It’s time for men to speak up for women
Dilek Yardım was desperately crying while hugging the little coffins of her two daughters, four-year-old Elif and two-year-old Hira, during their funeral in Istanbul’s Maltepe district on Jan. 4. The children were slaughtered by their father, Ali Yardım who then committed suicide using the same shotgun.
In the last message Dilek received from Ali on the phone, he told her: “I’ve killed your daughters, come and pick them up.” That was a day when Ali was allowed to see his daughters under the auspices of the police. Dilek had applied for a divorce due to the domestic violence she was suffering from Ali and had been staying in women’s shelters.
During the funeral Dilek fiercely reacted against those who were trying to comfort her, including her parents. “Don’t tell me its fate!” she shouted at them. “I asked for your help, I begged you for help. I went to the police. Where were you then? None of you could protect me or my babies.”
Ekrem Yardım, the brother of the murderer Ali, thought differently. He accused Dilek of “driving Ali crazy,” saying “the justice system should look into the cases from men’s perspectives as well.”
This comment might just drive me crazy. Because looking from men’s perspectives is exactly what Turkey’s justice system has always been doing - apart from a few examples in recent years thanks to changing laws and a more responsible attitude in media outlets (for example by not calling the killing of wives, sisters or daughters “honor killings”).
Hürriyet columnist Ayşe Arman recently came up with a great description of the situation, saying it was “justice with a moustache.” She was actually referring to another case, in which a woman in a village in the southwestern province of Isparta, Nevin Yıldırım, was given a life sentence for in 2012 killing a fellow villager, Nurettin Gider, after he and others raped her. Her husband was away from the village for work at the time when the poor women was repeatedly raped by more than one of the villagers. After killing Nurettin she cut off his head and threw it into the middle of the coffee house where many men of the village were sitting.
Arman criticized the fact that no self-defense reduction was applied to Nevin’s sentence and she was given a straightforward life sentence for murder. This showed, she said, “justice for men,” and I agree with her.
In 2017, domestic violence claimed the lives of 409 women, though the problem is not exclusive to Turkey. According to U.N. figures, half of the women murdered across the world are killed by current or former spouses, family members or relatives. This figure is just six percent for murdered men.
Another example of gender discrimination concerns a non-violent case. When Turkish pop singer Hadise Açıkgöz recently released a clip showing her singing with a male model, including shots in a bed, she was accused of making an “erotic clip” in order to attract attention. Hadise tweeted her response, writing: “No one says anything when male singers make videos with female models. I don’t have to bow before that. This is gender discrimination.”
Recently the daily Posta newspaper ran a front-page story with the ironic headline: “The Place of Women!” The main picture showed the board members and executives of the Turkish Exporters Union along with Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekçi. The only female member of the business group could barely be seen, pushed back to the second row.
In business and government, the criteria should not only be the number of female employees but the number of women in executive positions.
I am not going to give you a list of figures you probably already know. Neither domestic violence nor gender inequality are particular to Turkey, though it is sad that not enough men are speaking up to support women. In government, business and social life, and even in the media, it is generally women or women associations who speak up to defend women’s rights. Initiatives like the U.N.’s “HeForShe” campaign should spread. We as men need to change our mindsets for the common good of all people.
It is time for men with a conscience to speak up for the rights of women and for gender equality.