Turkish Government Taking Unprecedented Steps Against

Facing pressure from women’s groups and the European Union, the Turkish government has begun a major media campaign condemning all violence towards women, especially so-called “honor” killings. They will also set up hotlines, rescue teams, and town hall meetings in the Kurdish southeastern area of the country, where the rate of honor killings is particularly high. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a conservative, has spoken out against the archaic practice, telling the Organization of the Islamic Conference that honor killings need to be abolished from all Islamic societies.

Honor killings are murders performed by male relatives who feel that a female family member has tarnished the family honor with “unchaste” or “disobedient” behavior ranging from expressing the desire to work outside of the home to speaking up about abuse or rape. Last year, Turkish women’s groups told Time magazine that approximately 70 women die each year in honor killings in Turkey, though many more go unrecorded. The Los Angeles Times estimates that “thousands of women have died, been attacked, or compelled to commit suicide in so-called honor killings.”

Turkey has previously been denied integration into the European Union in part because of its poor treatment of women, Time reports. In response, the government opened the first legitimate women’s shelter in southeastern Turkey in 2005 and now houses about 50 women, many in their early 20s and victims of rape. Last year, jail sentences for men who commit honor killings were stiffened, and it is now harder for those sentences to be reduced.
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Los Angeles Times 1/9/07; Time Magazine 5/26/06

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