“Don’t talk behind my back. Don’t play with my honour.” When I read these lines, I could not avert myself from reading the story of Nevin Yildirim. This name might have struck the chord for some of you while many others must be oblivious of the tale of this young Turkish mother of two. Nevin,26, resided in the Yalvac district of Turkey and she was raped repeatedly by a male relative after her husband left the town to work a seasonal job. The alleged rapist, Gider, first assaulted her sexually in January 2012 and threatened to kill her children if she told anybody about it. The rapes continued for several months after which one day Gider took photographs of Nevin’s pregnant body and further put her in jeopardy by telling her that he would publish them. Nevin suffered huge emotional, mental and sexual tortures. On 28th August, she spotted Gider climbing up the wall of her house. She knew he would rape her again. She grabbed a rifle hung on the wall and shot him multiple times. She eventually shot his penis leading him to death. After this, she cut off his bloody head and carried it outside on the street in a sack. “Don’t talk behind my back. Don’t play with my honour. Here is the man who played with my honour ; the witnesses heard her say as she threw the head on the ground. Shortly after, Nevin was taken into custody. She told the authorities that the man insulted her dignity. Moreover, she did not want people to offend her children and call them the kids of a whore. She was proud that now her children would be called the kids of the woman who saved her honour.
Nevin also went to a health clinic prior to the murder to abort the rapist’s child but she was turned away as she was fifteen weeks pregnant and the Turkish laws allow abortion only if the lady is less than or equal to ten-weeks pregnant. She told the police that she would rather kill herself than have the baby. However, at last the court announced its decision against Nevin’s appeal. Women Organizations in Turkey consider her a hero. I tried to lay my hand upon various articles and reports yet I haven’t been able to find out what exactly happened to Nevin: Has she been punished for her crime? Is she still being tried? Will the authorities pardon her act keeping in mind the reason behind it? What will happen to the child she gives birth to? Will it be accepted? What is the status of women in Turkey? And this brings us back to another country in the Middle East and its conduct towards its women.
Turkey does dwell in an Islamic culture yet it is better than the other Middle Eastern countries and its Constitution promotes gender equality. In the 19th century with the decline of the Ottoman Empire, educated women of Istanbul organized themselves as feminists and it laid the foundation of many women’s movements that followed. In 2002, the Turkish criminal and civil law was reformed to equalize the rights of women and men during marriage, divorce and property matters. Article 10 of the Turkish Constitution bans any discrimination, state or province, on the grounds of sex. Also, the minimum age for marriage has been raised to 18 years in the country. In cases of forced marriage, women have the right to ask a termination within the first five years of marriage. The Islamic headscarf (hijaab) has been banned in state offices, schools and universities but is still worn by 20% of the Turkish women. This may portray only the bright side of Turkey in contrast to most of the other Islamic countries yet there is a lot of veiled soreness buried in this nation as well.
Women suffer from multiple atrocities chiefly domestic violence, forced marriages and honour killings. Murders of women in Turkey increased from 66 in 2002 to 953 in the first 7 months of 2009. A huge population of females is illiterate. The share of women in the work force is somewhere close to 28%. Compared to the other Islamic countries, including Saudi Arabia and Iran, Turkey is the only one with a diminishing rate of women’s employment. Men own about 84% of the Gross Domestic Product. Bride price (the money, property or wealth paid by the groom’s family to the bride’s parents upon their marriage) is still paid in some parts of the country. One out of every three women in Turkey is exposed to physical violence. Acts of marital rape are also common. There are only sixty-five women shelters in the country out of which most are under-funded. In Turkey’s eastern city of Sanliurfa, nearly 50% women give birth at home since going to a doctor is considered a matter of shame. A woman also testified that she gave birth to 8 children before she was 32 and in cases of sickness, she wasn’t taken to the hospital and was beaten instead. Women give birth to a lot of children because they are told that making a lot of babies will prevent their husbands from going to other women.
When I mentioned about the ban on head scarves in one of the above paragraphs, most of you must have thought of it as a positive move from the Government’s end, yet it is not so. The reason behind this ban was to eliminate the visibility of religious symbols from social life but it puts women under the perplexity of choosing one between their beliefs and the restrictions. More than hundred thousands of women students and more than thousand of civil servants were forced to leave their positions because of their choice to wear a hijaab. Women lawyers with head scarves are not allowed to represent their clients before the court. In this situation too, the women lose the most significant attributes of living a content life: Freedom and Action By Choice.
The Turkish women sometimes feel that their fundamental and constitutional rights are over ruled by the irrational chauvinist mindset of the citizens. Many claim that it’s the women who are more vindictive towards women. There are numerous women organizations and rising feminist movements which guarantee a more liberated and unbiased nation in due course. Nevertheless the revolution and reform will take time. Nevin Yildirim did ignite the fervour for feminism and security of women yet we are not sure whether her story still stirs other women or is lost amongst the many other tales of righteousness, misery, male-dominance, strength and valour. That is for time to tell. Time and Turkey.
References: Wikipedia, The Guardian, Turkish Culture, Hurriyet Daily News, Organisation for Women’s Rights against Discrimination, NewStatesman.com, The Muslim Issue, Huffington Post, CNN, Independent Kurdistan Journalism etc.