Male inmates’ gesture female victims

Male inmates’ gesture female victims

When her exhibition titled “Counter” opened on March 14, 2013, the digital monument designed by Zeren Göktan to remember women who fell victim to male violence in 2013 showed 14. Today, the number stands at 53. As this simple comparison indicates, violence against women is a tragic reality in Turkey. In that sense, the digital monument points out to an emergency and the necessity to effectively deal with this problem. Far from designing effective means to fight the causes behind it or increasing the means of assistance available to women, legal and otherwise, the government claimed that this seeming explosion in the homicides had probably to do with their increasing visibility in the media.

There is probably some truth in that but as the counter, compiled through media search makes clear, the fact that many of these women applied for protection and restraining orders but ended up being killed nevertheless makes clear that more needs to be done.

Göktan, however, is not merely showing us a figure in metric terms, even the collection of which is subject to controversy in Turkey. Indeed, the Family and Social Affairs Ministry counts only married women as victims of male violence, arbitrarily omitting countless women who were single or divorced and yet subjected to these killings. In order to overcome this problem, Göktan cooperated with a women’s organization (Kadın Cinayetlerini Durduracağız Platformu, The Platform for Stopping the Murder of Women) dedicated to stop the killing of women, married or not. In the end, she transformed numbers into names and stories as told by the media. When one clicks on their names, it is also possible to see why they were killed and by whom. The extensive research that was made to create the monument not only goes back five years and lends itself to research by interested scholars, but also allows one to see the change in the language of media over the years. What better way to use a public space like the web to remember simple citizens and not just some state dignity or war hero, like so often is the case of monuments in the public sphere?

The digital monument is like an end station one arrives at after passing rooms filled with beads hanging from the ceiling or standing on walls with various love songs and themes. It is accessed by scanning a QR (quick response) code woven on beads with various love songs and themes. While today smart phone technology makes it possible for everyone to scan things, the beads were hand made by the most inaccessible of all people: inmates in male prisons. This is the most common pastime in the prisons of Turkey. Göktan worked with prison authorities to obtain their permission for the project and accessed inmates to explain the project. Fully aware of what they were contributing to, inmates took charge of the project and worked on it for months. Göktan claims that this unexpected alliance between men and women or oppressor and oppressed could have come about only though art. In a divided society like Turkey where partnerships of any kind (with or without government) is difficult to create or sustain, Göktan makes us think that maybe creating these type of unlikely alliances should be the way to go. Maybe only then can we surprise and confront or get shocked and force change. While the monument certainly hopes for its disappearance and an end to violence, until then, it will help women who were murdered resist oblivion.

The digital monument can be accessed at and the exhibition can be visited at CDA-Projects Mısır Apartmanı, No. 163, Kat: 2 Beyoğlu until April 27, 2013.

İdil Elveriş is PhD at Istanbul Bilgi University’s School of Law.