Two Turkish women’s rights activists said in an interview that during the COVID-19 pandemic there has been an increase in suicides and accidental deaths among women and that authorities should thoroughly investigate the circumstances surrounding these. death.
Speaking to women’s rights website Feminisite, Ezgi Aslan and Fidan Ataselim of the We Will Stop Femicide platform said many women died in suspicious circumstances that were recorded in official records as suicides or accidents.
The two activists said that during the pandemic most people had been confined to their homes and women had no access to assistance if they faced domestic violence. “We don’t really know what happened in people’s homes during the pandemic. Unfortunately, there is not a lot of data to determine if violence has increased, and there does not appear to be an increase in femicides. However, there is a marked increase in suicides and accidental deaths,” Ataselim said.
She explained that sometimes women were murdered but their deaths were disguised as suicides.
“There have been many deaths where women have fallen from above. In such cases, there are many injuries to the body and broken bones; however, in most cases, no one checks to see if some of the injuries occurred before the fall. So yes, according to the autopsy, the women have many broken bones, but we need to know exactly how these injuries happened. Aslan said.
Aslan blamed authorities for not properly tracking women who allegedly committed suicide and following accidents. “Until murder is definitely ruled out, we consider every death a possible femicide,” Aslan said.
They also demanded that the government track exactly how many women are murdered each year, blaming the government for not providing the actual number of women killed.
Ataselim and Aslan said women’s organizations have done incredible work raising awareness of the rise in femicide. “Perpetrators of femicide are fully aware that the justice system is not diligent in investigating women’s deaths,” Aslan said. “They know there’s a good chance they could get away with murder. However, women’s organizations raised public awareness, closely monitored every step of the investigations, and ensured that no one got away with a murder.
Activists have pointed to the high-profile case of 23-year-old Şule Çet, a student who died after falling from the 20th floor of a building in Ankara. Çet’s death was initially ruled a suicide; however, her family, lawyers and activists have demanded a full investigation, saying she was murdered by her employer. Two suspects, the employer and a friend, were released by the police after their questioning, causing a public outcry.
Amid social media campaigns and protests initiated by women’s associations, an investigation was conducted. An autopsy indicated that Çet had been raped and her body showed signs of a struggle. It also indicated that she had been strangled before the fall. More than a year after the incident, the main suspect, Çet’s employer, Çağatay Aksu, was sentenced to life in prison, and his accomplice Berk Akand was sentenced to 18 years and nine months for murder.
In most cases, the women contacted family or friends and told them of their fears or whether they were being abused. These accounts later played a key role in the prosecution of a murder case.
Ataselim said investigators needed to speak with the victim’s relatives and friends to get a full picture of the circumstances surrounding his death, but most of the time that didn’t happen.
“In most cases, activists have to pressure authorities to take these accounts into account,” Ataselim said. “Otherwise, they are never taken into account.”
Femicide and violence against women are serious problems in Turkey, where women are killed, raped or beaten every day. Many critics claim that the main reason for this situation is the policies of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, which protects violent and abusive men by granting them impunity.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan withdrew Turkey from the Istanbul Convention, the Council of Europe’s binding treaty to prevent and combat violence against women, on March 20, despite high violence statistics targeting women in the country and the condemnation of the Turks and the international community.