3rd September 11:26
These Animals Want to Join Europe???
'Honor' Killings in Turkey Defy Efforts to End Them
By DEXTER FILKINS
AYLIM, Turkey — Last month a woman named Cemse Allak was buried in a
corner of a municipal cemetery here. Ms. Allak, unmarried and
pregnant, had died from a stoning.
Villagers and local lawyers said Ms. Allak — as well as the man who
had made her pregnant — had been killed to restore the honor of their
For seven months after her stoning, Ms. Allak lay semi-conscious, her
skull crushed, unable to move or speak. Still, according to the people
who watched over her, Ms. Allak was capable of expressing a wide range
of emotions with her eyes.
Relatives visited once, in the beginning, to tell the hospital staff
that they could not pay for her care. The fetus inside Ms. Allak died
six weeks after the attack.
When Ms. Allak died on June 7, no one from her family claimed her
body, and none of her relatives attended the funeral.
Just two days before Ms. Allak's funeral, the elected Parliament of
this predominantly Muslim nation approved a sweeping human rights law
that, among other things, abolished a provision that often reduced the
prison terms for murders committed in the name of "family honor."
The legislation is part of a broader effort to secure Turkey's
long-hoped-for admission to the European Union and, more profoundly,
to answer the centuries-old question of Turkey's place in the world:
whether in Europe or the Middle East.
The death of Ms. Allak, 35, underscores the distance between
legislative pronouncements emanating from Ankara, Turkey's modern
capital, and the sometimes grim, medieval realities of everyday life
in other parts of the country.
"Honor is not a trivial thing," shouted Celilie Allak, Ms. Allak's
sister-in-law, explaining the deaths. "What else were we supposed to
Much of Cemse Allak's story has been lost in a whirl of conflicting
versions of her death. By most accounts, Ms. Allak fell victim to the
age-old honor code that survives in the villages of southeastern
Turkey, a system so unf****ving that some villagers here said they
were relieved to learn of Ms. Allak's death. If she had survived, the
villagers said, the family of the man who had been killed with her
would have been obliged to take revenge on Ms. Allak's family, since
it was Ms. Allak's brother who was suspected of his murder.
"When the girl Cemse died, the matter was closed," said Shelalettin
Cakar, a local farmer. "In such cases, if one dies and the other
lives, it is not equal. So it was better for both of them to die."
Ms. Allak's brother, Mehmet, as well as four other relatives, have
been charged in the murder of the man, Hila Acil, who was stoned to
death at the same time in a field outside town. Despite last month's
legislative changes, Mr. Allak's lawyer, Salih Demirkesen, said he was
confident the local judges would understand.
Nearly everyone in this hardscrabble village agrees that Ms. Allak's
problems began with Mr. Acil, age 55 and the father of 11, who was
known as a man who could never take his eyes off the local women.
"He is my friend, but he was like this since the day he was born,"
said a pistachio farmer, who would not give his name. "He had very
According to accounts from Ms. Allak's family and other people in
Yaylim, the incident began when Mr. Acil dropped Ms. Allak's father
off at work, and then returned to the Allak house where he apparently
found Ms. Allak alone. What happened next is unclear, but Ms. Allak,
whom neighbors described as a quiet and unassuming woman, became
Some members of Ms. Allak's family said she had been ****d; others in
the town suggested that the two had engaged in consensual ***.
Conversations with villagers and family members made clear that many
saw little difference between the two. Villagers who conceded that Ms.
Allak might have been ****d said that she had still brought shame upon
"**** is wrong in every case," said Baki Allak, a cousin, as he stood
at the top of the gorge where the two people were stoned. Nonetheless,
he added, "the family was dishonored."
In an interview, Mr. Demirkesen, Mehmet Allak's lawyer, said his
client had killed Mr. Acil and Ms. Allak. He said Mr. Allak had not
followed the couple into the gorge with murder on his mind, but he
said the two men got into a physical confrontation when Mr. Acil
insulted his sister. Ms. Allak, according to Mr. Demirkesen, stepped
in front of one of the stones that Mr. Allak threw at Mr. Acil.
"It was an accident," he said.
Dr. Adnan Ceviz, a neurosurgeon who treated Ms. Allak, dismissed the
notion that her skull had been crushed unintentionally. The side of
her head, he said, had been struck over and over in the same place.
"She was thrown to the ground," Dr. Ceviz said in an interview. "This
was not an accident."
The stoning of Mr. Acil and Ms. Allak appeared to follow in the
tradition of recm, which is, according to villagers here, the
religiously sanctioned trial and stoning of a dishonored woman or man
by an entire village.
For years, men — and only occasionally women — accused of killing
their spouses or family members could invoke Article 462 of the
Turkish criminal code. That gave judges the discretion to reduce a
murder defendant's potential sentence by more than 80 percent.
Emin Sirin, a member of Parliament who supported repealing the law,
said he hoped the legislation would quickly bring the medieval
practice to an end.
"To kill a girl because she falls in love with another man is no
longer acceptable," Mr. Sirin said. "Murder is murder."
But abolishing the more pernicious traditions of village and town will
take a much longer time, and require far more effort, than merely
Mr. Demirkesen, the lawyer for Mr. Allak, wondered why Ms. Allak's
case had generated such publicity.
"There are a lot more interesting honor killings than this one," he
said, and then proceeded to tell of four other such killings that he
knew of in recent years in the area.
In the months that Ms. Allak lay in the hospital, her neighbors in the
village said they grew concerned that her survival would set off a
vendetta between the Allaks and the Acils. If Mr. Allak had indeed
killed Mr. Acil, and if Ms. Allak survived, then the Acil family would
be obliged under local tradition to take vengeance.
In February, the Allak and Acil families met for a "peace dinner" to
try to obviate the need for a revenge killing. A picture of the
families eating together appeared in the Independent Agenda, a local
newspaper. The headline read, "Peace Established in Honor Killing."
"We were trying to make sure that the incident caused no further
harm," said Mehmet Itok, a cousin.
Hence the relief expressed by villagers when Ms. Allak finally died.
"If both of them did not die, the vendetta would have gone on for
years," the pistachio farmer said.
Though Ms. Allak's family did not visit her in the hospital, many
women did. Over the months several women from Kamer, a women's
association in Diyarbakir, where Ms. Allak was hospitalized, brought
her medicine, helped wash her and pushed her wheelchair around the
One of the women, Hayriye Ascioglu, said that Ms. Allak's face would
brighten as soon as she entered the room, and that Ms. Allak's eyes
would follow her as she walked around. When nurses trimmed Ms. Allak's
fingernails, she would pull back her hands in pain.
"I would say to her, `If you hear me, blink,' " said Ms. Ascioglu.
"And she would blink."
Under Turkish law, a deceased person must remain unburied for up to
two weeks to give a family time to claim the body. Ms. Allak's death
appeared in the papers; still, no one from the family came to get her
Kamer, the women's association, saw to it that Ms. Allak had a coffin.
The group's members flouted Islamic tradition by carrying the coffin
into the municipal cemetery themselves.
In another snub to the old way, the women — and not the men, as custom
dictated — stepped up to throw the first handfuls of soil over Ms.
Allak's coffin. About 100 women came in all, and the scenes from Ms.
Allak's funeral made the front page of the Diyarbakir Event, a
In the days since the funeral, some of the women who cared for Ms.
Allak have been reflecting on her trial. For Meral Bestas, a local
lawyer who attended the funeral, Ms. Allak's story seemed to offer
equal measures of hope and despair.
"These traditions do not die easily," Ms. Bestas said in an interview
in her office. "But they will die, I'm certain of that. Turkey is
changing very fast."