Turkish women killed for 'honour'

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The Independent Online
WITH its maze of dusty, narrow streets overlooked by the ruins of a Crusader castle, the city of Sanliurfa, near the Syrian border, is a remnant of the old Turkey. It is also home to a grimmer legacy from old Anatolia. Sanliurfa is the Turkish capital of "honour killings".

In south-east Turkey, young women considered to have disgraced their families by committing adultery or having sex outside marriage are killed by male relatives. Under Turkish law "honour killings" are considered crimes committed under "high provocation" and sentences are light. Now Hasan Gemici, Turkey's new minister for women's rights, says he wants to put a stop to the killings.

Honour killings are not crimes of passion, but planned in cold blood, according to Canan Arin, a lawyer and women's rights activist. "If a girl is thought to have disgraced her family, its men are ostracised. They feel obliged to kill her. There have been five or six cases before the courts in recent years, but no one ever comes forward as a witness. Last year, a woman survived an attempt to drown her in the river Euphrates. She changed her name and went into hiding."

In one case an unmarried woman was stabbed to death by a teenage cousin in a crowded Sanliurfa street. Only one street trader came forward as a witness. The murderer went to jail for just over two years.

"It's not as if these women are always 'guilty', even by their families' standards," says Seyda Toreuk, another women's rights activist. "Some just go to the cinema with a man. One woman was killed after a song was dedicated to her on the radio. The family thought the dedication came from a lover."

The ministry says bringing an end to honour killings is a priority. But with elections looming on 18 April, its chances of getting a new law before parliament soon are slim.

Ms Sarihan says: "The problem is that the local society, including women, believes that honour killings are justified. The only way to stop them is to educate people."