• Isabelle Osborne

Femicide in Turkey

Femicide is defined as the intentional killing of a woman or girl, in particular by a man, on account of her sex. Femicide differs from male homicide: most cases of femicide are committed by partners or ex-partners, and involve ongoing domestic abuse, sexual violence or situations where women have less power or fewer resources than their partner.

There are an estimated 5000 murders in the name of ‘honour’ each year worldwide, although this is believed to be an underestimate. These killings occur mainly in parts of the Middle East and South Asia, and it is these killings that reflect the perception that it is acceptable for women to be discriminated against.

Femicide poisons Turkey. The country has one of the highest femicide rates, and numbers are expected to be higher following COVID-19 lockdown restrictions.

Consider these facts:

  • 42 per cent of Turkish women aged between 15 and 60 had suffered some physical or sexual violence by their husbands or partners.

  • In 2019, 474 women were murdered in acts of recorded femicide, most of them by current or former partners, family members, or unrelated males who wanted a relationship with them.

Note the emphasis on recorded - there is no confirmed number of how many women are murdered.

The perpetrators of femicide go largely unscathed, and no justice is served. The government has failed to prevent the crimes that are taking place. Rather, they are doing quite the opposite, as attempting to abolish certain aspects of the Istanbul Convention (a human rights treaty that protects women against domestic violence) will reverse the legislation, so that the framework will no longer ‘threaten family values’. Many view this as legitimising violence against women, normalising ‘honour killings’ that are no more than a fierce persecution of women’s rights.

Pinar Gultekin was a recent victim of femicide, a 27 year old woman who disappeared on 16th July and was violently murdered by her ex-boyfriend. She is only one of the thousands of victims of sex-based violence in Turkey and across the world.

In her article ‘Turkey’s femicide problem is more than a confused Instagram trend’, Gunseli Yalcinkaya claims that Turkey is stuck in a Western blindspot, and ‘Turkish people exist in a socio-political grey area of devout religion and secularism, European and Middle Eastern, coloniser and colonised.’ This means ‘[their] mixing pot of regions, ethnicities, religions, and customs is too diverse and confusing to be put into a single, easily identifiable box by those who’ve never been taught, or made the effort, to find out more.’

In recent weeks, the #ChallengeAccepted has appeared on thousands of Instagram stories and feeds, a campaign relaunched by a group of Turkish women following the murder of Gultekin. The challenge acted as a stand of solidarity between women. But as the black and white photos filtered through our feeds, the trend became deemed as ‘slacktivism’ by many, drawing parallels by Black Out Tuesday which gained momentum in the wake of George Floyd’s tragic death. Good-natured captions and sharing hashtags, whilst inspired by kindness, are partly a form of performative allyship, and unfortunately don’t raise awareness in a way that will help eradicate the horrors that are ongoing in Turkey.

Please find below a list of ways you can continue your education of the issues surrounding gender-based violence, and how you can help aside from sharing on social media.



  • Purple Roof Women's Shelter Organization: The Organization’s 18-bed shelter in Istanbul is currently the only independent women's shelter in Turkey, and continues to run several helplines to assist women in danger despite COVID-19 restrictions. Find out more here: https://morcati.org.tr/bagis/

  • Turkish Philanthropy Funds: The Gender Equality Fund works to eradicate child marriage and to improve the education and employment rates for women in Turkey. Find out more here: https://donate.tpfund.org/campaign/tpf-gender-equality-fund-fund-313/c165067

Read and educate:

The persecution of human rights in Turkey is devastating, and is finally gaining global attention. But the horrors of sex-based hate crimes must not be tainted by a meaningless trend that fails to enact change. This is an urgent issue that can no longer go ignored.


Featured image courtesy of Dima Rogachevskiy on Unsplash. Image license can be found here. No changes were made to this image.