In Turkey, Women Are “Hunted Like Birds”

That is the arresting headline in the London Times. But the article is considerably less forthcoming than one might expect.

[Pinar Gultekin’s] death, the latest in a series of high-profile murders of women, has sparked a series of public protests in Turkey against gender-based violence, and led to a surge of support for an international social media campaign that has seen women across the world post black-and-white pictures in memory of female victims of violence.

So what is the cause of this apparent rise in violence against women? The Times fingers an ideological culprit:

It has also cast light on efforts by the conservative Turkish government to repeal legislation designed to protect women. …
Politicians, including President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, have repeatedly made statements denigrating women’s rights — claiming that women are not equal to men and that those who do not have children are “incomplete” and “deficient”.
Yet in recent years, women’s rights have come under attack from the conservative leadership.
Activists say that this is partly due to a backlash as rising numbers of women are educated and join the workforce, threatening conservative social norms where women were expected to stay at home.

For many, Gultekin’s death struck a chord because of the carefree, happy life she documented on social media. Though her family were conservative, she lived an independent life.

…Though she lived a very different life from her conservative parents, she told them everything, he said.

The word “conservative” is used over and over again to explain the context of violence against women in Turkey. But what is being described is not what Americans or Englishmen think of as conservatism; rather, it is the fundamentalist Islam practiced by many Turks and espoused by the government led by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

And yet, the words “Muslim” and “Islam” appear nowhere in the Times article. This is the principal clue to what is actually going on:

Though statistics on gender-based violence in Turkey are notoriously hard to come by, numbers gathered by Kav’s organisation show that 474 women were murdered, most by their relatives, last year — the highest in a decade.

“Most by their relatives.” So we are talking primarily about Islamic “honor” killings–a fact that is hinted at, but not pursued or even explicitly described, by the Times. It is so much easier to blame the problem on “conservativism.” This is the sort of journalism that deliberately obscures the truth rather than illuminating it. Unfortunately, such journalism is the rule, not the exception, in the U.S. as well as the U.K.

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