New documentary offers striking look at murdered women
We live in a country in which five women are murdered each day by human monsters created by a patriarchal society.

Although Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan declared this past Sunday that any man who subjects women to violence is the product of a Nazi, fascist mentality, it is more than obvious that state authorities have been unsuccessful up until now in protecting the countless women who have been, are, and will be the victims of these crimes.

A new documentary that premiered on Sunday in İstanbul turns the spotlight on this very subject, with the story of a 22-year-old woman at its heart.

Directed by Melek Özman and produced by the Filmmor Women's Filmmaking Cooperative with funding from the Dutch Consulate General in İstanbul, "Hani Meral" (What About Meral?) is a 37-minute documentary film I urge you to watch.

For an entire week it will be running at the Ortaköy Feriye Cinema at 12:30 p.m. and hopefully will be picked up later by a TV station so that the film can get the visibility it deserves.

Meral was a 22-year-old woman with a 2-year-old child when she was stabbed nine times by her ex-husband in the hairdresser's salon where she was working in the eastern province of Bitlis. She was murdered in broad daylight in public. Only a year had passed since her divorce, but she was already making a happy life for herself. She had gotten back to university to get a diploma, she had started working at a hairdresser's and she was building a home for herself and her child.

Director Özman chooses to show us photographs of Meral on a matte black background. In all these photographs we see a happy and vivacious woman shining in the dark. Although we listen to her tragic story from her bereaved mother, Meral is represented to us in a way that emphasizes her lust for life with her radiant smile. I believe this is the strongest statement of the film by insisting on remembering this very special yet ordinary woman as an individual who did not give up living the way she wanted to exist.

But then again who did give up on her, or more precisely, who was it that did not accommodate her existence?

The long interviews with her mother tell us that despite many visits to the courthouse and the police station in order to ask for protection from her ex-husband, the authorities never took her pleas seriously. Sound familiar?

Just this Sunday, on Nov. 25, in light of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, when the government was endorsing the "White Ribbon" campaign -- a program to educate men in non-violence (what a tragedy in itself that we have to impose non-violence) -- women's rights NGOs were protesting this campaign, stating that there is only the capacity for 1,800 women in shelters whereas 1,000 women are killed every year in this country.

Meral was only one of these women, and this is the saddest part: We live in a day and age when the phrase "only one of the those women" is a common sentence and crimes against women are only considered to be page three stories in newspapers, when in fact before anything else it is this most basic abuse of power that should be on the top of the list of human atrocities.

"Hani Meral" is "just one" story among the many others in which the men of this country believe that they have every right to eliminate the souls and bodies of women who do not satisfy their hypocritical morals, expectations and needs along with state authorities who do not show the necessary willpower to empower and protect these women.

This is not a matter of class or race, since women from every socio-economic and ethnic strata of Turkey are subject to sexism and emotional and physical violence. The film lacks by not showing the face of Meral's ex-husband, and I realize that this a filmic choice to focus on the life force of Meral, but I still felt the need to put a face to the man even though just like his ex-wife, he is also "only one of the many men" who perpetrate hate crimes.

The documentary is supported with ballads by female musicians such as Aynur Doğan, Feryal Öney, Fulya Özlem, Neslihan Engin, Rojin and Sezen Aksu, who cry out their anger and sorrow over crimes against women.

The gala event on Sunday ended on a very sad note as Meral's mother, who came up on stage after the screening for a question and answer session, could not hold back her tears.

Meral might have been a joyful human being, but in the movie theater packed with both male and female viewers that day there was no hint of joy, just a bitter confirmation that things have not changed in this country for the better.

(Cihan/Today's Zaman) CİHAN
Last Modified: 2012-11-26 20:00:02
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