A major scandal has hit Turkey over the Supreme Court ruling last week that a 13-year-old girl raped by 26 men over a seven month period had given her consent to her sexual abuse.
They upheld an earlier decision by a local court in Mardin Province, South-Eastern Turkey, to reduce the sentences, and her rapists were either acquitted or given between one to slightly more than four years in jail due to ‘good behavior in the courtroom’ and the judges’ finding that she ‘willingly consented to the abuse.’
Her rapists included muhtars, or village heads, a gendarmerie captain, village guards (individuals armed by the state to fight separatist terrorists in the region) and even the manager in charge of correspondence in the Governor’s Office. She was sold by two individuals for seven months to these 26 men, some of whom came back repeatedly.
The Turkish government’s Family and Social Policies Minister Fatma Şahin called the ruling “unacceptable and worrying” but said the court was yet to pronounce its final word.
“The Supreme Court of Appeals is saying that the case is not yet over and that the media have distorted the issue. Let’s wait and see their decision,” Şahin told reporters on Thursday.
Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin said the controversy arose from the fact that the case pertained to offenses committed before a penal code reform introduced tougher provisions on rape in 2005.
The Turkish Bar Association, however, said Friday that even the implementation of old provisions could not justify the ruling.
“To consider and accept that N.Ç. willingly allowed herself to be raped is against the realities of life, and also against the letter and spirit of the law that was in effect when the offenses were committed,” the association said in a statement.
Turkish President Abdullah Gül also commented on the scandal, stating that he was “deeply disturbed” by the reduction of sentences.
“As far as I know, the judiciary process isn’t over yet,” Gül Tweeted. “I hope that a decision will be made that would coincide with the public conscience.”
Yurtsever said N.Ç. is learning English and wants to study law “to get back at those who put her through all this torture.”
“For the past nine years, she hasn’t had a single night of peaceful sleep. I told her there were news stories about her; she didn’t even talk about it because she is trying to get away from it all. What she went through is always there somewhere in the back of her mind.”
Yurtsever said the ruling was a serious blow.
“One night when we were watching news of the ruling on television, we just went out and walked the streets until midnight. She has been to hospitals so many times due to the physical effects. She is still having problems.”
N.Ç.’s lawyer, Reyhan Yalçındağ Baydemir, said they had expected the Supreme Court of Appeals to overturn the decision, but its 14th Chamber had upheld the lower court’s ruling.
“The case has been in their hands for 13 months, but now this is the 11th year of the trial. So we have a problem of justice working slowly here. Why are they taking 13 months on a case that has become a major trial both in Turkey and in the world? They are causing the file to be subject to the statute of limitations.”
National Turk newspaper commented that:
“Turkey’s failure to protect its children and women from rapists was inherently connected to patriarchal attitudes, such as the government’s move last year to change the name of the women’s ministry to the Ministry of Family and Social Policy.”
Photo by Helga Weber