Two months ago, during a popular matchmaking show on Turkish daytime TV, a contestant confessed to an audience of millions of viewers that he had killed his previous two wives. Last week, Seda Sayan, one of Turkey's best-known talking heads, hosted the murderer on her morning show, triggering public uproar. The phone lines of the channel were jammed for hours as people mobilized via social media. Feminist organizations have accused Seda Sayan of glorifiying homicide.
During his initial appearance on the show The Luck of the Draw, the wife killer, Sefer Çalınak, explained calmly that he “accidentally” killed his first wife when they were both minors. The host, apparently shocked by the news, asked him questions about the murder, which turns out to have been committed in a jealous rage. It then emerged that after spending fourteen years in jail, Sefer Çalınak killed another lover with an ax. To begin with, he explained, she tried to kill him in order to obtain his property. Then, in a moment of high drama that suggested the host, Hülya Bozkaya, knew what was coming next, Bozkaya yelled: “Did you kill her too, uncle Sefer?”
Bozkaya subsequently asks him to leave the show, stating that she could never allow herself to match up a murderer with another contestant. (Çalınak has reportedly had five wives in total, the first of whom was also his cousin, but is now a bachelor. ‘Amca’, or ‘uncle’ is a common form of address for an elder Turkish male).
A burning issue
Acts of homicide against women are on the rise in Turkey. Last month alone, twenty-four women were killed in the country. According to data from the Ministry of Justice, the rate of murders of women increased 1400% between 2002 until 2009, with further increases since. Against that background Seda Sayan enraged many members of the Turkish public by seeming to trivialize Sefer Çalınak's crimes when she invited him onto her show as a guest. Throughout the softball interview Sayan came out with lines such as “Have you seen this cheerful murderer before?” and “Why do you think a man kills his wife?”
While the show was still on air, the son of Sefer Çalınak's second victim called in and demanded Sayan dismiss him from the set. Sayan told the bereaved son that it is up to her whom she hosts on the show.
In the meantime, tweeps and other social media users expressed their anger at the program and the TV channel, Show TV:
Düşüncelerimiz şöyle: katilsiniz, yüzsüzsünüz. Para ve reyting için yapmayacağınız şey yok katil seviciler. @SedaSayanShowTv
— éléphant noir (@bazensadecefil) September 2, 2014
Here's what we think: you are murderers, impudents. There is nothing you won't do for money and ratings, murderer lovers.
On September 4 a protest was organized by feminist organizations — including the We Will Stop Murderers of Women group — in front of the the channel's studio:
We are in front of Seda Sayan Show Studio! We don't want sexist media!
Controversy over Uncle Sefer's television experiences did not stop there. Aylin Nazlıaka, an opposition MP, criticized Seda Sayan heavily in a speech in parliament and stated that she would file a formal complaint against the presenter to Turkey's Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK).
Seda Sayan ve Show TV hakkında ceza uygulanması için RTÜK'e dilekçe verdim. pic.twitter.com/JcFl8tk8RI
— Aylin Nazlıaka (@AylinNazliaka) September 3, 2014
I filed a petition to RTÜK (The Supreme Board of Radio and Television) about the criminal actions of Seda Sayan and Show TV.
This lead to a quarrel between Nazlıaka and Sayan, which is still continuing on social media. Seda Sayan responded to Nazlıaka's allegations of misogyny, by saying that she pays MPs’ salaries and that her own mother had been a victim of male violence. Sayan argued that her main aim was to warn women of the dangers of getting involved with men like Sefer Çalınak.
The Ministry of Family and Social Politics also submitted a petition against the show to RTÜK declaring that they are against any action showing empathy towards violence. According to the newspaper Today's Zaman, the financial sponsors of the Seda Sayan Show have withdrawn their support for the show.