On February 11, a 20-year-old college student named Ozgecan Aslan was riding in a minibus in the southern Turkish town of Mersin. When she was the last passenger still aboard the bus, the driver allegedly pulled over and attempted to rape her. As she fought him off, he allegedly bludgeoned her with a crowbar, stabbed her to death, and cut off her hands to hide the evidence.
The murder caused a nationwide outpouring of anger over the treatment of women in Turkey, a country that has long struggled with high rates of gender-based violence relative to European countries. As Christina Asquith, a journalist in Istanbul, noted in The New York Times, 27 Turkish women were killed in January alone, a 20-percent increase over the same period last year. In the days after Aslan's death, women marched across Ankara, Istanbul, and Mersin holding signs that read, "Enough, we will stop the murder of women!" Twitter soon erupted with the hashtags #OzgecanAslan and #sendeanlat, or "you must also tell." More recently, the #OzgecanAslan campaign has been used to draw attention to killings of women in Afghanistan and other parts of the world.
Activists say Turkish men routinely face relatively mild penalties when caught injuring or killing women. "In 2014," Asquith pointed out, "a man in eastern Turkey who stabbed his wife multiple times was given a reduced sentence after he argued she was wearing 'provocative' leggings and speaking with another man." Some claim that government officials are propping up a patriarchal culture that regards women as second-class citizens. In response to Aslan's murder, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan "encouraged men generally to protect women from harm, since women were 'entrusted to men by God,'” according to Istanbul-based journalist Emily Feldman. A 2013 Hurriyet Daily News survey found that 34 percent of Turkish men think violence against women is "occasionally necessary," while 28 percent say violence can be used to discipline women.