Turkish law enforcement officers of the police and army are systematically harassing women in Turkey’s mainly Alevi/Kurdish province of Tunceli (Dersim), a woman’s organisation said after a military ‘special sergeant’ officer of the Gendarmerie fired his gun after verbally abusing a woman on Saturday.
“In our city, young women in particular are being systematically harassed by law enforcement officers,” the Mezopotamya news agency quoted the Newday Women’s Solidarity Association as saying after the incident.
The military officer verbally abused a female passerby in Tunceli on Saturday evening, then fired his sidearm three times at witnesses who reacted to his abuse. The soldier and three people accompanying him were taken into custody after they fled the scene.
“It is an example of near-barbarism and vandalism when a sister is sexually harassed while walking on the pavement at any time of the day in our city, then a gun is pointed at her and goes off,” the association said.
The association said that the many complaints about similar incidents suffered by local women demonstrated that they were being systematically harassed by law enforcement officers.
“It is not the first time that law enforcement officers have committed sexual crimes against women, nor is it the first time that they take the first opportunity to turn their weapons against citizens,” they added.
Two days before the incident, Peoples’ Democratic Party’s (HDP) Tunceli branch and the Dersim Women’s Platform released a statement condemning violence against women after the news that Firdevs Babat, a 17-year-old girl, was killed by the brother of a village guard in Şırnak (Şirnex).
Violence against women is a long-running and widespread problem in Turkey, where four out of ten women suffer from physical or sexual violence, according to official data. There is also a high level of stalking and data collection is generally poor which makes it difficult to provide an accurate picture of the scale of the problem today. Women’s rights groups and independent media regularly record hundreds of femicides every year.
Last month, the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women and Girls called on Turkey to reconsider its 2021 withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention, a key document on combatting violence against women.