The Update – Turkish Politics, 11 March 2012

It’s Hunting Season on Women all Year in Turkey

FEMEN protest in front of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul

In Turkey, Women’s Day festivities started with an early hour passion murder and continued with police dragging naked FEMEN members, as lusty young men ogled the protesting co-eds with disdain. It is a typical Woman’s Day in Turkey.  She’ll be beaten, financially exploited, forced to spend her life behind curtains and sexually assaulted by her husband in the evening. Soon, if AKP has its way, she’ll no longer be required to receive schooling beyond the forth grade, so that she can be married off at the early age of 12 for a nice profit.  It is not only women who bear the brunt of AKP’s increasingly callous and Sheriah-driven social policy.  Juvenile delinquents, too, are being raped in adult correctional facilities.

Sounds hard to believe, right?  Alas, it is not an exaggeration. It is hunting season, all year for women……  and children: This is what the Voice of America had to say on the topic[1]:

The demonstrators were quickly arrested. A report this week revealed that in 2012, one woman in Turkey has died nearly every day as a result of domestic violence.

“In the heart of Istanbul, semi-naked women covered in artificial blood protested against domestic violence to mark International Women’s Day. The demonstrators, members of the Ukraine-based women’s rights group Femen, were quickly arrested. Turkish women took part in other more low-key demonstrations across the city.

A report this week revealed that in 2012, one woman in Turkey has died nearly every day as a result of domestic violence. International Women’s Day was no exception – a divorced woman was shot dead in Istanbul, allegedly by a relative of her divorced husband.

A study on domestic violence by the Turkish-based International Strategic Research Organization reveals a disturbing picture. One of the report’s authors is Dilek Karal.

Dilek Karal from International Strategic Research Organization

“Forty-two percent in Turkey have been subject to physical or sexual violence, and also official statistics reveal that 90 percent have not reported cases of abuse,” she said. “One of the reasons is cultural perception. People think that is a shame to denounce domestic violence in public. And also the second reason, previous experience incidents show authorities do not react to this violence. So they think that police will not do anything about the domestic violence and also the lawmakers cannot do anything [about] this domestic violence.”

Turkey’s ruling AK party has pledged to deal with the problem. But under its 10-year rule, according to its own statistics, murders of women have increased 1,400 percent in seven years, with nearly 1,000 killed in 2009.

Under AKP's 10-year rule, according to its own statistics, murders of women have increased 1,400 percent in seven years, with nearly 1,000 killed in 2009.

Minister of Family Affairs Fatma Sahin introduced legislation that was passed by parliament Thursday. The new law is aimed at offering better protection to women and enhanced support for victims. The legislation widens the scope of protection. Up until now, Turkey’s domestic violence law has only applied to married women. Pinar Ilkaracan of Women for Women’s Human Rights cooperated with the ministry on drafting the legislation. She says there are some important changes.

“Now the police has [have] the right for a mandatory arrest, if a man is exerting serious violence, threats, to the life of the women,” said Ilkaracan. “Then now the police have right for a mandatory arrest, which is a good point.”

Weak legislation

The new law, which still has to be ratified by the president, also provides for courts to electronically tag men deemed to be a threat.

But controversy has surrounded the new reforms, with women’s groups and other non-governmental organizations angered by changes already made to the new law. Ilkaracan says the legislation has been weakened.

“The draft, which was prepared by the ministry and women’s organizations, was cancelled by other institutions, for example, in the last case by the prime ministry,” she said. “A very striking example, wherever there was a term ‘gender equality,’ or ‘women’s human rights,’ all these were deleted. The paragraph to give the ministry authorization to train the police or to establish violence intervention centers [was] deleted. Now the law has become half-good, bittersweet. For me, it signals the government is not serious about eliminating violence against women.”

Support

Violence against women

Minister of Family Affairs Sahin acknowledges the concerns and criticisms but argues it remains an important reform.

She says this is a strong law and Turkey is entering into a new system that defends a woman’s right to live and protects victims of violence.

There also are concerns about whether the necessary infrastructure will be created to support victims of abuse. Turkey currently has around 70 shelters for a population of more than 80 million. Germany, with an equivalent population, has 366. The budget for provision of such services has been cut nearly in half in a last-minute amendment to the law.

Turkey currently has around 70 shelters for a population of more than 80 million. Germany, with an equivalent population, has 366.

Implementation of the new law also remains a concern. U.S.-based Human Rights Watch, while welcoming the legislation, has voiced concerns about Ankara’s troubling record of enforcing laws aimed at protecting women.

Credibility

Gauri van Gulik

Gauri van Gulik authored a report last year on domestic violence in Turkey for Human Rights Watch.

“There is a credibility gap,” van Gulik said. “On one hand, you have this amazing progress in terms of legislation, so you have the penal code reform, the civil code reform. They have set this system of protection in principle, in law. On the other hand, none of that is implemented properly.”

Protection of women’s rights remains a key part of the European Union, whichTurkey is seeking to join. The government has committed itself to confronting domestic abuse, but critics argue there is a worrying gap between its rhetoric and implementation of the reforms”.

The legislation will never be enforced, because AKP staffed the police and courts with archaic male chauvinists and ultra-conservative Islamists who– like the prime minister- believe a woman’s place is home and her only job is to slavishly serve her husband while bearing at least three children:

Erdogan: “I do not believe in equality between women and men”

“Crucial definitions of “gender,” “gender equality in society” and “women’s human rights” were removed from the text entirely. In 2010, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan publicly said, “I do not believe in equality between women and men” pointing to physical differences that no one would deny. Bu it is not biology that drives some men to use violence against family members or take it for granted that if they click their fingers, a female relative will duly bring a glass of tea or serve a meal. This hierarchy stems from social norms, not biology, which is why the internationally accepted notion of gender equality, which looks at gender, beyond biology, as a social and political construct is so important. Worst still, the law, initially prepared as a “Draft law to protect women and individual family members from violence,” was renamed the “Draft law to protect the family and prevent violence against women.” By once again placing the sacred notion of the family at the center of the legislation, the authorities are casting serious doubts about their intentions.[2]

AKP's so-called education reform

Yes, there is really no doubt on AKP’s intentions, as manifested by the so-called Education  Reform bill that presumably increases compulsory education from 8 to 12 years.  But there is catch:

“The goals of an education reform bill introduced by the Islamic party of Turkey’s Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan have been characterized by opposition parties as aiming to halve the length of compulsory schooling to promote more Koranic schools and veil wearing. The opposition secular press, trades unionists and other commentators, have for a month now, but especially over the past two days, been aiming their criticisms at the Islamic tendencies of the reforms of alleged faults in the country’s education system. Today the countries confederation of industry, the TUSIAD, has joined in the chorus of protest. The bill would in effect abolish the present laws obliging children to attend school for eight years, halving them to the period of primary education alone.

President of TUSIAD, Ümit Boyner

Although this radical move is softened by the offer of distance learning, critics are calling it an incentive to quit school, especially in the less developed eastern areas of the country, and in cultural milieu where the ban on wearing the veil inside school premises meets strongest resistance. The ban comes from the secular, Western stamp given to Turkey’s constitution in the 1930s by the country’s founder Kemal Ataturk. A reduction in the number of years of compulsory education would also promote the so-called ”Imam Hatip Lisesi”, the religious Islamic schools, like the one in which Mr Erdogan was educated. Following its third electoral victory in succession, with nearly 50% of votes cast, Erdogan’s single-party pro-Islamic government has already abolished the minimum age requirement for attendance at such schools and this reform would encourage children to give up attending their secular secondary schools in favour of religious institutions which now would take over some of the functions of the grammar schools.

Erdogan and Erbakan

Some areas of the secular press, such as the daily Milliyet, as well as pro-Islamic organs such as Yeni Safak and the official mouthpieces of Erdogan’s AKP party, stress how the reform aims at correcting what was in effect a penalisation inflicted on Koranic schools following the ”post modern” military coup of 1997, which overthrew Islamic premier Necmettin Erbakan, a role-model for Erdogan. Eight years of compulsory schooling was introduced then with the aim of undermining the Koranic institutions. The reform debate opens, indeed, as the 15th anniversary of that coup approaches (February 28), the highly secular daily Cumhuriyet wryly observes.

R.T. Erdogan and N. Erbakan

Without returning to accusations of a ‘hidden agenda to re-Islamise Turkey, Cumhuriyet links the reforms to the a proposal recently expressed by the premier ”to raise a pious generation,” a ”religious youth”. This phrase, accompanied by the rhetorical question, ”Did you expect the conservative and democratic AKP party would bring up a generation of atheists?” sparked off a heated debate over the past three weeks, in which all of the moves made to re-introduce wearing of the veil in the country’s schools as well as moves to favour Koranic schools (moves that have often been blocked) have been recalled.

Child labour

The criticisms of TUSIAD, which is calling for the bill to be withdrawn, are based on a more technical consideration of the step backwards in the level of education of the upcoming generations. The move is seen as being linked to the increasing pressure on young girls in country areas to give up their schooling and the dangers deriving from a reduction of the age for starting an apprenticeship to eleven[3]

Child bride

Yes, becoming a bride as early as 11.  Being denied a proper  education.  Harassed at the workplace, abused by fathers and husbands. This is what AKP’s Turkey is offering to half of its population.  No, actually, the women have a great life.  Another unprotected minority suffer even worse.  It is the thousands of children incarnated in Adult Correctional Facilities, alongside violent men.  Most of them are not even convicted, they are detained because of joining PKK-KCK protests, and throwing stones at the police. This “violent crime” gets you 15 years of prison no matter how young you are.  However prison is not the worst.  It is what happens to a young stone-thrower in the prison that simply escapes reason and belief:

“Juveniles imprisoned at the Pozantı M Type Prison in Adana (eastern tip of theMediterranean) were allegedly exposed to sexual violence. The juveniles were detained on the grounds of political issues but were put in cells together with convicts who were not political prisoners and who apparently abused them.

The Pozantı Prison made the headlines in previous years because of ill-treatment of juveniles. The new allegations are based on a news item of Dicle News Agency (DİHA) reporter Zeynep Kuriş that was recently published in the Evrensel newspaper. According to the news, 15-year-old H.K. who stayed at the Pozantı Prison for four months claimed, “Some of our friends were raped by the ordinary prisoners dozens of times. They sometimes tried to force our trousers down. Our experiences cannot be described”.

Juvenile H.K. explained that none of the convicts at the B-4 ward were political prisoners. He emphasized that the inmates were mostly detained on the grounds of murder, theft and drug use. He said that he witnessed rape and sexual harassment dozens of times in prison.

“They beat us because we did not kiss the flag”

17-year-old Ş.A. recalled that he was caught by the police when there was a demonstration in his neighborhood and that he was beaten by the police. Ş.A. stated that he had been distributing material of an agency on that day. He asked, “Why? What for? I did not understand whose name they wanted”. Ş.A. was then arrested and taken to the Pozantı Prison. “I experienced very bad things there. The prisoners put a rope around my neck and squeezed it. They were beating us. They called me a terrorist and forced my face towards the flag to kiss it. They beat me again when I refused to do so”, Ş.A. said.

Ş.A. furthermore stated that he was woken up at five or six o’clock in the morning and forced to clean the cell. He said that he was still not able to get to terms with the impact of his experiences. Ş.A. indicated that many of his friends were not able to return to normal life after they had been released. “Our friends are embarrassed to hang out with us because they cannot forget what we experienced”.

The juvenile noted that they informed the prison administration about the situation several times but the administration remained silent, Ş.A. emphasized. He stayed at the Pozantı Prison for two months and was released one month ago. “We requested to change our cells but our requests were not answered”, he said.

‘Sexual abuse was the worst problem’

The convicts forced our friends to get up in the middle of the night. They broke their heads right in front of our eyes. But the prison administration always tried to cover up the issue"

17-year-old A.K. explained how he was taken into police custody. He was on his way home from work when he encountered a conflict between demonstrators and policemen. He was affected by a gas bomb and in a desperate attempt to save his life he tried to escape into a nearby house. The police allegedly entered the house and took him to the roof where they tied a keffiyeh around his head and took pictures of him. Apparently, the police said “You are a demonstrator” and made him enter a police car where he was beaten with a rifle butt. A.K. was arrested on various charges and taken to the Pozantı Prison.

At prison, the most pressing problem for them was sexual abuse, A.K. stated. However, he recalled further problems he experienced in prison, “The convicts forced our friends to get up in the middle of the night. They broke their heads right in front of our eyes. But the prison administration always tried to cover up the issue”[4].

Do you want to know the faith of these poor children?  They get their rewards alright:

“Minors held at Adana’s Pozantı Juvenile Detention Center, which recently came into the spotlight after allegations of sexual abuse of minors by adult inmates surfaced, will be transferred to a prison in Ankara, the justice minister announced at a press conference on Friday.

Do you want to know the faith of these poor children?

Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin convened a press conference to discuss the allegations on Friday and said 200 minors who are currently being held in Pozantı will be transferred to a juvenile detention center in Sincan,Ankara, within a week. Ergin said the allegations lack evidence to back them, but that the Ministry of Justice has reassigned four officials from the juvenile detention center to other posts as a precautionary measure. However, following the results of an investigation into the matter, these officials may face prosecution. Ergin added that the children in question will receive therapy and be placed in individual cells.

Noting that the country’s juvenile detention centers have 1,903 children who are currently under arrest and another 406 who have been convicted, Ergin said: “The conditions at juvenile detention centers are being improved. Each inmate will be accommodated in an individual room at juvenile detention centers acrossTurkey.”

Who can complain?  Instead of psychological counseling and immediate release to the care of the parents they got a brand-new prison.  Will these allegations ever be investigated?  The justice minister assures us that they will:

Sadullah Ergin, Minister of Justice

“Ergin further stated that three inspectors were sent to the Pozantı Juvenile Detention Center to launch an investigation into the claims, made in July of last year, that a young inmate was raped at the Adana-based institution. “Every measure will be taken following these inspections and no stone will be left unturned,” he stated at the end of the conference. The allegations were first made public last summer when seven boys told human rights activists about their ordeal. The government’s action comes after a delegation of opposition lawmakers publicized the incident this week.[5]

Really?  “Despite the controversy surrounding the case, Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç commented on Monday that concrete evidence regarding rape or sexual abuse has yet to emerge.[6]

That’s three days after the incident was revealed.  How does Arinc know?  He knows because his Cabinet covered up the killings of 34 Kurdish smugglers in Uudere, the shooting of  tens of innocents by police, as well as numerous cases of police mistreatment and abuse.  Ohh, by the way, the woman reporter who cracked the scandal is now safely behind the bars on charges of being an accomplice to “terror organization KCK”. Finally, on Friday the AKP majority in the parliament struck down a CHP-BDP proposal to extend the  statute of limitations in the ongoing case of lynching 43 Alevite poets and  leftist intellectuals in Sivasin 1993[7]. Nine  of the offenders are still at large and will be able to come home as early as next week.

With each passing day, the monster that is AKP sheds another part of skin to reveal its true face:  A brutal Sheriah-inspired autocracy.  And, to recall that the Westerners laughed at our faces when we told them AKP’s unrestrained power would turnTurkeyintoIran.

Atilla Yesilada

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