Honor Crimes and Violence Against Women in Turkey


Sneha Panchani

Domestic violence is abuse in a particular setting such as a marriage or cohabitation, cloaked in many different ways such as abuse through the physical, verbal, emotional, or religious worlds. Without a doubt, the majority of domestic violence victims are female, and in some countries, this violence is condoned, justified, and permitted under the law; honor killing and dowry death are still widely accepted in various countries. 

In Turkey, for example, honor crimes occur with alarming frequency. Honor crimes are acts of violence, usually murder, committed by male family members against female family members who are perceived to have brought dishonor upon their name. A woman can be targeted by her own family for a variety of reasons, including the refusal to enter into an arranged marriage, being the victim of a sexual assault, or even seeking a divorce. The mere suspicion that a woman acted in a manner that could damage her family’s name may trigger an attack. These assumptions are generally based on men’s feelings and perceptions rather than on the objective truth. In fear of familial shame and threats, community members rarely confess that they witnessed a fatal act of violence and deaths are usually explained and registered as either accidental or as suicide. 

But what does “honor” truly mean? Turkish cultures believe that familial and community honor is a central value; men keep this honor alive, while women only serve to destroy it. Men are considered superior and more responsible than women, who are portrayed as weak, unintelligent humans. This is why honor killings are considered less serious than other murders, simply because they arise from long-standing cultural traditions and are thus deemed justifiable. It is clear that the problem of honor crimes against women cannot be solved by legal measures alone. This is especially prevalent in countries such as Turkey, where laws and lawmakers have failed to protect women’s rights for centuries.

In the 21st century, women joined forces to protest against such acts. As the death toll of women in Turkey increased, they wanted justice for the lives of their lost sisters, mothers, friends, and fellow citizens. Recently, The murder of a 27-year-old woman by an ex-boyfriend has sparked outrage in Turkey, shining a light on the country’s shockingly high femicide rate and government efforts to roll back legislation designed to protect women from gender-based violence. Thousands of women have taken to the streets of several Turkish cities to protest against gender-based violence and demand the country remain a signatory to an international pact against such attacks. 

As the pandemic continues, it has brought further problems in assisting those who need protection from domestic violence. Many shelters were either shut down or converted into medical facilities to cope with the demands of COVID-19. As these developments continued to become more frequent, awareness of increasing violence against women took storm through an Instagram trend: #ChallengeAccepted. Women would post a black and white photo of themselves to represent solidarity with victims of violence, but also to highlight the harrowing reality of seeing a new women’s face on the news after another murder. Western nations have also become more aware of the prevalence of femicides in Turkey via social media; women around the world are joining the #challengeaccepted trend to raise awareness of the issue on social media. International traction on social networking sites has also shed light on the brutality faced by women in Turkey who are speaking out and protesting; many protesters have been beaten or arrested, furthering the cycle of repression and violence. 

Activists hope that the voices of women in Turkey will be heard. Not only has this protest raised awareness of the domestic violence that occurs in Turkey, but it has given many women the ability to exercise their rights and leave abusive relationships. If this means protesting to prevent women from violence, then so be it. Let’s all raise awareness. #ChallengeAccepted