February 16, 2015 / 6:42 PM / 5 years ago

Violence against women is Turkey's "bleeding wound" - Erdogan

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkey’s president on Monday described violence against women as the “bleeding wound” of the country after a woman was stabbed and beaten to death after trying to fight off a man trying to rape her.

Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan gestures during a conference at the Foreign Affairs building in Mexico City February 12, 2015. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido

Despite a surge in violence against women in Turkey last year, the particularly brutal, and public, attack on Ozgecan Aslan, 20, has become a rallying point, prompting protests and condemnation by politicians.

Police say she was traveling home on a minibus in the southeastern seaside province of Mersin on Wednesday when a man tried to rape her, according to reports carried widely in Turkish media.

When she retaliated with pepper spray, the suspect stabbed her and beat her to death with an iron bar before enlisting his father and a friend to help dispose of her body by burning it and dumping it in a river.

A 26-year-old man has been arrested with his accomplices, Hurriyet Daily News reported. Prosecutors were not immediately available for comment, police could give no more details.

Women nationwide have worn black in condemnation of the murder, posting photos on social media. The hashtag #sendeanlat, meaning “you tell us too” was trending globally on Sunday with women sharing stories of abuse on public transport. #OzgecanAslan continued to trend worldwide on Monday.

Several hundred minibuses in Diyarbakir in the southeast were adorned with black ribbons and carried Aslan’s photograph.

President Tayyip Erdogan and his wife called Aslan’s family on Saturday, when her funeral was held, and Erdogan’s two daughters have visited the family’s house, according to the pro-government Daily Sabah.

“I will personally follow the case so that they will be given the heaviest penalty. I am already following the case. Violence against women is the bleeding wound of our country,” Erdogan said during a speech in Ankara on Monday.

Human rights monitor Bianet says 281 women were murdered in Turkey in 2014, a 31 percent increase on the previous year.

Nine percent of these had asked for protection from the state, it said, prompting criticism that not enough is being done to protect victims.

Erdogan, a devout Sunni in the patriarchal Muslim majority nation, has in the past been criticized by women’s groups for failing to speak out more domestic violence, and for saying he does not believe in equality of the sexes.

Some politicians called for the reintroduction of the death penalty in response to the case. The Istanbul Feminist Collective rejected that at as a way of preventing such attacks.

“(M)ost of the discussions do not give any hope of improvement in this respect because political actors or groups, the government in particular, are reluctant to recognize their responsibility in Ozgecan’s murder,” it said, arguing that those calling for the death penalty fail to act when violence against women is committed.

Reporting by Ece Toksabay, Ayla Jean Yackley, and Seymus Cakan in Diyarbakir; Writing by Dasha Afanasieva; Editing by Jonny Hogg and Alison Williams

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