Feminists remind world of Turkish origins of latest ‘challenge accepted’ trend

Feminists in Turkey have spoken out to remind social media users of the Turkish origins of Instagram’s latest #challengeaccepted trend, which was meant to draw attention to a growing epidemic of gender-based violence in the country before it was co-opted by western celebrities, the Guardian reported on Friday.

Femicides and violence against women are longstanding and growing issues in Turkey. Last week, the brutal killing of Pınar Gültekin, a 27-year-old student allegedly killed by an ex-boyfriend, triggered protests in Turkey. 

Marches in four Turkish cities last week mourned Gültekin’s death and called on the government to uphold a Council of Europe treaty known as the Istanbul Convention that is designed to protect victims of gender-based violence.

Campaigners are worried over recent signs that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government may be set to withdraw Turkey from the convention.

The black and white challenge appears to have started in 2016 to raise awareness of cancer, but idea was repurposed - with one social media initiative among Turkish campaigners involving posting photos on Instagram in black and white to reflect the pictures of murdered women that also end up in black and white in newspapers, alongside hashtags such as #challengeaccepted and #İstanbulSözleşmesiYaşatır (Enforce the Istanbul Convention).

As the hashtags were translated, celebrities such as Jennifer Aniston, Eva Longoria, and Ivanka Trump picked up on the trend but the original context appears to have been lost on them and most Western social media users.

“The black and white photo challenge and #challengeaccepted movement did not start in Turkey, but Turkish women sparked the latest round of pictures because we are worried about withdrawing from the Istanbul convention. Every day, after the death of one of our sisters, we share black and white photographs and keep their memory alive,” the Guardian quoted Fidan Ataselim, the general secretary of the campaign group We Will Stop Femicide, as saying.

“The Istanbul Convention keeps Turkish women alive. We call on women from all over the world to spread this message and stand side by side with us against inequality,” she added.

Gültekin was one of 120 women killed in Turkey in 2020, mostly by partners and relatives. A total of 474 women were killed in 2019, the highest rate in a decade in which the numbers have steadily increased. 


❤️Pınar Gültekin ❤️ The incident that triggered the latest viral, black and white photo challenge, is the murder of Pinar Gutelkin, a 27-year-old woman, who was allegedly killed by her jealous ex-boyfriend, who first strangled and then tried to burn her. The hashtags #kadınaşiddetehayır and #istanbulsözleşmesiyaşatır were used by Turkish women as part of the challenge, but they were dropped as the trend became more westernized. ▫️▫️▫️▫️▫️▫️▫️▫️▫️▫️▫️▫️ FOR THOSE WHO’D LIKE MORE INFO:❤️ ▫️▫️▫️▫️▫️▫️▫️▫️▫️▫️▫️▫️ ”Turkey is one of the top countries when it comes to femicides. Most often the murderers barely get a slap on a wrist or no charges at all… Our government is trying to abolish certain aspects of [the] Istanbul Convention which is a human rights treaty that protects women against domestic violence…(Unknown Twitter User).” ▫️▫️▫️▫️▫️▫️▫️▫️▫️▫️▫️▫️ 🔹In 2019, 474 women were murdered, mostly by partners and relatives, the highest rate in a decade, according to The Guardian. In Turkey, between 2010 and 2017, in which at least 1,964 women were killed (balcanicaucaso.org, 2018). (Ceyda Ulukaya is a journalist and the creator of the first map of femicides in Turkey that shows these numbers). ▫️▫️▫️▫️▫️▫️▫️▫️▫️▫️▫️▫️ 🔹What is femicide?Femicide is the term used for the masses of women who are abused and murdered at the hands of their partners, according to the World Health Organization. ▫️▫️▫️▫️▫️▫️▫️▫️▫️▫️▫️▫️ 🔹 “But perhaps the biggest contributor to violence against women is that the majority of male culprits do not face serious sentences for their crimes. In 2016, the Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim attempted to pass a bill that would pardon men convicted of sex with underage girls if they married them. The uprising that followed was massive. Those opposed said it ‘legitimized statutory rape and encouraged the practice of child brides.’ The bill was ultimately scrapped but is a good indicator of where Turkish ideals may lie (Jackie Trujillo, New York Minute, 2020).” ▫️▫️▫️▫️▫️▫️▫️▫️▫️▫️▫️▫️ #pınargültekin #ChallengeAccepted #kadınaşiddetehayır #StopViolenceAgainstWomen #istanbulsözleşmesiyaşatır ▫️▫️▫️▫️▫️▫️▫️▫️▫️▫️▫️▫️

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Despite the fact Turkey has the highest femicide rate among 34 OECD countries, conservative circles have recently called for Turkey to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention on the grounds that it encourages divorce and immorality.

The Guardian said this week Meral Akşener, the leader of the opposition centre-right İYİ Party, called on Erdoğan to uphold the legislation, and said that the government’s failure to properly implement the law since it was ratified in 2014 was contributing to the rising levels of gender-based violence.


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