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August 19, 2011, Friday

This is a civil war…

“Their” death is not even considered news by the papers anymore because they are killed so frequently.

The story is first investigated: Does the murder have a good “story,” how savagely was the victim murdered, how much blood was spilled, is there a juvenile witness? How calm was the murderer; for instance, did he say, “I do not regret killing her,” or did he put the gun to his own head, wishing to kill himself, too? Did he die or did he fight the police? Did he want to kill the entire family?

A woman needs to make a sacrifice to present a good story to us, to be part of a five-line story on page 5 of a paper.

Yes, I am talking about the murders of women.

It has been a long time since the discourse on violence against women has exceeded the limits it refers to. But we still use the cliché “violence against women.” However, there is a civil war being waged against women, not just violence against women, in this country. A massacre is going on in front of us and most of us do not even care. This is such a major issue that it is even graver and more urgent than all the other popular problems, including the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) issue, the match-fixing allegations, the global economic crisis, Syria, Somalia and the capture of PKK leader Murat Karayılan.

Of course, these are important, too, but would you not consider saving yourself first if your house was burning down? We are in a state of war against our women. Should this not concern us more? According to Justice Ministry data and the content of the Platform for Stopping Women Murders report, 4,410 women were killed between 2002 and the first half of 2011. The murderers are their husbands, sons, lovers, boyfriends and fathers. The number of women killed increased by 1,400 percent between 2002 and 2009, from 66 to 1,126.

Here is the number of women murdered by year:

2002 - 66

2003 - 83

2004 - 164

2005 - 317

2006 - 663

2007 - 1,011

2008 - 806

2009 - 1,126

2010 - 217

To better understand the gravity of these figures, it will suffice to take a look at the time of the War of Independence. According to military data, Turkey lost 181 soldiers in Gediz Battle, 95 in the first İnönü Battle, 1,449 in the second İnönü Battle and 1,522 in the Kütahya-Eskişehir battles.

Have the perpetrators of such grave crimes against women been captured and punished? The answer to this question can be found in Justice Ministry data. Between 2002 and 2009, 12,678 lawsuits were filed over violence against women and 15,564 people have stood trial in connection with the accusations; 5,736 have been convicted, whereas 1,859 were acquitted and 794 were released on parole.

One out of two women is physically abused

Research on domestic violence and violence against women in Turkey by the General Directorate of the Status of Women reveals that women have been gravely victimized by growing violence. According to the research, 41.9 percent of the women in Turkey face physical and sexual violence, 49.9 percent of women in lower income groups are being victimized and 28.7 percent in higher income families.

Of uneducated or undereducated women, 55.8 percent are brutalized and 27.2 percent of women with a high school or college diploma are experiencing similar problems. A total of 48.5 of the women victimized do not tell anyone of the violence they are experiencing. This is 54.1 in lower income groups and 37.5 in higher income families. In Turkey, 23.4 percent of women face economic violence. Of women in lower income groups, 21.5 are forced to quit their job by their husband, whereas it is 21.2 in higher income categories and 33.7 percent of women facing violence consider committing suicide; the percentage of women who consider this idea is equal in both lower income and higher brackets, at 34.6 percent. A total of 34.1 percent of uneducated women and 37.6 percent of educated women consider killing themselves.

Continued gender violence

The research also shows that women are experiencing sexual violence, harassment and rape. A total of 381 women and children were molested or harassed in 2010, when the number of kids and women raped was 207. Of the victims of sexual violation, 82.5 percent were harassed before they reached the age of 18. One of the key findings of the study stresses that 91.3 percent of these women and children were raped by someone they knew.

The increase between 2002 and 2009 attracts attention. The number of women murdered increased from 66 in 2002 to 1,126 in 2009. I believe that this dramatic increase has something to tell us. The harassers, rapists or molesters are not the eccentric perverts we are accustomed to seeing in American movies. More than 90 percent of the perpetrators are their husbands, lovers, brothers, fathers or male relatives.

So, it is safe to believe that something has been going wrong within the family, right?

Data from the Turkish Statistics Institute (TurkStat) reveal that the number of divorced couples increased from 91,994 in 2001 to 118,568 in 2010.

A recent report by the General Directorate on the Status of Women stresses that 4 million women are still illiterate in Turkey. However, there are some improvements in this field. For instance, the number of women with an elementary school diploma is greater than the number of men.

While the number of women with an elementary degree is 9.6 million, the number of men with the same degree is 8.9 million. There are over 1 million women with a secondary school degree and 1.8 million men. The number of women with a high school diploma is 4.4 million and number of men with a high school degree is just over 6 million.

Over 1.8 million women hold an undergraduate degree, as do 2.5 million men, while 112,983 women and 166,285 men have received a master’s degree. A total of 34,201 women hold a doctoral degree, whereas 61,301 men have completed their doctorates. A comparison between the current figures and the recent ones will show that women are eager to participate in economic and social life.

Considering that the middle class has gained economic strength over the last decade, as evidenced by the rise in per capita income from $2,000 to $10,000, I would like to say that this contributes to the status of women.

In other words, the women are making a comeback, or they are taking action for the first time.

Obviously, women who have gained their economic independence do not feel desperate before men. It is also possible to argue that they do not feel obligated to sustain their marriages because they have no other options and they are attracting the anger of men because they are making the same amount or more money than men. Women are not assets owned by men in Turkey anymore. They are on their way to becoming honored members of this nation.

We can observe that men are unable to adapt to this. Those who migrated to the urban areas, in particular, try to preserve their patriarchal familial structure, but they also feel that it is becoming increasingly difficult to keep their twisted traditions. Even though society’s acceptance of “honor” killings has taken a blow, the incredibly strong patriarchal social structure and the ongoing violence in the East and Southeast continues, and it is women who bear the brunt of this.

After the murder of Ayşe Paşalı, the government introduced some measures, including electronic handcuffing and remote warning systems, to address the problem. The rising number of women deputies in recent elections promises a more constructive legislative term in Parliament, which will hopefully focus on women’s rights issues during the upcoming period of legislation.

But it is not possible to eliminate this state of violence by laws and punishment alone. Civil society organizations, the Religious Affairs Directorate, the Ministry of Education and the Ministry for Family Affairs should collaborate and jointly sponsor research and, based on the findings and results of the research, they have to devise a national movement or program to save women.

This civil war should end soon.

Previous articles of the columnist