A Turkish lawyer and women’s rights activist, Canan Arin, was arrested for mentioning the fact that girls get married off very young in Turkey.
I was the co-founder of the Istanbul Bar Association, Women’s Rights Enforcement Centre and worked as a trainer there. The Antalya Bar Association was opening a Women’s Rights Enforcement Centre and the lawyers needed training. I gave a talk on violence against women in the form of early and forced marriages in the context of training.
I used two examples to illustrate my point. One was the Prophet who married a girl of seven. The second was the head of the Turkish Republic who was engaged to his wife, the first lady, when she was 14 and married her when she was 15. These are facts. As I spoke, a group of young men got up and started shouting at me. They said I was insulting and going off the subject. I denied this and said they were free to leave the conference room, which they did.
The next day another group of young men, (I am not sure whether they were lawyers), held a press conference and reported me to the court on charges that I was insulting the Prophet and President of the Republic of Turkey. This group of around 10 men who filed a complaint against me were not present at my talk.
So the cops arrested her.
The interviewer, Bingul Durbas, asks searching questions.
BD: The new education reform known as “4+4+4” seems very problematic. Under the new education law, it is not compulsory to continue education after the first four years. The Child Bride project of the Flying Broom, a women’s organisation in Turkey, has recently found that, almost all of the students who are absent from school due to early marriage and engagement are female. According to the TurkStat the prevalence of lifetime physical or sexual violence against females decreases with the increase in their education. This indicates that the new education reform is likely to increase the vulnerability of girls to early marriages and violence.
CA: Exactly. And, no one reports these crimes despite the fact that child marriages constitute sexual abuse of children and sexual intercourse with those who have not achieved adulthood is a crime, according to the articles 103 and 104 of the Turkish Penal Code. However the law is not implemented.
It’s a multi-pronged approach – minimal schooling, marriage at 15 or 12 or 9, no right to leave, “honor” killing if you do leave, a terrible life if you stay.
BD: In another recent case, Nevin Yildirim, who killed her rapist to save her honour, was not allowed to have an abortion and she had to give birth to her rapist’s child. There is also a link between the abortion issue and ‘honour killings’. My research shows that in cases where the victims got pregnant out of wedlock, the defendants (the girls’ families) take the victims from one hospital to another, in a desperate bid for an abortion to avoid any social stigma. They try to avoid murdering the victims in every way they can. If they fail to resolve the situation then they kill the victims to cleanse their’ honour’.
CA: Very true. The Prime Minister is involving himself in women’s private lives more and more – from how many children she should have to whether she can have an abortion or a caesarean. So that is why it is especially difficult for young women in Turkey. A woman has no value unless she is married and it is the family that must be protected – not the women, whatever the cost.
Every door is closed and locked.