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Murder of Student Who Resisted Rape Sparks Outcry in Turkey

Thousands took their outrage to the streets in several Turkish cities, wearing black clothing to raise awareness about violence against women.
Women shout slogans and hold a portrait of 20-year-old Ozgecan Aslan, who was murdered after she resisted an alleged attempt to rape her in the southern city of Mersin, during a demonstration against Aslan's murder in Ankara on Feb. 16, 2015 ADEM ALTAN / AFP - Getty Images

Protests erupted across Turkey this week in the wake of the gruesome killing of a young woman who allegedly resisted rape — a shocking crime that inspired outrage from those who say the law doesn't do enough to protect women.

Twenty-year-old student Özgecan Aslan's burned body was found Friday in a riverbed in southern Turkey. She had gone missing two days earlier. A 26-year-old minivan driver and two accomplices, including the driver's father, were arrested in connection with Aslan's murder.

Police leaked details of Aslan's death to Turkish media. According to the Hurriyet Daily News, the main suspect admitted to police that he tried to rape Aslan, and when she resisted him, he stabbed her. The man told police he then hit her head when he realized she hadn't immediately died, the newspaper reported. He said his father and friend helped him dispose of the body, according to Hurriyet.

Thousands took their outrage to the streets in several Turkish cities, wearing black clothing to raise awareness about Aslan's death and violence against women. Online, they posted photos of themselves wearing black in mourning and women shared their personal experiences of abuse using the hashtag #sendeanlat, which means #tellyourstory. A petition on calling for measures to end the killing of women had gathered nearly 1 million signatures. Some men joined the protest by posting photos of themselves wearing skirts and calling for a "skirt" march in Istanbul's Taksim Square on Saturday.

A woman shouts slogans during a demonstration in Istanbul on Feb. 14 against the murder of Ozgecan Aslan and decrying violence against women.OZAN KOSE / AFP - Getty Images

A 2011 report by Human Rights Watch documented domestic violence in the country and concluded that laws and their enforcement leave some women unprotected. The report included testimonies from women who said they had been raped, beaten, stabbed and even pushed off a roof.

Bianet, an independent Turkish news agency, ran a tally from news reports and concluded that 27 women were killed by men in January alone. Last year, men killed at least 281 women, Bianet said. More than half of those women were killed by a husband or a partner.

President Recep Tayyip Erodgan vowed to follow Aslan's case personally. But Erdogan has made questionable comments in the past regarding the role of women in society. In November, Erdogan said women and men could not be treated equally "because it goes against the laws of nature."

He was also criticized this week after he slammed a women's organization for protesting in the streets by dancing. "What place does this have in our culture? It’s like enjoying death,” Erdogan was quoted as saying by Turkish media.

That protest, however, was held Friday not to memorialize Aslan, but to raise awareness of rape, an organizer said.