News / Europe

Turkey's Murder Rate of Women Skyrockets

Women activists carry a mock coffin of Ayse Pasali, who was shot to death by her ex-husband, during a demonstration, planned as an alternative to Valentine's Day, in central Istanbul, February 14, 2011
Women activists carry a mock coffin of Ayse Pasali, who was shot to death by her ex-husband, during a demonstration, planned as an alternative to Valentine's Day, in central Istanbul, February 14, 2011


Dorian Jones

In Turkey the murder rate of women increased by 1,400 percent between 2002 and 2009, the last date for which data is available. The statistic was revealed by the country's justice minister, in response to a parliamentary question. The revelation shocked the country and has put a spotlight on the government's record on women's rights, which could have implications for its European Union bid.

A recent Turkish news report focused on the murder of a woman in the streets of Istanbul. The mother of four was gunned down in the streets in broad daylight. Her husband was arrested. The news report's headline was "Another Murder of A Woman." That's because such events have become almost a daily occurance.  

According to the Turkish Justice Ministry, in seven years the rate of women murdered has jumped 1,400 percent.  In 2002, 66 women were murdered, in the first seven months of 2009 the number stood at 953. The shocking increase has made front page news; one newspaper described it as Turkey's shame. On the streets of Istanbul there is shock and resignation.

"It's really bad, the killing is a big crime, really bad," said one person.

"It happens things like this, I am not surprised," said another.

Nearly every day you can read the latest report about a woman being murdered, invariably the murder will be of the most violent nature, be it with shotguns or knives, usually carried out by an estranged or former husband, or family members in a so-called honor killing.  In a case earlier this month, a 20-year-old was strangled with her baby . The suspects were her father and brother.

The dramatic increase in killings does not surprise Pinar Ilkaracan of the non-governmental organization, Women for Women's Human Rights.

"The murders are the tip of iceberg; there is a lot of violence against women. There are thousands, tens of thousands of women, who are experiencing violence from their husbands, but they cannot leave home. First of all, what the government should do is increase the number of shelters. There are 26 shelters in 72 provinces of Turkey. This is a scandal by itself, the lowest number in European countries, for example in Germany there are 800 shelters," said Ilkaracan.

Despite the increase in murders, the government rejects such criticisms. It claims it has introduced some of the most far-reaching gender equality legislation in Europe in compliance with EU membership demands. Nimet Cubukcu, former women's minister and now minister of education, is proud of their record.

"We have introduced the most progressive legal reforms in Europe to improve women's rights at home, in school, in the workplace," she said.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan added his voice to the condemnation of violence against women.

"It is beyond contemporary understanding to exercise violence on women, whoever is beating them, or treating them beyond humanity. In the traditions and customs of this geography there can be no such thing, as committing violence in the name of honor," he said.

There has been a national TV campaign on violence against women in the last few months. Despite the campaign and political condemnation along with legal reforms, a recent study found over 40 percent of women were subject to either physical or sexual violence.

While most Turkish women's groups and the EU acknowledge government reforms, serious questions remain over the commitment of the Islamic-rooted government to gender equality. Ilkaracan says the dramatic increase in murders of women is the most worrying part of a wider trend.

"Turkey has full equality on paper, but there is an incredible resistance on the part of the government, including the women's minister to implement these reforms.  Turkey is the country where women's employment is the lowest among OECD countries, the gender gap in education is not decreasing and the number of women in decision-making mechanisms are also decreasing," Ilkaracan said.    

Such a grim picture will undoubtedly cause concern in the EU.  Women's rights remains one of the key areas of concern over Turkey's membership bid. That concern can only rise on the news of a 14-fold increase in murders of women.

You May Like

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syriai
November 26, 2015 5:21 AM
Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs