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Coronavirus: Fourteen women murdered in Turkish homes since lockdown

Women's rights groups call for greater protection for women and children amid fears that domestic violence could soar during Covid-19 pandemic
Women shout slogans during a rally marking International Women's Day in Istanbul on 8 March 2020 (AFP)
By Ragip Soylu in Ankara

Women's rights groups in Turkey have called for better protection for women facing violence during the coronavirus pandemic lockdown, as new figures revealed that over 20 women had been murdered in a three-week period in March.

The We Will Stop Women’s Murder Platform reported on Wednesday that 21 women had been killed in the space of 20 days since 11 March, when the government advised the country to stay at home to avoid spreading the virus

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“Fourteen of them have been killed at home,” the group, which takes its figures from media reports, said in a statement. It added that many women who had contacted the group were scared to report violence by husbands or partners, which had grown under the domestic lockdown conditions.

“Some of them have given up," the group reported. "Some have realised that the violence against women had increased, upon returning home following the closure of the universities. Women also had a hard time to file for injunction orders because the offenders are elderly or sick.”

Femicides make headlines

While Turkey has focused on the coronavirus pandemic, with 63 deaths from the virus reported on Thursday, the near-daily murder of women has still made headlines. 

During March as a whole, 29 women were killed, with a further nine whose deaths were recorded as suspicious, according to local media.

Last week, Hatice Kurt, 46, was shot and killed in the street in the Black Sea resort of Rize by her ex-husband Ali Riza Havuz, 61, for allegedly posting a picture of herself online.

That same week, Dilek Kaya was shot and killed by her military officer boyfriend at home in the eastern city of Diyarbakir after a heated argument.

Tulin Oygur, the chair of the Republican Women’s Association, told local media outlets that there should be TV campaigns against domestic violence during the pandemic.

“We are worried that the lockdown would cause domestic violence not only against women but also children, and abuse,” she said.

'We are worried that the lockdown would cause domestic violence not only against women but also children'

Tulin Oygur, Republican Women’s Association

The association has also asked the government to make it easier for women in the current climate to obtain court injunctions against their abusers. On 13 March, Turkey's Judges and Prosecutors Board decided to postpone all court cases except those deemed urgent.

“The government has not announced any urgent measures [regarding violence against women],” the statement said. “The right to life for women and children shouldn’t be delayed. It should be guaranteed with urgent steps.”

Turkey has made moves to combat the murder of women during the last year. An estimated 55,000 police officers have been now trained on how to handle violence against women, while the process for women to take out court injunctions against their attackers has been made easier.

The Turkish Interior Ministry said in a statement in March that femicides had decreased by 32 percent year-on-year during the first two months of 2020.

It also reported that 24,000 women had downloaded the Women Emergency Support application, through which they can apply to take out an injunction. During the same period, injunctions increased 71 percent, according to the ministry.

Groups have long been warning of an epidemic of femicide across Turkey, with We Will Stop Femicide reporting 440 women killed by men in Turkey in 2018. 

Biggest daily Covid-19 death toll

By Wednesday, Turkey had recorded 63 coronavirus deaths in a single day - the highest since the beginning of the pandemic, taking the overall death toll to 277.

Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said in a TV statement that 2,148 people had tested positive during the last 24 hours, 600 less than the day before. "Sixty percent of the cases are in Istanbul," he added. 

Those numbers include more than 600 healthcare workers who had tested positive for the virus.

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