'I don't want to die' - femicide video sparks rage at Turkey's domestic violence record

A video showing a murder victim covered in blood after being stabbed by her ex-husband numerous times in front of their daughter has created an immense public outcry in Turkey after it spread on social media on Friday morning.

Emine Bulut was killed by her ex-husband Fedai Baran on Aug. 18 in Kırıkklae province in central Turkey when she went to a cafe with her daughter to meet him. The couple had a fight during the meeting and Baran stabbed his ex-wife numerous times in front of people at the cafe, including his own daughter. The couple had been divorced for years.

Baran fled the scene in a taxi, reportedly telling the taxi driver he was covered in blood because he had “killed an animal”. Bulut was taken to a hospital where she died of her wounds.

Bulut was arrested on the same day as the killing and has been charged with murder, with prosecutors requesting an aggravated life sentence, the heaviest punishment in the Turkish legal code.

On Friday morning a video showing the aftermath of the slaughter went viral. The clip shows Bulut, her chest covered in blood from the stab wounds, crying “I don’t want to die”. “Mama please don’t die,” cries her daughter. 

"After she insulted me while talking about the custody of our child, I stabbed her with the knife I brought along," Turkish independent news site Bianet quoted Baran as saying during a court hearing.

Bulut’s murder is one instance of an epidemic of violence against women that has plagued Turkey for years. According to the figures of women’s rights groups, 245 women have been murdered as a result of domestic violence since the beginning of the year.

Nearly 40 percent of Turkish women face physical or sexual violence from a partner, according to the United Nations, while 409 Turkish women were murdered by a partner or family member in 2017, a 75 percent increase from 2013, according to the watchdog group We Will Stop Femicide.

In another case of femicide on Thursday, Tuba Erkol was murdered by her husband, who stabbed her 20 times in front of their children in the central Anatolian province of Konya, local news sources reported. 

Tuba Erkol had wanted to get divorced and filed a criminal complaint against her husband four days ago over domestic violence. Despite a two-month restraining order, her husband went to their house and killed his wife in front of their three children. He then fled the family’s home, taking the couple’s two sons with him and leaving their daughter at home with her mother’s body. 

Erkol later surrendered to the police. “Can someone feel regret if honour is at stake,” Demirören News Agency quoted him saying to the police when asked whether he regretted the murder. 

“I cannot sleep without my mother. How can I go to bed without her,” DHA quoted the couple’s nine-year-old daughter as saying.

The murders became the latest in a long series of similar incidents to spark cries of outrage on Turkey’s social media, with government officials, politicians and artists joining the thousands to express their dismay at the latest manifestation of a growing problem in the country.

The level of the reaction drew a reaction from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP)'s spokesman, Ömer Çelik, who said the government was ready to take action to stop violence against women, but played down talk of legal reforms, which he said had already taken place.

Instead, Çelik criticised the "savage culture" that he said had led bystanders to film Emine Bulut as she bled to death and then share images on social media.

Some shared the audio of Bulut’s cries to show their outrage. “I hope those cries will echo continuously somewhere in our brain. Because our consciences are extremely deaf,” said one Twitter user.

“Today not Emine Bulut, but in a way humanity and innocence have been slaughtered. By a so-called father. By a so-called human being. We firmly believe that this inhuman murdered will be handed the sentence he deserves. We will follow the legal process,” said the Minister of Family and Social Policy Betül Sayan Kaya on Twitter.  

Ali Erbaş, the head of Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs, also denounced the murder during his sermon for Friday prayers. 

“Independent of the reason, applying violence to a woman and killing her is the greatest form of persecution. This is a sin that has no place in Islam, in humanity. The lives and rights of women are untouchable and have been entrusted to us in our religion,” he said. 

However, the response to the murders was not wholly sympathetic to the victims. Some suggested the men had been driven to kill by the wives themselves or by what they called rising misandry in Turkey.

This view of the growing risks faced by women relates to long-running controversies over laws designed to protect women, which have been opposed by many religious and social conservatives who believe these laws denigrate family values.

A European convention and a domestic law combating violence against women has been targeted by Turkey’s Islamist pro-government media for months over accusations that they empower LGBTI groups and aim to destroy the institution of the family. 

The Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence, also known as the Istanbul Convention, obligates signatories to combat discrimination on the basis of sex, sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as to take precautions against domestic violence, compensate its victims and sentence perpetrators proportionally.

Turkey was the first to ratify the convention, in 2012, and it was soon promoted by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), which also worked with women groups to develop a 2012 law (Law 6284) that aims to protect women and children subject to or threatened with violence.

Yet there is little sign that these laws are being implemented effectively enough to protect women. 

A U.S. State Department report in 2018 said that police frequently failed to enforce restraining orders issued to protect victims of domestic abuse.

Men who are sentenced for the murders can in some cases receive “reduced sentences … citing good behavior during the trial or ‘provocation’ by women as an extenuating circumstance of the crime,” the report said.