Calcutta Notebook


Not that India is the only country where women defying traditional party control are asserting themselves as a force against growing violence and inhumanity. Even in conservative societies women are posing themselves as a reason to fight patriarchy and oppose social and moral police. Recently women in Afghanistan opposed Imams and performed last rituals of one of their slain fellow travellers. And in Turkey what they did was revolutionary, even by western standards.

A savage sexual sexual assault and murder—this time in Turkey on February 11—brought forth thousands of demonstrators, mostly women, throughout the country and beyond. Ozgecan Aslan was a 19-year-old student taking a bus home at the end of the day.

Her murder is a reminder of a similar brutal rape and murder of 23-year-old medical student Jyoti Singh Pandey in late 2012 that galvanized women throughout India. Like Pandey, Aslan fought back when the driver tried to rape her. Then the driver, Ahmet Suphi Altindoke, stabbed her and beat her to death with an iron bar. In an effort to hide the murder, Altindoke with his father and a friend, took Aslan's body, burned it, defaced it by cutting off her hands and dumped her in a river so that when she was found she was only recognizable by her clothes.

Turkey erupted in demonstrations starting at Ozgecan Aslan's funeral, where over 5,000 came and women refused the orders of the Imam there to step back during the ceremony. Instead they stepped forward to the front lines and then did something unprecen-dented : women stepped forward to carry her coffin and to bury her, vowing: "No other man's hands would touch her again."

Since then the demonstrations have deepened and spread. As in India, the government's first response was to attack the protesters. On February 14, women protested in Istanbul and marched to Taksim Square, where they condemned the government for ignoring the issue of violence against women and for not officially condemning the murder and attempted rape of Aslan; 50 women trying to hang banners in the Square were arrested. Thousands more protested in the Kadikoy district. In Ankara, protesters had to contend with police attacks as they occupied a park. Over 3,000 demonstrated in Mersin. At the demonstration of thousands in Izmir the women banned men from their protest. Protests broke out in at least ten other Turkish cities and continued in Istanbul and other towns in the days that followed. The youth too made their actions felt, as 1,500 students marched in Gaziantep and high school students throughout the country are wearing black in solidarity with Aslan. Demonstrations of people wearing black continue with many chanting, "You will never walk alone" and men held a march in Istanbul wearing skirts in solidarity with women on February 21.

Actions crossed national borders as Turks took their protests to Trafalgar Square in London. By February 17 protests not only continued in Turkey but were also in at least three places in Cyprus; 200 demonstrated in Frankfurt, Germany, as well as in Hamburg and Berlin.

Vol. 47, No. 41, Apr 19 - 25, 2015