Turkish court acquits abused woman of murdering her husband, setting a precedent for spouses invoking the right to self-defense

A recent trial in which a court found an abused woman had acted in self-defense in killing her husband is crucial in setting a precedent for similar cases in which victims of abuse are accused of murdering their spouses, said lawyer Tuba Uçar in an interview with the Bianet news website, adding that Turkish courts do not usually take the constitutionally protected right to self-defense into consideration when hearing murder cases involving abused women.

Last week Melek İpek, who killed her abusive husband in self-defense, was found not guilty by the court. According to the ruling, Ramazan İpek had tortured and attempted to murder his wife. İpek’s response was not premeditated and was considered justifiable homicide by the court.

The case against İpek, who has been supported by women’s rights groups, has attracted considerable media attention. Handcuffed and naked, İpek endured a night of beatings, sexual assault and death threats from her husband that left her and their two daughters traumatized. In the morning, after her husband went out and came back to the house, İpek picked up his gun and killed him in a struggle.

She called the police to the scene at their home in southern Antalya province and was detained. İpek was charged with murder, tried and faced a life sentence. However, women’s rights organizations supported her, saying she acted in self-defense having suffered years of abuse before a night of torture.

During a court hearing İpek said her husband had hit her with a rifle butt and threatened to kill their daughters ages 9 and 7. He fired the gun and shattered the window behind them. He threatened to kill the children as he left that morning, according to İpek.

“Nevin Yıldırım, Fikriye Özbek and Nimet Akgün are all women currently in prison for killing their abusers. If their right to self-defense had been taken into consideration by the court, they would be free,” said lawyer Uçar.

According to Uçar, many women are behind bars for defending themselves against abusive partners. “Many people do not understand self-defense, but basically it is the act of self-protection in the face of an unprovoked attack. The person does not attack or kill their abuser because they want to but because they are instinctively trying to protect themselves.”

Femicides and violence against women are serious problems in Turkey, where women get killed, raped or beaten every day. The Justice and Development Party (AKP) government’s policies that protect men by granting them impunity is the main cause behind the situation, critics say.

In late May Minister of Family and Social Services Derya Yanık attracted widespread criticism due to remarks suggesting that the country has experienced “tolerable levels” of domestic violence during the coronavirus pandemic while speaking to members of a committee investigating violence against women.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on March 20 sparked outrage in Turkey and the international community after he pulled the country out of the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, better known as the Istanbul Convention, an international accord designed to protect women’s rights and prevent domestic violence in societies.

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