Towards the end of July, women on social media (particularly Instagram) inundated the site with black and white photos of themselves with the caption #ChallengeAccepted and #WomenSupportingWomen, accompanied by words of solidarity to their female peers and embracing female empowerment. As this challenge gained traction, the purpose behind the multitude of monochromatic photos was questioned – leading us to its partial origin being the growing femicides in Turkey.
Tracing its emergence, The New York Times reporter Taylor Lorenz asserted that #ChallengeAccepted itself was initiated in 2016 as a mode of awareness for cancer. However, the credit of its resurgence is due to the issues of women in Turkey started by a journalist in Brazil – which was widely unknown to the people partaking in the trend. With the involvement of notable female celebrities – the likes of Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston, Kerry Washington, among others – and the general female public, the severity and reason of Femicides in Turkey remained undiscovered.
Femicide is defined as an “intentional murder of women because they are women, usually perpetrated by men (partners or ex-partners)”, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). This violence against women has been a cause of great concern in Turkey for many years. The recent outburst was triggered after the brutal murder of a twenty-seven-year-old University student Pinar Gultekin by her former boyfriend. The burnt remains of her body were found in a garbage bin, covered in concrete after she was reported missing.
Her murder led to demonstrations in Turkey against the country’s high femicide rates and the lack of accountability from the government. As per the We Will Stop Femicide Platform, 474 women were murdered by their partners or relatives in 2019. Some 172 femicides have already been reported in the first six months of 2020, and are expected to have a higher number due to the COVID-19 lockdown regulations.
“Violence against women is a problem everywhere. In Turkey, we have a strong women’s rights movement but we also face a lot of opposition,” We Will Stop Femicide’s general secretary told The Guardian.
The protests aimed at the government for their decision to reverse the Istanbul Convention amidst the uptick of femicide cases. The Istanbul Convention is a legal framework that combats and protects those involved in cases of domestic violence. It was signed by Turkey in 2011, making it the first country to adopt a Council of Europe convention.
However, the conservative leaders of Turkey are considering to pull out the convention on the grounds of it being a threat to family values, with added claims from the deputy general of the ruling party alleging it to be “very wrong” and “played into the hands of LGBT and marginal elements”.
#ChallengeAccepted started in Turkey with the original hashtags #kadınaşiddetehayır and #istanbulsözleşmesiyaşatır, which translates to “Say no to violence against women” and “Enforce the Istanbul convention.” Despite the brutality getting lost in translation, the rising curiosity around the monochromatic image trend finally disclosed the cause. Soon enough, the issues of femicides took their rounds on social media as more and more people educated themselves about the problem.
Feature Image Via KQED.