Male violence against women has been one of the most crucial issues in Turkey throughout the last couple of years.
According to available numbers from 2015, men killed at least 278 women, raped 133 women and girls, forced 202 women into prostitution, harmed 368 women and harassed 208 women. It is believed that the unofficial numbers are far larger than this. A recent case has shed again some light on how the security forces and the justice system, in addition to social and cultural confinements disadvantage those women who are exposed to regular, domestic violence.
Çilem Doğan, a young women from the southern Turkish city of Adana had shot her husband Hasan Karabulut in July last year, because he had inflicted violence on her and forced her into prostitution since the very beginning of their marriage in 2013. Karabulut was also a suspected criminal, sought by the police for 19 different felonies.
While she was being taken to the police department after the incident, Çilem Doğan said “Why should always women die? It is time that men died instead!" During her walk to the courthouse on the same day, Doğan was photographed wearing a T-shirt reading: “Dear past, thanks for all the lessons. Dear future, I am ready.” Later she said that she had not chosen the T-shirt intentionally; being unaware of the underlying message, it was bought "coincidentally" by her mother.
During the trial Çilem Doğan told the judge that she has tried to protect herself from violence by all possible means: she sought a divorce, yet this was not only rejected by her family members but also turned up the threats and violence of her husband. Her testimony during the final hearing of the case also revealed how male violence is simply not prevented through legal measures: “I walked in the court’s corridors with bruises on my face to get protection orders. I didn’t have any other options left.” Apparently, the protection orders she got, remained decisions on paper which were never put into practice. Those words reflected the situation of many other women who shared the same "faith" with her.
Çilem Doğan's case attracted a wide public interest and mobilized a committed network of women's organizations which not only supported her in terms of legal assistance, but used her story to defend the legitimacy of women reclaiming their lives by resorting to counter-violence in self-defense. The petition campaign started by women's initiatives asking for her release reached 65.000 signatures in only two days.
Çilem Doğan’s demand to be tried for legitimate self-defense during the first trial in May 2016, had been rejected on the grounds that "she did not seek shelter with her family, did not make use of protective measures such as identity-change, cosmetic surgery, etc. and did continue to live under the same roof with her husband". Her reaction was striking: “They said that I should have gotten an interlocutory injunction. I had had nine protection orders issued since then, if there was any other protection I could have gotten, I would have applied for that, what else could I have done?
At the last hearing on June 8, the court in Adana sentenced her to an aggravated life sentence on charges of involuntary manslaughter, but decided to reduce the sentence to 18 years for unjust provocation and then to a total of 15 years for good conduct. The verdict was met with harsh reactions. Women’s organizations protested the verdict for reflecting the male character of the justice system, asking for “real justice”.
Çilem Doğan was released on bail with the conditions of judicial control and an overseas travel ban, on June 20 while her appeal is ongoing before the Supreme Court. The court decided for her release on the grounds that she had already spent a reasonable period in detention, and as the proceeding continues she and her daughter would be suffering if she would continue to stay imprisoned. After her conditional release Çilem Doğan announced that now she is out of prison, she will use all her power and energy to support the cause of women in similar conditions and is meanwhile hoping for a final positive decision by the Supreme Court.