ISTANBUL – Ozgecan Aslan was a 19-year-old girl majoring in psychology in the city of Mersin in Turkey.
Now she’s a woman frozen in time.
Murdered while resisting rape. Her corpse burned to the crisp. Her remains tossed aside a stream.
The horrid details of the murder still haunt me. Those details, though, were not the ones that people seemed to care about.
What was she wearing?
Why was she alone in a minibus?
What time was it?
How hard did she resist?
Did she yell out for help?
All incredibly relevant, of course. More relevant than a minibus driver attempting to rape a passenger and upon resistance, bludgeoning and stabbing her to death.
More relevant than the fact that he could easily drive into the city center with a corpse in his vehicle, pick up his father and friend to help cover up the murder.
More relevant than cutting her hands because she had scratched her murderer and he did not want anyone to find evidence of his DNA.
More relevant than pouring gasoline on her dead body and lighting his match without a second thought, thinking it would destroy her body to the point of no recognition.
This was in 2015. The reaction to Ozgecan’s murder was an uproar among the people. They posted black and white pictures of her with hashtags.
They made Ozgecan into an angelic figure who had left us before her time. Some even dared to go outside and protest.
Ozgecan’s murderers were sentenced to life in prison, the heaviest sentence in Turkey.
It felt like things might take a turn for the better. Women were fed up, change was coming.
In the five years since Ozgecan was taken forcefully from this world, more than 2,000 women have been murdered in Turkey, according to data kept the organization We Will Stop Femicide.
That’s 2,000 and counting.
These statistics are only the ones that managed to grab some attention from the media. Countless murders. Countless cover-ups. Countless women missing.
We Will Stop Femicide aims to stop these murders. Its website includes monthly records on the number of women killed at the hands of men in Turkey.
In its May report, the group counted 21 murders and in addition, 18 suspicious deaths.
There are 31 days in May. Thirty-nine women murdered.
I took a calculator and divided these numbers before a chill went through my spine, warning that one day I might just as well become a number in a statistical analysis. Human beings are murdered, and with each day that passes, we get more used to the numbers and forget about the humans.
Oh, did you hear a woman was murdered an alcoholic boyfriend?
Yeah, they’re ruling it as a suicide. The boyfriend walks free.
Not a hypothetical scenario, but an oddly familiar conversation.
This time, the victim was Aleyna Cakir, 21, who died early this month.
Her story blew up a few days later over allegations that her boyfriend, Ümit Uygun, had been violent toward her in the past.
Live Instagram footage from a previous incident with Uygun surfaced that according to the BBC showed Cakir lying unconscious on the floor.
After that incident in April, Cakir sought police protection, the BBC report said.
According to the BBC, Uygun was questioned after the April incident and released.
He is still free. This is not the first incident, nor will it be the last.
Cakir will become a statistic in the list of “suspicious deaths of women.”
And how can we ever forget the cries of Emine Bulut as her ex-husband stabbed her last August in broad daylight, in a restaurant full of people, including their 10-year old daughter?
“I don’t want to die!” were Emine’s last words.
Her daughter cried the same, “Mom please don’t die!”
Now, her final words – captured on video that sparked outrage – are a rallying cry for women’s rights in Turkey, where violence against women is on the rise. Society is becoming increasingly misogynistic.
My mom told me on the first day of elementary school: “You tell me if anyone touches you here (genitals) or here (chest). Do you understand? This is very important. If something like this happens, you tell me immediately.”
I was 6 years old. I did not understand why. It seemed silly.
Now I understand.
I am scared.
Bilge Nur Guven is a Junior Reporter with Youth Journalism International. She wrote this piece.
Salma Amrou is also a Junior Reporter with Youth Journalism International. She made the illustration. Artist’s note: I decided to draw a girl who’s faceless, except for a percent sign on her face, to symbolize how each woman murdered becomes a statistic. Her hair is chopped off really roughly and the rest of it is tied around her neck. The long hair represents femininity and the fact that the perpetrator is using her hair to strangle her represents the misogyny behind all of these murders. The other hand that is using the scissors to cut off the part of hair that the perpetrator’s hand is clutching represents how these murderers easily get away with their crimes.