Video: ‘We don’t want to die’

Turkish women are fighting against domestic violence, as the number of femicides continues to rise. More and more women are fed up with the violence against them and their lack of protection by the state and the law.

Text and photo by Natasha Jahanshahi and Thirza de Raad

In December, hundreds of women went to the streets of Istanbul to protest. Carrying signs in their hands saying “we don’t want to die”, and “stop killing women”, thy protested against the violence and murder that women in Turkey are facing.

474 women were killed by men in Turkey, last year, according to the organization ‘We will stop femicide platform’. The activist group started counting the number of murdered women after the Turkish authorities decided to stop monitoring violence against women in 2009. “The biggest issue in Turkish society today is femicide and violence against women,” says Melek, a spokesperson from “We will stop femicides platform”.

A lot of the women who were killed last year, were murdered by their closest, male relatives, and most of the murders took place inside their homes. “Women’s homes are not safe for them,” says Melek.

Spreading the word

One of the participants in the most recent protest in December, fighting for the protection of Turkish women, is 24-year-old Gül. She is a sociology student and calls herself an independent feminist living in Istanbul.

“One of the main reasons why I participate in the marches, is because some women are unable, or too afraid to attend the protests. I want to stand in their place and fight for the ones who can’t,” says Gül, who attends to women’s protests in Istanbul as often as she can.

“It’s so important that we spread awareness by protesting in the streets. It creates a space of dialogue, and it gives the experience of feminism, that teaches you more than research and papers. With the marches we are able to reach some people who might not be aware of the issues”.

Police don’t do enough

But the government is making it difficult for Turkish feminists to spread the word and change society. The protest in December was broken up by the police and last year, while the annual women’s march on March 8th was banned by the government.

“I was really scared after the last march: there were lots of police, and they didn’t let us leave. Criminal law is more vague than ever nowadays, which makes it much more likely to get arrested. I think the government sees us as a threat” says Gül.

The “We will stop femicides platform” is criticising the police for intervening in the protests. “They should not interfere with us, whether they perform their duties or not. We just want to protect women”.

Ineffective solutions

One of the ways in which “We will stop femicides” is trying to make a change, is by training women and informing them on the rights they legally have.

In Turkey there are several laws that promise to protect women against violence, but in reality these measures fail to have any social impact. Turkey was even the first country to sign the Council of Europe’s Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence in 2011. This convention criminalizes all forms of gender-based violence.

In 2012, Law No. 6284 was adopted, which should protect families and prevent violence against women. There are also plans made by the ruling justice and development party to launch action plans for gender equality, but the Turkish system has been failing to accomplish all of this, according to Melek. “Women have many rights, but we have problems in implementation. More political will is necessary for achieving gender equality,” says Melek.

Growing like weeds

According to both Gül and “We will stop femicides platform”, the feminist movement in Turkey is growing, especially after the public attention for the most recent murders, which were filmed.

“Lots of people are angry, because everyone knows someone who has experienced violence, harrassment or murder,” says Gül. “We are like weeds on the streets, spreading everywhere and getting bigger and bigger”.

The We will stop femicides platform agrees. “The society is progressing; women are asking for their modern rights. They want to work, have access to education, be able to get a divorce or break up with their partners if they are not happy, and not be forced to do things they do not want to do. This is an indispensable and irreversible historical process. They can’t stop us. We are everywhere! We will stop femicides.”