At least 3 million posts have accumulated under the hashtag. Most are beautiful shots of celebrities, influencers, and everyday women celebrating empowerment, sisterhood, and other pleasant feminist words. A wholesome cause, all in all, if it weren’t drowning out another one.
The nature of internet ‘challenges’ means it’s difficult to establish a clear genesis—and the claims for this one range from a Brazilian chain-mail message to US congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez—but the result has been an overwhelming legion of platitudes of ‘sisterhood,’ empty of the political urgency Turkish feminist activists need the campaign for.
“Turkish people wake up every day to see a black and white photo of a woman who has been murdered on their Instagram feed, on their newspapers, on their TV screens,” wrote one Instagram user in a now-viral post explaining the hashtag. “The black and white photo challenge started as a way for women to raise their voice. To stand in solidarity with the women we have lost. To show that one day, it could be their picture that is plastered across news outlets with a black and white filter on top.”
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I have received several requests that wanted me to share this as a post as well. So here goes. I hope this will be able to inform people as to what is going on in Turkey and why the black and white photo challenge exists. Thank you all for sharing this information. #blackandwhite #challengeaccepted #womensupportingwomen #mensupportingwomen #istanbulanlaşmasıyaşatır #blackandwhitechallenge #istanbulsözleşmesiyaşatır
NY Times internet culture reporter Taylor Lorenz has since taken the time to ‘debunk’ that the hashtag originated from Turkish feminists. A slide in this highlight succinctly explains, however, that Americans hopping onto this newest iteration of an old challenge likely did come from the Turkish diaspora honouring victims of violence, and not ‘existing challenges’ from 2014. Much more importantly, there are far, far more urgent conversations to have.
2,996 women have been killed in gender-based violence in Turkey since 2010, according to statistics reported by the ‘We Will Stop Femicide Platform.’ In 2019 alone, 474 women were murdered, most at the hands of partners and relatives. It is the highest number in a decade, and indicates a year-on-year rise.
“The combined effects of deepening toxic masculinity, social media trolling, a tanking economy, and COVID-19 quarantines have led Turkish women into their bloodiest year on record,” reads a viral Instagram statement from the Turkish Cultural Club at the American University. “In July alone, 40 women have been murdered so far—almost always by their close male relatives. Then came Pınar Gültekin.”
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"Can't fade your memory, dim your light. You've made a difference" Here is only a small portion of our fallen sisters. While it is important to acknowledge the femicides in Turkey, let's make sure those women do not end up forgotten. Share their faces, share their names, share their stories. Be loud, raise awareness, make a difference. #istanbulsözleşmesiyaşatır #womensupportingwomen #challengeaccepted #mensupportingwomen #istanbulanlaşmasıyaşatır #kadıncinayetleri #kadıncinayetlerinidurduracağız #femicide #stopfemicide
27-year old university student Pınar was reported missing in Muğla in south-western Turkey on July 16. Days later, her burned body was found in an oil drum hidden in a forest. She was murdered by her ex-boyfriend, Cemal Metin Avci, who allegedly attacked her after she rejected his advances. After being confronted with CCTV footage that placed him with her that day, Avci led police to the body and confessed to the murder. He has since been arrested on the charge of ‘killing with monstrous feeling’.
“When killings are reported (many are written off/hidden), the defendant usually is either released soon or receives a comically light sentence,” writes the AU Turkish Cultural Club. “This is the case for all women in Turkey—women who cover their hair/women who don’t, young/old women, Kurdish women, single women, and Queer/Trans women especially.”
“As in other places, victims are often blamed. Rumors circulate accusing the victim of being disloyal, impure, or somehow deserving. Family friends rush to do damage-control and save face. The men are often portrayed as helpless, passionate lovers just trying to knock some sense into their victim. Socially, it’s often considered impolite to question domestic matters.”
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The gruesome murder of #pınargültekin is spawning a movement against Femicides in Turkey. Take action with us now. Please Share! #eminebulut #gülistandokunerede #kadınaşiddetehayır ———————- UPDATE: By Turkish Women, we mean TURKISH WOMXN, TURKISH WOMEN, WOMEN IN TURKEY, WOMXN IN TURKEY & honor/celebrate ALL different communities in Turkey that are also at risk at this time. We have outlined many of these groups before & will continue to accept edits from groups we have missed. With that in mind, we ask for patience & logic as we work to make this better. For example, our inclusion of Kurdish women is not an attempt to erase the legacy of Armenian/Assyrian/Arab/All Aramaic women. Please continue to hold us to do better while understanding we are literally 2 people dealing with 100,000+ notifications, most of which are spam. Please refer to our Stories & first Story Highlight for the most up-to-date clarification & info as Post Content on IG cannot be edited.
Protests have erupted across the country, both in response to Pinar’s murder and demonstrating against the Turkish government’s consideration to withdraw from the Council of Europe’s 2011 Istanbul Convention, which commits to preventing and combatting violence against women.
“If this convention is taken away from us, all women will be alone,” Cansu Ertas of the Ankara Women’s Platform told AFP. “The state will have dismissed the responsibility that falls on them” to protect women, she added.
Who to follow, what to do:
This group, ‘We Will Stop Femicide Platform’ (Kadın Cinayetlerini Durduracağız Platformu) advocates against the leniency of the justice system. Read their statement in English here.
If you are able, consider donating to a women’s shelter in Turkey such as Mor Çatı Kadın Sığınağı Vakfı.
This local NGO TapVakfi also works in reproductive rights and gender equality.
Small Projects Istanbul helps refugee women, including from Syria and Afghanistan.
And, with a grain of salt over the general efficacy of online petitions, you can sign this petition in support of the Istanbul Convention and proper implementation of law 6824 to protect women.
For updates in English, follow the AU Turkish Cultural Club.