In Turkey, sometimes it takes a hashtag to be heard

The World
A woman shouts slogans during a demostration in Istanbul against the murder of a young woman named Özgecan Aslan.

Last week, 20-year-old Özgecan Aslan was on her way from college to visit her parents in southern Turkey when she went missing.

She was the last passenger on the bus home when her driver veered off the route to Aslan’s home, taking her to a remote location. When she fought back as he attempted to rape her, the driver stabbed her to death, he confessed to authorities. His father and a friend allegedly helped dispose of her body, the burned remains of which were found in a riverbed several days after she was reported missing

Aslan’s brutal murder sparked outrage across Turkey.

Her devastated mother called for the return of the death penalty to Turkey to punish her daughter’s murderer. At her funeral, women defied the imam and tradition by carrying Aslan’s casket — a job usually reserved for men.

Women’s rights activists mourned Aslan’s murder as yet another act of violence against a woman that will go unpunished by their government; they say they’re used to seeing women get harassed, raped, beaten and killed with little to no consequences for their attackers. Hundreds took to the streets across Turkey, calling for stricter punishments in cases of violence against women; hundreds of thousands more took to social media in a Twitter campaign #sendeanlat — or #tellyourstory — to share their own tales of experiencing, and trying to avoid, violence.

Translation: A taxi driver said, “Let me order you a tea at Emirgan [Park]”. When he insisted, I said, “Two of my brothers are police officers.” I was 17. I was lucky. #tellyourstory

As tweets began to pour out, a couple of users translated them into English, to reach a wider audience.

User @diehimbeertonis even got private messages from users, asking her to share their stories anonymously.

The hashtag was a top trend on Twitter throughout Sunday. Today, #OzgecanAslan has led the way.

Turkey has high rates of violence against women. In a study conducted by Hacettepe University in 2009, some 42 percent of women over the age of 15 reported violence at the hands of a male relative. In 2011, Human Rights Watch published a report with harrowing stories of violence against women. According to several sources, the rates of violence against women sky-rocketed 1400 percent in recent years, although many concede that number is so high in part because more women are reporting abuse.

Still, in 2014 alone, 281 women died at the hands of a male partner or relative. Yet, very few face long sentences for their crimes — and many expect the same to be the case for Aslan.

But Aslan’s case has received a lot of attention, including a visit to the slain woman’s family from the daughters of the country’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Daily Sabah reported that Sümeyye Erdoğan said, “Our essential aim is to get these monsters punished in the most serious and effective way. We will be after this.”

As a result of all this attention, the women who have shared their stories and the rhetoric from important figures like Sumeyye Erdogan, there is the possibility maybe, in Özgecan Aslan’s case, justice will be served.

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