Horrific murder of Turkish girl reflects distorted notions of honour

The hole where a 16-year-old girl was buried alive by her relatives in Adiyaman, southeastern Turkey Photograph: HO/REUTERS (courtesy: The Guardian - report below)

Recently there was a report about the horrific murder of a Turkish girl, whose family buried her alive because she was talking to a boy. Turkey’s shame… but she’s not alone. Such incidents take place regularly in conservative, patriarchal societies that face all kinds of conflict in this day and age, among communities that have distorted notions of ‘honour’. ‘Honour killings’ take place in Muslim-majority Pakistan but similar stories also emerge from Hindu-majority India, where such murders take place among those belonging to the Hindu or Sikh faiths (often when the girl or boy involved belongs to a ‘lower’ caste), not just Muslims. I believe the issues are related to power and patriarchy. Religion is just a tool in that game, as are notions of ‘honour’. As I wrote when a similar case emerged in Pakistan (four women buried alive in Balochistan for wanting to marry of their own choice), there is no honour in killing. Below: text of the report that appeared in The Guardian, by Robert Tait in Istanbul, Feb 4, 2010:

Turkish girl, 16, buried alive for talking to boys

Death reopens debate over ‘honour’ killings in Turkey, which account for half of all the country’s murders

Turkish police have recovered the body of a 16-year-old girl they say was buried alive by relatives in an “honour” killing carried out as punishment for talking to boys.

The girl, who has been identified only by the initials MM, was found in a sitting position with her hands tied, in a two-metre hole dug under a chicken pen outside her home in Kahta, in the south-eastern province of Adiyaman.

Police made the discovery in December after a tip-off from an informant, the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet reported on its website.

The girl had previously been reported missing.

The informant told the police she had been killed following a family “council” meeting.

Her father and grandfather are said to have been arrested and held in custody pending trial. It is unclear whether they have been charged. The girl’s mother was arrested but was later released.

Media reports said the father had told relatives he was unhappy that his daughter – one of nine children – had male friends. The grandfather is said to have beaten her for having relations with the opposite sex.

A postmortem examination revealed large amounts of soil in her lungs and stomach, indicating that she had been alive and conscious while being buried. Her body showed no signs of bruising.

The discovery will reopen the emotive debate in Turkey about “honour” killings, which are particularly prevalent in the impoverished south-east.

Official figures have indicated that more than 200 such killings take place each year, accounting for around half of all murders in Turkey.

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