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Brutal Death of 16-Year-Old Reopens Debate Over 'Honor' Killings in Turkey

  • Dorian Jones

The repercussions of the brutal murder of a 16-year-girl continue to reverberate across Turkey. Police have recovered the body of the girl who they say was buried alive by relatives in an "honor" killing carried out as punishment for talking to boys.

A Turkish news report announces that Turkish prosecutors will be seeking life imprisonment for the young girl's father and grandfather. Known only by the initials MM, the 16-year-old's body was found in a sitting position with her hands tied, in a hole dug under a chicken pen outside her home in Kahta, in the southeastern province of Adiyaman.

Last week, acting on a tip off, police discovered the girl's body. According to forensic scientists, her lungs and stomach were filled with dirt, indicating she was buried alive. Authorities say the family's motive for killing her was because she was seen talking to boys.

Despite the fact honor crimes are not unheard of in Turkey, the brutal nature of the murder continues to make front page news.

In Takshim, the fashionably upscale shopping district of Istanbul, shoppers express both shock and resignation.

In Turkey, there is an average of about one honor killing per week. And, this latest case has again put honor crimes back in the spotlight.

The treatment of women is a key area of concern by the European Union, which Turkey is seeking to join. As part of its membership drive, the government has introduced tougher penalties for people who commit honor crimes.

Such moves have drawn plaudits from EU, but some women's rights groups in Turkey are far more critical of the country's efforts.

Pinar Ilkaracan of Women for Women's Rights says there is little infrastructure to offer protection for women and girls.

"In the case of honor crimes, girls die, women die," said Ilkaracan. "So therefore, that has become a huge media issue. But even there, there has been huge resistance. For example we need special shelters for girls and women who are threatened by honor crimes."

Observers say women's shelters is a contentious issue for the Islamic-rooted government who frequently argue that the state should not interfere with family affairs. Currently, there are only 54 women's shelters for a population of 72 million.

Last year a Council of Europe report on honor killings found the crime a growing problem across the continent. But Turkey was seen as by far the most prevalent place for such crimes.

"Here in Turkey the figures for 2007 show that over 200 women were killed here, in the name of family or community honor and that is frankly unacceptable in a modern Europe," said British parliamentarian John Austin. "And it's just the tip of the iceberg."

Earlier this month the European Parliament's report on Turkey criticized the country over its treatment of women. Women's rights campaigners are now hoping the latest murder of MM will result in greater pressure both domesticity and internationally on the government to confront the ongoing scourge of so-called honor killings.

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