To prove that good can come from bad, I thought I would revisit a tragic and brutal event that took place approx three years ago in Turkey. Back in 2004 a young Turkish mother Güldünya Tören was murdered by her brothers in what the media still insists on calling an ‘honor killing,’ when in reality such acts can only bring dishonor to all who commit or acquiesce to them. Güldünya Tören who came from the south-east of Turkey was raped by a relation and became pregnant, but understandably refused to marry the man who impregnated her. After the child was born she moved away from her home in the south-east, intending to start a new life elsewhere, however the male members of her family had other ideas having concluded she had brought dishonor upon them.
[Think about this, these Tören men were prepared to take into their family the man who had raped their daughter/sister, yet could only show hatred to this man’s victim their sister Güldünya when she refused to become part of this marriage farce! Some culture, some tradition, their actions bring shame on all men.]
Güldünya’s brothers pursued her to Istanbul where she had attempted to remake her life, and shot her in the street as if she were a stray dog, leaving her for dead in the gutter. She was taken to a hospital suffering from gun shot wounds. Whilst in hospital recovering the police visited her, but they told her they regarded the brutal assault that Güldünya had been subjected to, as not being police business, a private matter which should be dealt with by her family, and despite Güldünya’s pleas they refused to provide her with extra security. That very night the brothers entered the hospital and finished their task by shooting their poor helpless sister dead.
Thankfully Istanbul is not the south-east of Turkey where out dated and inhumane traditions are still strong, which result in many women becoming victims of male violence. Thus the Turkish Women’s Movement, the women section of the Istanbul Bar Association and the local branch of Amnesty International already outraged at these so called ‘honor crimes’ became involved in a campaign which partially centered around Güldünya Tören murder.
The AK Party Government recognized this public disquiet and introduced new legislation in 2005 which can be regarded as a victory for women like Güldünya. Prompted by the European Union (EU) to revamp its legislation before Turkey becomes a member of the EU, in addition to the struggle of the aforementioned groups and women activists, the reformed legislation includes a life sentence for those involved in dishonor killings. Prior to the new legislation, punishment for committing a murder in the name of honor was two-and-a-half years in jail, after which the murderer often received a hero’s welcome when they returned to their local community. Due to the reforms, the rape of a spouse is now illegal, domestic violence is recognized as torture, incest is outlawed, and rapists who previously escaped punishment by marrying their victims will no longer walk free.*
Now the wheel has turned full circle and Güldünya Tören can finally be at peace, for her brothers were this week sentenced to the full force of Turkish law. The older of the two brothers İrfan Tören was sentenced to 16.5 years for the first attempt on the life of his sister and given a life sentence for her murder, the maximun sentence that can be given for a so called honor crime in Turkey. The younger brother Ferit Tören, who was a minor at the time of the murder in 2004, received eight years, four months for the initial attempt on his sisters life and 15 years for causing the death of his sister.
Whilst there is some way to go before we see the last of this type of crime in Turkey we should all be embolden by the outcome of this case; and thank those brave sisters who have fought this corner of the wider progressive struggle. For it shows even in today’s world where reactionaries often hold sway, both in the west and the east, change is possible or as the slogan proclaims, ‘another world is possible’.
Finally it is worth mentioning Güldünya Tören left behind her baby, who she had named Umut, which means hope in Turkish, which seems to me to be an appropriate name for this youngster who had such a sad start in life.