Hatin Surucu

When Freedom Gets the Death Sentence for Hatin Surucu

The murder of a Turkish woman Hatin Surucu and the applauding of the crime by some students have left Berlin shaken and officials pushing for ethics class. But how deep does the concept of honor run among some immigrant communities? The solemn vigil (at a bus stop where she was murdered) called not by the city's Muslim community but a gay and lesbian organization -- the image of the young woman in a headscarf, a baby in her arms, was familiar from newspapers and television.

A few notes at the memorial read, "Hope you get a better deal in your next life," and "Live a life on your own terms." "It's a scandal," said Ali K, 33. "All Muslims in Berlin should take to the streets to protest." Yasemin, 22, said, "It's horrific. All Hatin was doing was leading her life the way she wanted." No Muslim organization said anything in her behalf.

But it was a choice she paid for with her life. On Feb. 7, 23-year-old Hatin Surucu was gunned down at the aforementioned bus stop by three of her brothers. Investigators suspect it was a so-called "honor killing," because her fundamentalist Turkish-Kurdish family strongly disapproved of her modern and "un-Islamic" life. She grew up in Berlin, was married off at 16 to a cousin in Istanbul, then a few years later returned to the German capital with her young son, moved into a home for single mothers, completed school and began to train as an electrician. She stopped wearing a headscarf. Living like a German got her killed.

Some male students of Turkish origin at a high school near the scene of the crime reportedly downplayed the act. During a class discussion on the murder, one said, "She only had herself to blame," while another remarked "She deserved what she got --the whore lived like a German." While the incident has reopened debate on the integration of immigrants and the compatibility of Islamic values with Western ones, it's the reaction of a small group of Turkish students to the murder that has rattled the German capital.

Just the reaction of a few? Not according to some, "There isn't a single school with a high foreign population where teachers haven't heard kind of thing, where individual students sometimes regard murder as a just sentence. At Berlin's Turkish-dominated neighborhood near Kottbusser Tor in the Kreuzberg district, 17-year-old Erkan, a high school student of Turkish origin, was divided about the issue. "I'm not saying you should murder, but Hatin's lifestyle just didn't fit the way traditional Muslims live."

Apoligists claim the problem isn't purely "Islamic phenomenon," but, statistics in Berlin show that murders meant to uphold the honor of the family are high among Muslims. An Afghan national at a nearby prison was 16 when he helped relatives kill a widowed aunt who had refused to marry her brother-in-law. Others said most of the murders are often carefully plotted in the family with the support of all, including women. "

Usually the patriarch selects the youngest son to carry out the crime because he knows that judges in Germany don't usually give the maximum sentence of 10 years to a minor for manslaughter...They don't feel any regret for what they did though some even kill their favorite sister. Instead, they're honored and feel like martyrs for having been chosen to carry out the crime." Some say "the school can't be the only place for learning democratic values. You have to begin with the family."

Ref. Sonia Phalnikar, March 2005, DW-WORLD.DE, edited extract.

Seyran Ates

Women's Rights Lawyer Quits, Says She Feels Threatened

A prominent Berlin women's rights lawyer and critic of Islam has closed her practice, saying her life is in danger and the state has failed to protect her. Seyran Ates has been a prominent figure in Germany on account of her books and public engagements reinforcing her fight against forced marriage, headscarves, so-called honor killings, domestic violence and the subjugation of women in many Turkish and Kurdish families. The 43-year-old German-Turkish lawyer, who was shot at by a Muslim man 20 years ago in Berlin's Kreuzberg neighborhood, has received numerous prizes over the years. Last year, Ates was named Germany's woman of the year for her unstinting battle for the rights of mainly Muslim women.

Ates has riled up the Turkish community with her outspoken criticism The Muslim husband of one of her clients, whom Ates was representing in divorce proceedings, assaulted his wife and tried to attack Ates opposite the courtroom where the case was being heard, the paper wrote. "I'm withdrawing from professional life as a lawyer, my client is living in a women's shelter, but the assailant is running around scot-free," Ates told the paper, adding that "my life and that of my young daughter have priority."

The German-Turkish lawyer, a member of Germany's Social Democratic Party (SPD) since 2004, has said that the SPD too hasn't paid any heed to her concerns. "The SPD is still dominated by an immigration policy that plays things down," Ates told the paper, saying that politicians always urged citizens to show more courage. "That is right, but then you also have to protect people." The murder of Hatun Surucu, a Turkish woman, by her brother made headlines last year.

Ates' outspoken criticism of the treatment of women in Turkish families in Germany has earned her the ire of both Turks as well as many left-wingers in favor of multicultural policies. Ates has consistently slammed politicians for turning a blind eye to problems within immigrant communities under the guise of tolerance and fostering diversity. Ates however has said that she will continue giving lectures and interviews to highlight the plight of women in Turkish and Kurdish communities in Germany.

Ates' announcement has sparked outrage among politicians, with many calling for expanding victim protection laws to include women who feel threatened. Berlin's interior minister, Erhard Korting called it an "alarming sign" and said he had "high respect for Ates' work."

Ref. DW-WORLD.DE 2006, edited extract.

'Honour killing' shocks Germany

By Ray Furlong BBC News, Berlin

An impromptu shrine has been created at the place where Hatun Surucu was gunned down. There are flowers, candles, messages of support and photographs of the 23-year-old Turkish woman, who died of multiple bullet wounds to the head and chest. The police have arrested her three brothers, in the belief that Mrs Surucu was the latest victim in a series of so-called "honour killings" that have taken place in Berlin in recent months. "She had no other enemies.

This murder bears all the hallmarks of an honour killing," says police psychologist Karl Mollenhauer. "In Islamic culture, the woman is the bearer of the family decency. She must maintain the honour of the family. Men must defend that honour." If the police are right, Mrs Surucu was the sixth victim of honour killings among Berlin's 200,000-strong Turkish community in as many months.

She had been married to her cousin eight years before in an arranged marriage, but had then run away - taking her five-year-old son with her. "Women must make their own decisions," read one of the banners at her shrine. Mrs Surucu's killing has led to an unusually strong public reaction - with Turkish women taking to the streets to protest. "This tragedy has shaken us awake. We've been very surprised by the response," says Eren Unsal from the Association of Secular Turks. "This is the first time that political decision-makers, NGOs, and so on have been ready to sit down at the same table together and think about what must be done. This has never happened before."

'Blind eye'

But not everyone shares the outrage. On a school playground, just yards from where the killing occurred, children were heard praising it. The victim, they said, had lived like a German. And it was not the only response of its kind. Our job is to explain Islam. That's what has a permanent effect - clearing up certain false ideas about Islam in people's minds. Huseyin Midik, Mosques' association. "I heard a young Turkish lady said on a Turkish radio station 'she deserved it because she took off her headscarf'.

This is incredible," says Ozcan Mutlu, one of the few Turks sitting on the Berlin city council. He says the problem has been exacerbated by the German authorities turning a blind eye to it. "For instance, when a Turkish man beat his wife, he didn't get the same punishment as when a German did it. They tried to explain it with the culture, the traditions, and with the religion. "That's stupid, you cannot do that. There is no cultural or religious excuse for beating women, and there can be no less punishment for honour killings. But in Germany it was the fact in the past years."

'False ideas'

Muslim leaders in Berlin are at pains to stress that there is no basis for honour killings in the Koran. But they have also been criticised for not making a clear condemnation of them. "We have preached twice in the last year on human rights, saying that it is forbidden to kill, and so on," says Huseyin Midik, a representative of Germany's largest association of Mosques. Some were raped - by an uncle, cousin, even a father - and when they get married they worry someone will find out they're not a virgin.

Berlin social worker, "It's natural that when something happens, people think we should respond. But it's not always the right thing to hold special events at these times, and then for it all to stop again. Our job is to explain Islam. That's what has a permanent effect - clearing up certain false ideas about Islam in people's minds." But the practise continues among Germany's Turkish and Arab minorities. The police list 45 cases in the last eight years. One woman was drowned in her bath, another stabbed to death by her husband in front of their three-year-old daughter.

Every year dozens of women and girls, some as young as 13, run away to avoid arranged marriages - some in fear for their lives. "Some were raped - by an uncle, by a cousin, even by the father - and when they should get married they are worried that someone will find out they're not a virgin anymore. They are afraid that they will be murdered," says a Berlin social worker who runs a centre for runaways. She asked to remain anonymous, and the centre is located at a secret address.

Honour killings are, she says, just the most extreme form of repression faced by the people who come to her. "All these girls who come to us are locked in, in the house, by their families. They only go to school because they have to by law - otherwise they wouldn't be allowed. They have to stay at home and cook, and care for the sisters and brothers. The parents don't accept that the girl decides anything by herself."

Story from BBC NEWS: Published: 2005/03/14 BBC MMVI

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