At least 311 women were murdered in Turkey in 2021, with another 181 women dying under suspicious circumstances, according to a report published by Jin News on Wednesday. The highest monthly number was recorded in November, with 33 femicides.
Women and girls were killed by current and former male partners for the most part, followed by men whose advances they turned down, and those who assaulted them sexually.
Many women were also injured by their current and former male partners, by stabbing, scalding with oil or the use of firearms. In many cases, the women were also sexually assaulted. The exact tally of injuries by men is not available.
The past year also saw Turkey withdraw from the Council of Europe’s Istanbul Convention, one of the most important legal tools to combat violence against women and domestic violence. At least 33 women’s rights activists are facing trial for protesting against the withdrawal.
Offences by state forces
Throughout the year, several members of the state forces faced trial for crimes against women. Most notably, Musa Orhan, a sergeant in the Turkish armed forces, was charged with sexual assault in connection with the death of İpek Er, a young woman who accused Orhan of abuse in her suicide note. The court in Siirt refused to arrest Orhan, and reduced his sentence to ten years in prison due to what it called “good behaviour”.
In the meantime, actresses Ezgi Mola and Farah Zeynep Abdullah were charged with slander over their social media posts siding with Er against Orhan.
Another sergeant, Ali Dalgıran, killed Sürmi İnce in Yüksekova (Gever), Hakkari (Colemerg). Dalgıran was detained for a week, and was later released to face trial for second degree murder. During the trial, the charge was lowered to manslaughter, and the sergeant was finally sentenced to 3 years 10 months and 20 days in prison, also with a sentence reduced due to “good behaviour”.
Prison guard Halil İbrahim Sert’s trial continued in 2021, over the death of Dilan Toptaş in Van (Wan) in 2020. Sert killed the young Kurdish woman after she rejected his advances, shooting her in his car. He then placed the gun in Toptaş’s hand, in an attempt to make the death look like a suicide, according to witness statements. Sert has still not been sentenced.
In Mardin, a court refused to arrest police officer Ercan Uysaler for attempting to force a young woman into prostitution.
Some cases of femicide
One of the cases that caused public outrage was the case of a Ümitcan Uygun, who was the lead suspect in the murder of Aleyna Çakır in June 2020, and who then went on to kill another woman, Esra Hankulu, in August 2021.
Uygun was reportedly involved with the trafficking of drugs and women, but was not arrested for any of his alleged crimes. Later in the year, a photograph surfaced showing Uygun and Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu posing together. After the death of Esra Hankulu, Uygun was arrested for first degree murder. On top of the murder charge, he also faces charges of trespassing, encouraging drug use, and hacking and distributing personal information.
A self-confessed killer, Cemal Metin Avcı, remains in prison but has not been sentenced in eight hearings of the murder case against him. In 2020, Cemal and his brother Mertcan Avcı abducted and killed university student Pınar Gültekin in Muğla. They later stuffed the young woman in a barrel, set her body on fire, and poured concrete on her to destroy evidence.
Killed by close relatives
At least three girls were killed by family members.
In Istanbul, 7-year-old Defne Öztürk was stabbed to death by her father Habip Öztürk.
In Kayseri, 1-year-old Yasemin Nur Soyak was stabbed by her father Kaya Doğan.
In Diyarbakır, high school student Reyhan D. was shot to death by her uncle.
Deaths ‘under suspicious circumstances’
Among the deaths recorded as ‘death under suspicious circumstances’ rather than murder were several cases with evidence against the perpetrators.
Suspects Rıza Doğan, Mehmet Doğan, Mustafa Emre Demiral, Hüseyin Emre Gürgen and Emre Eker continue to face trial for encouraging suicide in a susceptible person and deprivation of liberty over the death of 17-year-old Gamze Açar, who died after falling from the fifth floor of a hotel she went to for a job interview in 2020. An examination of Açar’s body showed signs of sexual assault. Four of the five suspects are in pre-trial detention, and eye witnesses have testified that the girl was thrown out of the window.
Another death was recorded as suicide in the case of Sezay Koçak, who allegedly committed suicide by jumping off the balcony of her home in 2020. Koçak was in the process of divorcing her former partner, Ali Özahi, who was in the apartment with her at the time of the incident. The man was charged with manslaughter initially, but the case was dismissed in 2021.
Leyla Aydemir, a 4-year-old girl, was found dead in 2018, with clear signs of abuse. Seven people, including two uncles of the little girl, were charged with sexual abuse of a minor and first degree murder, but in 2021, all suspects were acquitted. Nobody else was charged, and the crime remains unsolved.
Garibe Gezer’s death
Garibe Gezer, a Kurdish political prisoner, was allegedly found dead in her cell on 9 December in the Kandıra Prison in Turkey’s western province of Kocaeli. Gezer had earlier reported sexual assault, torture and mistreatment ahead of her death. Her family suspects foul play.
Three men who were convicted of rape were released on parole in Antalya, while a man in Istanbul was charged with battery instead of the more severe crime of domestic violence for his assault against his wife.
High school vice-principal Ahmet B. was released from police custody despite four students coming forward to accuse him of sexual harassment in Mardin.
Another suspect in Mardin, Osman Ç., was acquitted of sexual assault charges against his niece, who was a minor.
Sergeants Ömer Ayas and Muhammet Toprak were released from custody in a case of repeated sexual assault. In the court in Mardin, the sergeants said the woman accusing them had consented.
A girl in Muğla had been systemically sexually abused by her father and brother since she was 5 years old. Both men were acquitted of the charges in 2021.