Thursday, January 15, 2009


"If society will not admit of woman's free development, then society must be remodeled."
~ Elizabeth Blackwell.

WOW! I am stupefied. A Turkish court finally did something right:

Full family jailed for honor killing act

DİYARBAKIR - A court has sentenced five members of the same family to life imprisonment for the honor killing of Naile Erdaş, 16, who fell pregnant as a result of rape, activists said Monday.

In its verdict Friday, a court in the eastern city of Van sentenced the murder victim's brother to life in jail for the 2006 murder said to have been committed to cleanse the family honor, the Van Women's Association said.

The girl's father, mother and two uncles were also given life sentences for instigating the murder, while a third uncle was jailed for 16 years and eight months for failing to report the murder in one of the heaviest sentences handed down in Turkey for such a killing.

"We can say this verdict is a first in terms of the harshness of the sentences and the fact that the entire family was convicted," Mazlum Bağlı, a researcher into honor killings at Dicle University in Diyarbakır, told AFP.

Zelal Özgökçe of the Van Women's Association welcomed the sentence as an appropriate deterrent. "It is very good that the entire family was punished for the crime," she said. "It will serve as a deterrent. People will become aware that they will face the consequences of an honor killing."

Erdaş fell pregnant as a result of rape but concealed her condition until she was hospitalized for a severe headache during which time doctors discovered she was pregnant.

When the family made threats and offered bribes to get the girl back, doctors decided to keep her in the hospital and informed police and the prosecutor's office. One week after Erdaş gave birth, the prosecutor agreed to send her home after the girl's father promised she would not be harmed. But she was shot dead by her brother a few hours after returning home.

In honor killings, generally prevalent among Turkey's Kurdish community, a so-called family council names a member to murder a female relative who is considered to have sullied the family’s honor. In most cases this is because of an extra-marital affair. In recent years, the government has stepped up efforts to stamp out honor killings.

I have never heard of such a severe sentence before and it comes non too soon. I agree with spokesperson for the Wan Women's Association, Zelal Özgökçe, and hope, too, that this punishment will serve as a deterrent to honor murder.

Now if they'd find a way to go after those who order "honor" suicides:

Among the hundreds of honor killings in Turkey, it is impossible to quantify the forced suicides. A special U.N. rapporteur, Yakin Erturk, was dispatched to the country’s south last year to investigate a rash of suicides. She concluded that some probably had been “instigated” and cited a host of contributing factors: forced and early marriages, denial of reproductive rights, poverty, migration and displacement, among others.

Victims say they’ve been ordered by relatives to kill themselves, locked in rooms with a gun or rope, watched over while they were expected to slit their wrists. The infraction can be as slight as a desire to work or the wearing of jeans, the sentence often decided in a family council.

Handan Coskun, a former journalist, started a women’s center in Diyarbakir in response to suicides she began investigating several years ago, when the rate in southeastern Turkey was two to three times the national rate. There were dozens of cases, many not related to honor issues. One consistency was that far more females committed or attempted suicide than males, which is the opposite of the worldwide pattern.

Those families who do save their daughters from conditions that would be considered "dishonorable" are often ostracized by their own communities, as in this case:

When a Turkish man rescued his daughter after she was abducted by a gang that forced her into prostitution, he was hailed a hero by many in the country. But people in his own home region of south-eastern Anatolia turned against him, because he refused to do what traditional laws of family honour say must be done in a case like this: kill the girl.

My daughter did not go voluntarily,” the man, who did not want to be identified in order to protect his 18-year-old daughter, told Turkish newspapers last month. “Why should I kill her?”

The idea that a girl or a woman has to pay with her life if she sullies her family’s honour by her conduct is still powerful in some areas of Turkey, especially in the poor Kurdish region in the south-east. In some cases, it is enough if a woman talks to a stranger to seal her fate. Underage boys of the family are often selected to commit so-called honour killings because they can expect lighter prison sentences if convicted.

Almost 300 women have been murdered by family members in Turkey since 2001, according to a new study based on court cases that was published this month.

Osman Celbis, a researcher from the Inonu University in the eastern city of Malatya, told the Anatolian news agency that 288 women and 56 men were killed. Male victims of honour crimes are often killed after cases of rape.

It is a problem of mentality,” said Remziye Tanrikulu, a lawyer in Diyarbakir, the main city of Turkey’s Kurdish area, and an expert on honour killings.

Yeah, it's a problem of mentality, a mentality that must change. I hope that the court system will continue to crack down on this disgraceful mentality so that change is forced. And if the force necessary to make change happen is harsh, so be it.

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