Last year, 300 women were murdered in Turkey, according to a women’s rights organisation. The number of suspicious deaths could be far higher and these are often recorded as ‘suicides’.
The number of deaths of women have increased ever since Turkey withdrew from the Istanbul Convention, women’s rights activists say. According to figures provided by the ‘We Will Stop Femicide Platform’ (KCDP), 16 women were murdered and 14 women died suspiciously during April alone.
The number of suspicious women’s deaths have been increasing in Şırnak (Şirnex), a Kurdish-majority southeast province of Turkey. In 2020 and during the first five months in 2021, Kevser Eroğlu, 14-year-old Betül Uçar and Gurbet Üren have become symbolic names amongst women and children who have been ‘found dead’ in the city. Investigations into these cases are often closed and officially recorded as ‘suicides’.
“Femicides and suspicious deaths of women are a result of the special war policies. Closing down and banning women’s institutions, then protecting the perpetrators of crimes against women has resulted in increasing numbers of women’s deaths,” said Zozan Aksu, a Free Women’s Movement (TJA) activist.
She stated that the closure of women’s institutions – who were acting together to assist women who had been subject to violence – by the trustees who were appointed to the municipalities to replace the administration of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) in Şırnak had a negative impact on women in the city. “The Botan region is known for its history of resistance. They know this very well, so they try to narrow all social spheres and spaces for women. This approach of the government in this region is a part of special war policies,” she noted.
Aksu added: ”They closed down the institutions that were supporting women financially and psychologically. This resulted in increased violence against women and the women’s voices were also silenced. This also increased the number of women’s suicides throughout the region.”
Aksu emphasized that unemployment is one of the issues that triggers acts of violence: “There are no job opportunities in the region, which affect both men and women. Sitting at home, unemployed, has caused domestic violence to increase,” she said.
“But we know very well that the increased deaths and suicides of women are the results of tactics based on special war policies of the state in the region,” she added. “There is no attempt by law enforcement or the judiciary to bring the perpetrators to justice.”
“These people are released after the police ask them a few questions. If the necessary penalties were given to those who committed violence against women, we would not have faced these crimes now,” she said.