In a case that captured international attention, the brother of a young German woman of Turkish origin was sentenced to nine years in prison for murdering her in a so-called honor killing.
Hatan Sürücü, victim of an "honor killing" in Germany
On Thursday (April 13, 2006) a Berlin court convicted a 19-year-old Turkish man for gunning down his sister on a Berlin street last year but acquitted his two older brothers of involvement in her death.
Ayhan Sürücü, who confessed to shooting 23-year-old Hatan Sürücü in the head in February 2005, was sentenced to nine years in prison. Under German law, the maximum he could receive was 10 years because he was a juvenile at the time of the murder.
Presiding judge Michael Degreif said that Hatin Sürücü had been killed "because she lived her life as she saw fit," and had adopted Western ideas of sexual equality.
His brothers, Mutlu and Alpaslan Sürücü, who were accused of conspiring to murder, were found not guilty. Ayhan Sürücü had long insisted they had no involvement.
The murder of the young, divorced mother of a five-year-old son shocked Germany, especially after Ayhan Sürücü said he killed his sister because he felt dishonored by her lifestyle. He added that he now regretted his actions.
Trying to break free
Hatin Sürücü grew up in Germany and was forced into a marriage with a cousin in Turkey in 1998. Her son was born in Berlin in May 1999, and she subsequently refused to return to Turkey. Six months later, she moved out of her parents’ home and began to train as an electrician, turning her back on her conservative family. She even stopped wearing her headscarf.
Ayhan Sürücü told prosecutors he was appalled by her Western lifestyle and concerned about his nephew. As a result, he had visited his sister at home before walking with her to the nearby bus-stop. When she defended her way of life, he pulled out the gun he said he had bought off a Russian seller and killed her.
"It was too much for me," he told the court. "I grabbed the pistol and pulled the trigger. I don't even understand what I did anymore."
Prosecutors initially believed it was the eldest brother who had procured the weapon. They thought that Ayhan Sürücü and the third brother then went to their sister's house and persuaded her to go with them on some excuse before Ayhan Sürücü shot her.
Though such killings have occurred before in Germany, this case caused particular outrage and set off a heightened debate over immigrants and their integration: Germany has a Turkish population of 2.6 million, 800,000 of whom live in Berlin.
And while most of the debate focused on ghettoization and the compatibility or otherwise of Islamic values with western ones, it was the reaction of a small group of Turkish students to the murder that rattled Germany.
Days after Hatin Sürücü was 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."
"It might be a minority but even one person applauding is unacceptable," said Kenan Kolat, head of the Turkish Association in Berlin and Brandenburg.
According to Papatya, a Berlin-based organization that seeks to help young Turkish women, there were 45 known honor killings in Germany from 1996 to 2004, of which 13 occured in Berlin.