VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN

The Difference Between Two Stories of Violence Against Women in Istanbul

During the 2013 Gezi Park protests, Erdogan rallied Turkey after an attack against a hijabi woman in Istanbul. It was a concoction. But Friday’s attack against a non-hijabi woman not.

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(Journalist Elif Cakir (R) “conducts” an interview with a female victim who was “attacked” by a mob during Gezi Park protests in 2013. Star daily)

At least 70–100 half-naked men with piercing, tattoo and heavy-metal signs attacked a hijabi woman in Kabatas in Istanbul’s Besiktas district during Gezi Park protests in summer 2013. While tending her baby, the woman was shaken in terror by the attack by this unknown group of protesters who, according to the tale of the woman, urinated over her amid terrorized looks of the crying baby. The male attackers were kicking the victim, while the female onlookers and bystanders were cursing her.

Journalist Elif Cakir’s interview with the perceived victim was the rallying point for then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to galvanize his constituency against the Gezi Park protesters whom he depicted as looters, vandals, and shameless crooks who “betrayed no scruples in attacking a lone, hijabi woman.” Erdogan even confidently claimed that there was video footage of the attack and authorities would release it when they deemed necessary.

When the skeptical public, not just the Gezi Park protesters, demanded proof and pressed for the release of the video, Erdogan’s government always postponed the share of the video. Because there was none.

And two years after the interview, Cakir apologized for misleading the public with a concocted interview.

On Friday, however, there was another attack by crowds against a woman, a non-hijabi one.

When thousands of faithful believers flocked to Hagia Sophia to join the prayers, first after 86 years, the office of Istanbul governor issued an order of halting all subway transportation in the European side of the city to avoid congestion and public health risk due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a female machinist working for Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality heeded the call and shut down the train at a stop. After the announcement of the governor’s decision, she left the train only to be attacked by angry passengers. The whole episode was recorded and immediately released by the Municipality with an unwavering condemnation of the brazen behavior.

Many can’t resist the temptation to compare the tragic incident with the never-happened attack against the woman, an Erdogan supporter, during Gezi Park protests.

The surreal depiction of the Kabatas attack, as it was known in the public, was a government fabrication to discredit and vilify the Gezi protesters, the majority of whom were peaceful despite the infiltration of some fringe elements, in 2013. The government was never able to back up its charges with the so-called video footage. But yesterday, whatever happened was in plain sight.

Hijabi or not, no woman deserves such treatment, let alone a blind mob attack. To deter further violence against women, the perpetrators should be brought to justice. Otherwise, letting this recorded attack go unpunished would be issuing a license and reward to the attackers.

Written by

Virginia-based journalist and writer. Politics, culture, art, and technology. American political affairs, Turkey, the MidEast, and beyond. Twitter: @abyasun

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