As modern, moderate Turkey (finally) begins taking a tougher stance against honor killings (it’s apparently still serious about gaining entry into the EU), “honor suicides” have emerged: by not having to do the actual dirty work, men can now totally evade prison.
When Elif’s father told her she had to kill herself in order to spare him from a prison sentence for her murder, she considered it long and hard. “I loved my father so much, I was ready to commit suicide for him even though I hadn’t done anything wrong,” the 18-year-old said. “But I just couldn’t go through with it. I love life too much.”
All Elif had done was simply decline the offer of an arranged marriage with an older man, telling her parents she wanted to continue her education. That act of disobedience was seen as bringing dishonour on her whole family — a crime punishable by death. “I managed to escape. When I was at school, a few girls I knew were killed by their families in the name of honour — one of them for simply receiving a text message from a boy,” Elif said.
So-called “honour killings” in Turkey have reached record levels. According to government figures, there are more than 200 a year — half of all the murders committed in the country. Now, in a sinister twist, comes the emergence of “honour suicides”. The growing phenomenon has been linked to reforms to Turkey’s penal code in 2005. That introduced mandatory life sentences for honour killers, whereas in the past, killers could receive a reduced sentence claiming provocation. Soon after the law was passed, the numbers of female suicides started to rocket.