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Turks protest over woman's murder

February 15, 2015

The Turkish prime minister has condemned the violent murder of a student who resisted sexual assault. For thousands of enraged demonstrators, the crime highlights Turkey's problem with violence against women.

Image: Adem Altan/AFP/Getty Images

"Whoever puts out their hands [to harm] women, their hands should be broken," said Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Sunday, speaking to female members of his center-right Justice and Development Party (JDP) in the southern province of Antalya.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan joined Davutoglu in offering his sympathy to the family of Özgecan Aslan, a 20-year-old student who was murdered this week after she resisted rape by a bus driver.

Her death prompted protests on Saturday in Istanbul, Ankara and southern Turkey, where Aslan was killed. Thousands of women chanted "You will never walk alone!" while some were sporting fake wounds made with makeup.

The protesters also demanded that Aysenur Islam, the woman who acts as Turkey's family and social policies minister, step down.

Death a rallying cry

Aslan's burned body was discovered on Friday after she had been missing for two days. According to the Turkish newspaper Hürriyet, she was taking a minibus home on Wednesday night when the driver, who is now in custody, is said to have tried to rape her, a fact he has since admitted. She then fired pepper spray in his eyes, after which the driver stabbed Aslan and hit her over the head.

Women were encouraged on Sunday to post their own story of sexual harassment or violence on social media under the hashtag "sendeanlat," or "you tell it too." Many women described the fear they have going home alone or riding buses without male escorts.

The crime is set to become a rallying cry for activists seeking to end violence against women in a country where hundreds are killed by their husbands every year. In November, Erdogan stirred their ire when he declared that women were unequal to men. On another occasion he said that every woman in Turkey should have three children.

Further demonstrations for womens' rights are expected on Monday.

es/cmk (AFP, dpa)

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