The first time I saw these photos, I said to myself, no legal system could allow an aggressor to be so close to his victim. When her ex-husband whispered something into her ear Paşalı looked around as if saying, “Do you not see, I am a hostage of this man; please save me.” No one saved her. During her marriage she had been beaten countless times and finally was killed.
The road that led to the killing of Ayşe Paşalı was a long one. From the statement of Burcu Paşalı, the daughter of this “couple,” we understood that brutal beating sessions were reported to the police many times before. She even shared one of these “sessions” in detail: One night he started to beat his wife as usual, and Burcu went to another room and called the police. The police officers came to the house and asked Mrs. Paşalı, whose face was covered anew with fresh wounds, if she would file a complaint against her husband, and they asked her this question right in front of him. At that very exact moment, right before the police officers’ eyes, he threatened her, saying that if she complained about him, he would kill her. Police officers then stepped out with the husband, apparently just talk to with him for a quick five minutes, and then he came back and went on beating Paşalı from midnight well into the morning.
They eventually got divorced, but the threats and insults continued. Just before she was killed by her husband, she applied to the court and sought protection, saying she was being threatened by her husband with death. The Ankara court, making an absolutely ridiculous comment on legal provisions, came to the conclusion that only a married woman can be provided with a bodyguard if she is threatened by her husband. Just few days after this court’s decision, Paşalı was killed in broad daylight on the street by her husband after being stabbed multiple times.
If you think this is an isolated case, you would be mistaken. Domestic violence is epidemic in Turkey, and the legal system is far from capable of providing necessary protection to potential female victims. I think we have a very serious mentality problem when it comes to domestic violence. The police and the courts have never taken seriously the violence from which women suffer. Married men have a very large margin of control over their wives; our daily language is filled with mottos showing the subordination of women to their husbands such as “A man can both love and beat” and “The place of a woman is by the knees of her husband” and so on.
The police who came to Ayşe Paşalı’s door most probably themselves have an extremely patriarchal relationship with their own wives. And in their eyes, Paşalı’s husband may have gone just a little bit past the limit while he was exercising his “right” to discipline his wife. What about the judges? Most probably, they themselves do not have a relationship based on equality with their wives. Therefore, this manly world cannot be sensitive to the pain and suffering of women.
Actually, in the case of Opuz v Turkey, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) provided a snapshot of the state of the Turkish legal system in relation to domestic violence. In this case, the ECtHR not only acknowledged the existence of laws in Turkey criminalizing domestic violence but also emphasized the need for such laws to be implemented in practice. It found that the laws in place did not have an adequate deterrent effect capable of ensuring effective prevention of violence against women and that there was widespread passivity on the part of police and prosecutors in responding to such complaints. The ECtHR further stated that “the overall unresponsiveness of the judicial system and impunity enjoyed by the aggressors … indicated that there was insufficient commitment to take appropriate action to address domestic violence.” In this judgment the court also handed down a damning critique and said that “the general and discriminatory judicial passivity in Turkey, albeit unintentional, mainly affected women … the violence suffered by the applicant and her mother may be regarded as gender-based violence which is a form of discrimination against women.”
I do not believe we can effectively fight against this “gender-based” violence by just adopting a few new laws. We need an open and honest discussion. We need a deep questioning about the place of women in families and in our society. We need to fight against this patriarchal mentality; we need to create a new culture in which men and women have equal status rather than one of subordination. Everyone needs to do something to stop violence against women in Turkey.