparked outrage on social media - another in a list, hundreds of names long, of women killed in Turkey this year alone. 

Since the beginning of this year, 338 women have been killed in Turkey, according to the Platform to Stop Femicide. In 2020, that number was 410, and in 2019, 422. The number of women killed each year has skyrocketed over the course of two decades of conservative Justice and Development Party (AKP) rule in Turkey. Many of those who murdered or abused women have experienced almost total impunity. 

Women who kill their abusers, on the other hand, tend to be severely punished. Çilem Doğan was abused and forced into sex work by her husband, Hasan Karabulut, for six years. After a particularly abusive episode, Doğan shot Karabulut in Adana on July 8, 2015. In early November, Çilem Doğan was sentenced to fifteen years in prison. Courts refused her lawyers’ appeals. 

In a statement to Demirören news agency, Çilem Doğan drew attention to the fact that in Turkey, more than one woman is killed every day.

"When a woman is murdered every day and we all stand by, we become partners in this crime. Another woman was brutally murdered today. Someone's mother, someone's daughter, someone's friend, someone's neighbor,” Doğan said in her statement from prison. “Who is next? Me, you or her? Who will be our killer? Our father, our spouse, our older brother, perhaps someone we have never met?”

She also pointed out that women who kill their abusers are punished more harshly in Turkey than the abusers themselves. 

“Will I and many others live in prison, separated from our children, just because we refused to die and defended ourselves?” she asked.