Turkish police have recovered the body of a 16-year-old girl they say was buried alive by relatives in an “honour” killing carried out as punishment for talking to boys.
The girl, who has been identified only by the initials MM, was found in a sitting position with her hands tied, in a two-metre hole dug under a chicken pen outside her home in Kahta, in the south-eastern province of Adiyaman.
A postmortem examination revealed large amounts of soil in her lungs and stomach, indicating that she had been alive and conscious while being buried. Her body showed no signs of bruising.
An informant told the police she had been killed following a family “council” meeting. The girl’s father and grandfather have been arrested and are being held for trial.
Official figures have indicated that more than 200 such killings take place each year, accounting for around half of all murders in Turkey. Women and girls are stoned to death, strangled, shot or buried alive. Their offenses ranged from stealing a glance at a boy to wearing a short skirt, wanting to go to the movies, being raped by a stranger or relative or having consensual sex.
In order to understand this, one must realize that in this culture honor is equated with women, women’s sexuality and the control of women. Honor is a property of women which is controlled by men. Women should passively obey the rules of conduct accepted as honorable while men have to actively make women obey these rules. As a result, ‘honor’ is usually formulated as something obliging both men and women to behave in a certain way. Women, in terms of “being careful about themselves, especially in their relations with men” and men, in terms of “having an attentive eye on their women.” -UNDP “The Dynamics of Honour Killing in Turkey.”
Recently, Turkey has tightened the punishment for attacks on women and girls in its bid to join the European Union. Persons found guilty of honor killing are sentenced to life in prison. There are well documented cases, where Turkish courts have sentenced whole families to life imprisonment for an honor killing. One result of this stricter enforcement is honor suicides. Families try to spare their men by forcing ‘disgraced’ women and girls to kill themselves. Women’s groups say that girls are often locked in a room with a rope, a pistol or rat poison until the job is done.
The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) estimates that the annual worldwide total of honor-killing victims may be as high as 5,000.