In Turkey, Violence Against Women Is Often A Private Family Matter

In Turkey, Violence Against Women Is Often A Private Family Matter

2:13pm Jun 04, 2015
Demonstrators in the Turkish capital of Ankara hold posters of Ozgecan Aslan, a 20-year-old student who was allegedly killed by a bus driver after fighting off a sexual assault. The posters read:
Demonstrators in the Turkish capital of Ankara hold posters of Ozgecan Aslan, a 20-year-old student who was allegedly killed by a bus driver after fighting off a sexual assault. The posters read: "End killings of women."
Burhan Ozbilici/AP

Mutlu Kaya is gifted with a strong, pure voice, and it nearly cost her her life. Or rather, many Turkish women say, it was the reaction to her singing by the men in Kaya's life. She's in the hospital, a bullet in her skull.

It started with a visit to Kaya's hometown by well-known Turkish folk singer Sibel Can. Can was a judge on a moderately popular TV singing show, and she was convinced Kaya could be a star.

A promotional video posted online shows Can, Kaya and her mother on a couch as Kaya sings her mother's favorite song. Kaya then finds herself on stage, in full makeup and evening dress, with her mother — wearing a headscarf — watching anxiously from the audience. From Kaya's very first notes she seems to be a hit, earning cheers and applause from the beginning to the end of her performance.

Success Obliterated By A Bullet

But before Kaya could begin to enjoy her success, someone fired a bullet through her window, hitting her in the head. She remains in intensive care. Police arrested her boyfriend. It turns out four months earlier, Kaya had filed a complaint with the police, accusing him of threatening and intimidating behavior.

There have been demonstrations protesting attacks against women in Turkey, but not on behalf of Mutlu Kaya. Last month, there were nationwide protests for a young woman studying at a school far from home, allegedly murdered by a minibus driver during an attempted rape.

That case was widely followed, says Nebahat Akkoc, founder of the Komer Foundation in Diyarbakir, which she says is frustrating but not surprising. She explains that, unlike Kaya, the 20-year-old student, Ozgecan Aslan, was killed by a stranger.

"The Ozgecan case was more effective for raising awareness, because many families have children studying away from home," says Akkoc. "That got a lot of attention. I didn't hear many people talking about the Kaya case. People felt bad about it, of course, but it didn't resonate."

Akkoc has long struggled against what she calls a habit of treating violence within the family as a family matter. Her foundation runs programs where women can learn about their rights and how to protect themselves from men like Kaya's boyfriend, who was reportedly upset about her success. When asked about educating the men, she sighs.

"We don't really have time. We're working at our absolute limit, raising the consciousness of women," she says. "Someone should be educating the men, I agree, but we can't do it."

A Change That May Take Generations

It's not quite true that nobody here is talking about the critically wounded singer, who doctors say has regained consciousness. Young women are quite aware of the case. In a Diyarbakir cafe, 19-year-old university student Rojin says Kaya's is a classic example of men not recognizing a woman's abilities because they can only see a female body.

"She was there competing with her voice, not her body, but they only judged her as a female, with their sexist beliefs," she says. "This is the kind of mentality that has to change."

When it might change is anybody's guess. Like most of the women interviewed for this story, Rojin was afraid to give her family name, for fear of provoking more violence.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

There has been outrage in Turkey over brutal violence against women. Advocates say more than 100 women there have been killed this year, most by male relatives. Experts say it is impossible to track down the number of women injured because many attacks go unreported. NPR's Peter Kenyon went to southeastern Turkey to report on one case that is getting attention around the world. It's that of a 19-year-old woman who was shot after entering a TV singing contest.

PETER KENYON, BYLINE: Mutlu Kaya is gifted with a strong pure voice, and it nearly cost her her life; or rather Turkish women say the controlling and oppressive views of the men in Kaya's life put her in the hospital, a bullet in her skull.

(SOUNDBITE OF KNOCKING ON DOOR)

SIBEL CAN: (Speaking Turkish).

KENYON: It started with a visit to Kaya's hometown by well-known Turkish folksinger Sibel Can. Can was a judge on a TV singing show, and she was convinced Kaya could be a star. A promotional video posted online shows Kaya and her mother on a couch as Kaya sings her mother's favorite song. Soon, the mother, wearing a headscarf and housecoat, is in tears.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO)

MUTLU KAYA: (Singing in Turkish).

KENYON: Soon, Kaya's dream comes true when she finds herself on stage in full makeup and evening dress with her mother watching anxiously from the audience. From her very first notes, Kaya seems to be a hit.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

KAYA: (Singing in Turkish).

(APPLAUSE)

KENYON: But before Kaya could even begin to enjoy her success, someone fired a bullet through her window, hitting her in the head. She remains in intensive care. Police arrested her boyfriend. It turns out four months earlier, Kaya had filed a complaint with the police accusing him of threatening and intimidating behavior.

(SOUNDBITE OF DEMONSTRATION)

KENYON: There have been demonstrations protesting attacks against women but not Mutlu Kaya. These protests were for a young woman studying at a school far from home allegedly murdered by a minibus driver during an attempted rape. That case resonated more with Turks, says Nebahat Akkoc, founder of the Komer Foundation in Diyarbakir, which is frustrating but not surprising. The 20-year-old student Ozgecan Aslan was killed by a stranger, she says, while the singer Kaya was shot by her boyfriend.

NEBAHAT AKKOC: (Through interpreter) The Ozgecan case was a more effective one for raising awareness because many families have children studying away from home. That got a lot of attention.

KENYON: Akkoc has long struggled against what she calls a habit of treating violence within the family as a family matter. Her foundation runs programs where women can learn about their rights and how to protect themselves from men like Kaya's boyfriend who was reportedly upset about her success. When asked what about educating the men, she sighs.

AKKOC: (Through interpreter) We don't really have time. We're working at our absolute limit raising the consciousness of women. Someone should be educating the men, I agree, but we can't do it.

KENYON: It's not quite true that nobody here is talking about the critically wounded singer who doctors say has regained consciousness. In a Diyarbakir cafe, 19-year-old university student Rojin says Kaya's is a classic case of men not recognizing a woman's abilities because they can only see a female body.

ROJIN: (Through interpreter) She was there competing with her voice not her body, but they only judged her as a female with their sexist beliefs. This is the kind of mentality that has to change.

KENYON: When it might change is anybody's guess. Like most of the women we spoke to for this story, Rojin was afraid to give her family name for fear of provoking more violence. Peter Kenyon, NPR News, Diyarbakir, Turkey. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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