Murder of Ozgecan Aslan

By Vugar Bakhshalizada

Ozgecan Aslan was a Turkish university student. She was brutally killed on 11 February, 2015 on a minibus in Turkish town of Mersin. Before being killed, it was revealed that she was resisting an attempted rape by her murderer. Her murderer was named Ahmed Suphi Altindoken, a Mersin minibus driver. Ahmed’s father, Necmeddin Altindoken, was charged of covering up a crime in coordination with the murderer. Furthermore, Ahmed’s friend, Fatih Gokce, was also arrested for being complacent about the crime and assisting to cover up it. This murder caused a lot of discussions in Turkey about the violence against the women. It also caused nationwide protests against patriarchal status-quo and lack of progress about the condition of the women.

This particular murder drew attention to the miserable situation of the women all around the world because it yet again became obvious that even in a relatively developed society, the women are still vulnerable to cruelty and harassment. For example, in many other countries, there were lots of protests about the murder of Ozgecan Aslan. In those countries, the protesters tried to draw attention to the conditions in which the women live. For example, one of the protests took place in Azerbaijan in 2017 in the commemoration of the murder of Ozgecan Aslan. The protestors in Baku dressed a skirt in order to send a message that it is not a crime to wear like this in either Azerbaijan or any of the countries in the world, considering the murderer justified his action that Ozgecan triggered him because she was wearing a skirt. One of the protestors was Ismi Aghayev, a student at Georgian Institute of Public Affairs. “We wanted to show that it is not a crime to be a woman or wear a skirt. This kind of murder happens in Azerbaijan as well. As long as we keep silent, this will keep happening again and again. This is why we protest and invite others to speak out against the violence” said Ismi Aghayev.

This murder has become a case for all the human rights defenders as well. For example, Mr. Zakariya Ahmedov, a lawyer and human rights activist, thinks “the murder of Ozgecan shocked the whole world. A woman got killed because she exercised her basic right to choose what to wear or what not to wear. This is a tragic moment in our shared history”. Zakariya Ahmedov believes that since the murder, many lawyers and human rights activists are promoting and eve lobbying the special protection of women’s rights against the potential aggressors. Didem Cicek, a lawyer in Turkey, believes that “Ozgecan’s case was a shock in Turkey. It had a shock effect in the public. The murderer’s justification that she triggered him by wearing a skirt was even worse. This murder actually showed that there is a lot of work to be done to improve the situation of the women. We need to see this”.

The murder of Ozgecan is an important case to be considered because Azerbaijan is one of the countries in the world, where there are frequent attempts to marginalize or disempower the women. For example, according to global database, more than 14% of the women in Azerbaijan face lifeline physical violence by her husband while non-partner violence [violence by not husband or boyfriend] against the women is more than 11%. This means that there are about 700,000 women facing this kind of violence at the hands of their husband. However, apart from the official numbers, it is assumed that the reality is even worse because there are a lot of unreported violations as well. For this matter, it is important that this topic is being brought to the surface in Azerbaijan since there are very vulnerable women in the country.

While the murder of Ozgecan Aslan was a catalyst for the women all over the world to speak out against the violence, it was described by the Guardian as a potential rift between women who keep silent and defend patriarchal status-quo and those who reject this.

A demonstration in Ankara, Turkey, in February after the murder of Özgecan Aslan. Photograph: Adem Altan/AFP/Getty Images