In light of Mar. 8’s International Women’s Day, social media has proven to be a powerful supporter of women’s rights. The emergence was seen in Turkey, where social media erupted with criticism over the sexual assault and murder of young Turkish student, Ozgecan Aslan.
“A country woke up,” Mehmet Aslan, father of Ozgecan, said in a phone interview with CNN. Twitter can attest to this burgeoning social outcry; the hashtag “#OzgecanAslan” launched over three million tweets.
Other hashtags such as “#ozgecanicinminietekgiy” and “#sendeanlat” showed the dimensions of social issues Turkish women experience regularly.
“#Ozgecanicinminietekgiy” was a hashtag contributed to primarily by men in support of Aslan and women’s rights. The phrase means, “wear a miniskirt for Ozgecan.” Male posters in this tag uploaded pictures of themselves in miniskirts showing their support for Aslan.
The importance of this act stems from the corrupt rulings in cases Turkish women bring to court regarding rape and sexual assault. Turkish women’s rights lawyer Hulya Gulbahar revealed the injustice within the judicial system in an interview with CNN.
Gulbahar explained that many courts assume the victims of assault had implied consent through superficial aspects of their appearance. “In some cases, wearing a miniskirt or some cleavage got the woman’s rapist mitigation in his punishment, while in some cases the consent was attached to her wearing red,” said Gulbahar.
Thus, the ironic miniskirt protest proved effective in delivering the message that clothing does not mean consent.
The other tag, “#sendeanlat,” translates to “tell your story.” The tag was used predominately by women revealing their personal stories of assault or of life in a climate that threatens attack.
Powerful tweets such as, “It’s when you enter your flat but do not turn on the lights so that they outside wouldn’t notice which flat is yours,” (by @OutForBeyond) and “Wearing mini skirt, tight, laughing loudly, putting on red lipstick seem like reason of rape in Turkey,” (by @SimalCinarr) show the restrictions and dangers women face.
Social media prompted mass protests against the misogynistic climate in Turkey. This women’s day, 3,000 women marched in Istanbul, dedicating their protest to Aslan. The sounds of the protesters were heard by both Turkey and the world.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan tweeted that Aslan’s attackers deserved the “heaviest punishment.” Although Erdogan had trouble with women’s rights in the past, especially after stating that women and men would never be equal because it “goes against the laws of nature,” the publicity and worldwide support of Aslan brings pressure on Turkey’s government to step up to the plate.
The statistics are depressing. Turkey’s violence against women is increasing, amassing a 31% increase in women murdered since last year. Over half of these victims (about 56%), died at the hands of their husband or partner. One third of rape victims in Turkey are between 12 and 17 years old.
Aslan’s murderers, Ahmet Suphi Altindoke, his 50-year old father, and 20-year old friend, have been arrested.
The brutal nature of her murder, the burning of the body and cutting off of her hands, has sparked outrage internationally.
Turkish women, male supporters, politicians and social media correspondents have rallied against violence against women — not just in Turkey, but worldwide.