Aslan is not in Narnia. She is in Turkey, where she was murdered.

By Rosanna Baas

When walking through Istiklal Street in Istanbul, it is rare not to stumble upon a protest. However, the protests that have been going on in the past couple of weeks are some of the biggest I have seen so far. The reason? The brutal murder of Özgegan Aslan.

After an afternoon of shopping, the 20-year-old student took a dolmuş (minibus) back home. She was the only one in the bus, and the driver made an attempt to rape her. Aslan means “lion” in Turkish, and she fought him off with pepper spray with the courage of a lion.  But the driver stabbed her and beat her to death with an iron bar. Afterwards the 26-year-old cut off her hands to dispose of the DNA evidence that she would have gathered by scratching him. The body of the young girl was set on fire and, with help of the man’s father and a friend, was thrown off a cliff. The body was found in a river two days later, on February 13th.

The murder has sparked nationwide protests and called attention to the position of women in Turkey. Turkey ranks high in gender inequality, being ranked 125th out of 142 countries in Worlds Economic’s Forum latest Gender Gap report. International reports stipulate that the imbalance of power and inequality between men and women is the reason for violence against women.  The number of women killed has risen an unbelievable 1,400% between 2002 and 2009. Since 2009 the AKP has stopped providing official figures on how many women are killed by men. However, last year an estimated 281 murders were reported in the media, with 27 just this January.

Some protests also focused on president Erdoğan’s role in violence against women. Protesters blame him for not speaking out against it, having previously made statements like “women are entrusted to man by God”, and “you cannot make men and women equal” because it “goes against nature and Islam”. The European court of right found “a pattern of judicial passivity in response to allegations of domestic violence” when passing a verdict on the investigation of a woman who has supposedly committed suicide. This is exemplified by statistics that demonstrate that between 2002 and 2009, only 6736 of the 15,564 people that were tried were sentenced. Furthermore, when a sentence is passed it is often reduced. The most striking example of this might be the man who killed two of his wives and who, after having served a 10-year sentence, appeared on a dating show last year because he was looking for love again.

Meanwhile, Erdoğan has condemned the murder, promising to personally make sure that the perpetrators will receive the heaviest punishment. However the real question is whether he will take active steps to improve the position of women in society, and prevent similar cases in the future.

Rosanna Baas, class of 2016, is a Psychology, Cognitive science, and Religion major from Amstelveen, the Netherlands. She is currently on exchange at Boğaziçi university in Istanbul.

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