Remarks courtesy Eric Schwappach:
Hatin SÃ¼rÃ¼cÃ¼ tried to live her own life — and may have been killed for it. The 23-year-old Turkish woman was shot point-blank in the face in February in Berlin. Many believe her own family was behind the murder and her brother is now on trial.
When Hatin SÃ¼rÃ¼cÃ¼ was killed, walking on the sidewalk near her home in Berlin’s Tempelhof neigborhood, she was holding a cigarette. It was a French Gauloises, her favorite brand, and while emergency medical personnel tried to revive her with adrenaline shots and electroshocks, her cigarette slowly burned out between the middle and index fingers of her left hand.
The photos taken by police at the murder scene in Berlin show many fine streams of blood flowing from the young woman’s head and merging in a dark, shiny pool. It looks almost as though someone had carefully combed Hatin’s long, dark hair as her head lay on the sidewalk. Her opened pack of cigarettes protrudes from the breast pocket of her corduroy jacket, a dark blue cardboard box with an advertising slogan printed on it in French: “LibertÃ© toujours” — “Freedom forever.”
The district attorney’s office in Berlin is convinced that SÃ¼rÃ¼cÃ¼ died on the evening of Feb. 7 because she had adopted the cigarette pack slogan as her own. Because she felt that being able to smoke in public was one of life’s ordinary freedoms. Because she had the courage to walk around without a head scarf. Because she felt it was her right to live in her own apartment and to disobey the men in her family — and to decide for herself who to love and who not to love.
The murderer shot the 23-year-old Hatin SÃ¼rÃ¼cÃ¼ three times in the face, in rapid succession and at point-blank range, using a 7.65 mm pistol. It was like an execution.
According to investigators in the case, the shots that killed this single mother of a six-year-old son represent the last stage in an Arab ritual intended to restore what the killer believed was the “family honor.” In a Berlin criminal court on Wednesday, three of her brothers will face charges of having maliciously killed their defenseless sister. Investigators believe that the defendants may have carried out the execution as part of a death sentence imposed by a “family council,” which assigned the role of executioner to the youngest son, 19-year-old Ayhan, while his brothers, MÃ¼tlÃ¼, 26, and Alpaslan, 24, were responsible for obtaining the pistol and planning the murder.
The men have either denied the charges or refused to comment, but this isn’t the only problem authorities have encountered in the case.
The case has long since become a matter of public debate that extends well beyond the articles of criminal law. Germans want to know what’s wrong with a country that has seen an estimated 50 so-called honor killings in the past decade. Why, people want to know, is Germany incapable of protecting its female citizens against violent attacks by Muslim husbands, fathers, or brothers?
Very simple: because Germany is not willing to confront and combat uncomfortable aspects of Islam. Germany would prefer to pretend that such elements of Islam did not exist.
Some commentators have focused on the political symbolism that elevates the death of this attractive, modern woman to a kind of martyrdom, but they ignore the parallel world in which SÃ¼rÃ¼cÃ¼ was killed. If there’s any explanation for her death, the best place to look for it would be in Berlin’s heavily Turkish Kreuzberg district, where the presumed killers lived and where life follows two basic laws — the law of the neighborhood and the law of the Koran.
On the one hand, there’s the SÃ¼rÃ¼cÃ¼ family’s four-room apartment on the fifth floor of a renovated building. The family prays five times a day and dogs, considered impure by devout Muslims, are barred from the apartment. Hatin’s archly conservative father, who comes from the Kurdish province of Erzurum in Turkey’s eastern Anatolia region, has lived in Germany for 24 years but hardly speaks a word of German. Her mother wears a head scarf, adding a veil when speaking with strangers.
Ayhan, the suspected killer, grew up in this world. He is a well-behaved Muslim boy who honors his parents, text-messages secret love poems to his girlfriend and, even as a 19-year-old man, has no problem sleeping in a bunk bed in his childhood room.
A different form of honor prevails in the streets of Kreuzberg. It’s the kind of honor that can be violated by as little as an unwanted glance into someone’s eyes. When this kind of honor is assailed, the way to regain respect might involve fists, knives, or even guns.
Here, in the old territory of the notorious youth gang known as “36 Boys” after one of Kreuzberg’s zipcodes — Ayhan SÃ¼rÃ¼cÃ¼ is known by a different name. He calls himself “Carlito,” after the hero in the American gangster film “Carlito’s Way,” in which Al Pacino plays a melancholy former dealer who tries to start a new life, only to find his criminal past catching up with him.
Hatin’s death was a shock to the community. “No to honor killings,” read the signs.
No one knows exactly how many times the Kreuzberg Carlito has rented the film, but at some point he must have adopted the notion of an “honorable gangster” as a way of life — one in which the laws of the neighborhood blended, fatally, with those of the Koran.
At age 15, Ayhan was accused of throwing bricks at police officers during the May Day riots in 2000. (He complains that his friends sold him out to the police “for a lousy â‚¬500.”) Four months later he was caught handing out flyers proclaiming that “Jews and infidels” were responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks. Then he claimed that he was secretly in contact with Turkish Islamist Metin Kaplan’s “Caliphate State,” and in October 2001, apparently in an effort to provoke the authorities, he signed a document in which he claimed that he was “also a member of the PKK” — the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which is fighting for a Kurdish state.
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