Turkish Women Speak Up: My Body, My Decision

Two weeks ago, Turkish courts [tr] released Fatih Nerede, who has a criminal history of rape and robbery, after he raped a woman in Diyarbakir, a city in the southeast region of Turkey, in front of her three year-old child. The reason behind the decision to release him by the court pending trial is, that as the institution of forensic medicine told to the court “It is not possible to decide if the rape victim was psychologically damaged by the rape or not, before 18 months after the incident.” This incident might be shocking but unfortunately it is not the only one.

In May 2012 [tr], N.Y., a young girl who lives in Bitlis city of east region of Turkey, who had a mild mental disability, was raped by a man named S.I. and got pregnant after the incident. According to N.Y.'s statement she was raped several times by S.I. and she got pregnant after the rape, which she hid from her family and had a miscarriage on the sixth month of her unwanted pregnancy. She buried the dead body of the fetus. She mentioned that, she was scared and she was threatened by S.I. and this was the reason why she did not talk about the rape to anyone. It was the mother of N.Y. who discovered the tragedy, since her daughter was behaving suspiciously and differently. The Institution of forensic medicine, prepared a report on the incident which shows the father of the dead fetus was S.I. by a chance of 99.9%, due the DNA tests. The Bitlis Psychiatric Hospital also mentioned that, N.Y. was psychologically damaged by the rape. Despite the reports, and the statement of N.Y., the court decided there was not enough evidence to proof that S.I. raped N.Y., so S.I. was acquitted.

Even though, Turkish women can be seen as “lucky” compared to women in other Muslim countries, they still suffer tremendously. According to a study in 2009, only 40% of married women met their spouse on their own and decided to marry. Fifty per cent of women tied the knot through an arranged marriage. The same research shows that 35% percent of women have been subjected to physical violence by their husbands, at least once in their life. In the East of the country, this number goes up to 40%.

Another problem for Turkish women is that they can not get their economical independence, since only 27% of work force in Turkey are women, according to TUIK [tr] (Turkish Statistical Institute). And women are not represented in the parliament [tr] efficiently; there are only 79 women members of the 548-strong member parliament. And 46 female members of the parliament are from the AKP (Justice and Development Party) -the ruling party. That means there are only 33 women members of parliament are from the opposition – a mere 6% of the total number of the members of parliament.

The ruling party of Turkey, AKP, is also putting pressure on women in their speeches and politics on women and women rights. In 2008 [tr], Recep Tayyip Erdogan, prime minister of Turkey, said in a panel on World Women Day : “For keeping our young population increasing, give birth to at least three children.”

In 2011 [en], Erdogan was furious with Dilsat Aktas, a protester who climbed an armoured police-carrier and was beaten up by police and suffered a hip fracture. He criticized her for attacking police. This was less than a year after another female protester[tr] was attacked by the police, and lost her unborn child, eventhough she had begged the police not to kick her stomach because she was pregnant.

At the end of 2012 [en], another argument on women hit the headlines. Erdogan said “Every abortion is an Uludere” by mentioning the Uludere or Roboski, as known in Kurdish, where 34 Kurdish civilian were killed by Turkish Air Force by an accident, while civilians were passing the border for smuggling and mistaken for terrorists by mistake. But this was not only shocking speech for women. During that same period, the Minister of Health talked about banning abortion: “They are asking what will happen to woman if she got raped and got pregnant? If something happens like that, she should give birth to the child, and if it is necessary the government can raise the child.”

Blogger Jenny White spoke up saying:

What is more disturbing is the reasoning — that if births are not increased, Turkey — and Turkishness — will disappear off the map. This is a jingoistic fear that resonates with the old racialist understanding of Turkishness as soy (lineage, descent), a blood-based nationalism like Germany’s jus sanguinis. In such a conception of national membership, there is no room for immigrants, migrants, or minorities, even if they are culturally assimilated. Ask the fourth-generation Turks in Germany.

Turkey-based writer and columnist Andrew Finkel wrote:

Already, the Turkish parliament has been barking at its master’s voice and is considering restricting the grounds on which, and the term of their pregnancy during which, women may seek an abortion. Turkey liberalized abortion in 1983 in response to high rates of illegal terminations and maternal mortality. If more women start dying again because they are forced to seek illegal abortions, then Erdogan’s odd analogy to the massacre at Uludere may turn out to be more apt than it should.

One of the comments on Andrew Finkel's post was telling of how horrible such statements are:

@AJBaker: Odd how often people with dictatorial instincts think it is their business to regulate a woman's fertility. Both Hitler and Stalin opposed abortion and believed that women should have brood like hens.


Twitter user AncienRose shared a story of a woman who had an abortion when it was illegal in Turkey. The story tells how hard and painful an illegal abortion was, and how prime minister's words can be real if abortion is banned:

@ERIKLIRECEL: “Her kürtaj bir Uludere’dir”: Yasaklı günlerden bir kürtaj hikâyesi » AGOS http://www.agos.com.tr/makale/her-kurtaj-bir-uluderedir-yasakli-gunlerden-bir-kurtaj-hikyesi-205 … @AGOSgazetesi aracılığıyla

“Every abortion is an Uludere”: An abortion story from the days of illegal abortion » Agos http://www.agos.com.tr/makale/her-kurtaj-bir-uluderedir-yasakli-gunlerden-bir-kurtaj-hikyesi-205 … by @AGOSgazetesi

The abortion ban was not enacted because of the protests against it. The protests gathered around one slogan “benim bedenim, benim kararim (my body, my decision)” and a website was created for the pictures all around the world of people against the ban:


It says “my body, my decision” on picture of a woman's hand. Picture is taken from http://www.benimkararim.org/

Here is a youtube video prepared by incisozluk (a Turkish social internet forum) for ‘my body, my decision’ protests:

Turkish women protested, and protected their rights by saying ‘my body, my decision.’ But it seems like they still have a long way to go and fight until it is 100% their decision what to do on their body or their life.


Join the conversation

Authors, please log in »


  • All comments are reviewed by a moderator. Do not submit your comment more than once or it may be identified as spam.
  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.