By Cigdem Budayci
Ayse Pasali, 42, was a victim of the increasing male violence against women in Turkey. She was stabbed to death by her ex-husband, Istikbal Yetkin, in the middle of an Ankara street on December 7th 2010. Her case has received considerable attention from the media, raising questions about the responsibility of state institutions, police, prosecutors and judges.
Even though Pasali had complained to the prosecutor about her ex-husband’s death threats and applied for protection, she was denied on the basis of their divorce. In a previous case, her ex-husband was found not guilty after he had beaten Pasali and raped her during their marriage.
Despite Article 4320 — the law for the protection of the family — which includes precautions against male violence within the family, violence against women continues as the law excludes women who are not officially married, as is sometimes the case in religious marriages and rural areas, or divorced.
A Human Rights Watch report entitled, He Loves You, He Beats You: Family Violence in Turkey and Access to Protection, concludes that “implementation failures by police, prosecutors, judges, and other officials make the protection system unpredictable at best, and at times downright dangerous.”
While the verdict was being decided in the Pasali case on May 11th and 12th, the Istanbul Feminist Kolektif — comprised of various feminist groups and NGOs, such as Amargi, Mor Catı, Filmmor, Foundation for Solidarity with Women (KADAV), Women for Women’s Human Rights (WWHR) and Socialist Feminist Collective — “stood guard 24/7” at demonstrations in Istanbul and 14 other cities to protest women murders and the impunity of male murderers.
Sakine Gunel of the Istanbul Feminist Kolektif told SETimes, “We have been carrying on with this campaign against male violence for almost a year. We do not want men to get reductions in penalties as a result of alleged extenuating circumstances. We ask the government to implement the previous decisions and have policies that put women in the priority.”
Another demonstrator, Ilke Gokdemir, from Mor Catı said that “the number of women murders in Turkey is incredible, and men do not get the punishment they should. We are on guard here not only for Pasali, but for all women who experience male violence. There are also many other women murders which have not attracted media attention.”
According to Nazan Moroglu, a lawyer with the Istanbul Bar Association, the number of women murders increased 1400% between 2002 and 2009.
Last week in Istanbul, the Council of Europe launched the world’s first legally binding treaty to protect women, under which signatories are obliged to offer helplines, shelters, medical care and legal aid.
However, Zelal Ayman from WWHR commented on the irony: “I think international laws are very important since they are binding and making it a very good step. However, it is somehow quite weird that it is being signed in closed rooms today in Turkey as the first signatory country, while such cases in real life are disregarded. Governments are not instantly ready to implement such laws in favour of women, rather it is the women organisations and international NGOs that should keep track of them and persistently ask them to be implemented.”
Istikbal Yetkin was sentenced to life imprisonment on May 12th, which was greeted as a “victory” by Burcu Pasali, his own daughter, on NTV national television.