Lawyer Keskin: Impunity is behind the increase of sexual violence

One of the main reasons for the increasing sexual violence against women and children, especially in Kurdistan, is impunity, explains co-chair of the IHD human rights organization, Eren Keskin.

Lawyer and co-chair of the Human Rights Organization (IHD), Eren Keskin, is preparing to take part in the trial of the rape of a 15-year-old woman by 27 men, including soldiers, police officers and village guards. The crime took place in Gercüş in the province Batman.

In an interview with ANF, Eren Keskin describes the background to the increasing sexual violence in Turkey and especially in North Kurdistan.

"The numbers don't reflect reality!"

Keskin is the founder of the legal aid office against sexual violence in custody and the legal aid association against sexual violence. With this facility she has been supporting women, children and trans women affected by sexual torture since 1997 with free legal representation. Over the past 23 years, Keskin has cared for 758 women and trans women. She says that the real number of cases of sexual violence is much higher than the official figures because the majority of the crimes are not brought to light.

Keskin said: “The women and girls cannot talk about the sexual violence they have suffered and the assaults. They are afraid, ashamed, they feel ashamed and believe that there is no one around them who would show solidarity with them. Because such a patriarchal, militaristic, feudal mentality is imposed on society, many women cannot talk about their experiences of sexual violence for the rest of their lives."

"Impunity is state policy"

Keskin has been observing the proceedings for sexual violence by military and men wearing uniform since 1997. She said that so far, even if all the evidence are available, except for the case of two village guards, no members of the security forces have been punished. Even if she won cases before the European Court of Human Rights, the state continues its policy of impunity.

"The state legitimizes the violence practically and verbally"

Keskin spoke about the case of Ipek Er: “Ipek Er was subjected to sexual violence by a non-commissioned officer. She took her own life and left a suicide note. But what happened? The sergeant was released immediately. It is not for nothing that we say that the murders are political. Alaatin Çakıcı [the fascist mafia boss and friend of the MHP chair Devlet Bahçeli was released from prison as part of the reform of the penal system that was pushed through by the AKP-MHP regime in 2019], who murdered a woman in front of her child, can now freely and openly threaten anyone. These threats present themselves as a form of power. Why do we say this is political? If you do not punish such people, if you get them out of prison and acquit them of all their deeds, if you allow them to threaten the leaders of political parties, then violence against women will increase. That means nothing more than that such crimes go unpunished. Or when the Home Secretary orders his security forces, 'If you catch them [drug traffickers], break their legs. Then violence is physically and verbally legitimized by the state. This is why government officials so openly and freely commit these crimes. They know they don't expect any punishment. The last crime in Gercüş is also to be assessed in this way."

"Women are the first target in a war environment"

Keskin connects the fact that most of the sexual abuses by village guards and military and police personnel are in Kurdistan with the war situation. Looking at the world wars, the experiences of Rwanda and Bosnia, she said: “In a war situation, the parties use such methods to destroy the other side and destroy its identity. The violations of law in Kurdistan also have this characteristics. You feel completely safe committing rights violations against women in Kurdistan. They see their counterpart as an enemy anyway. That allows them to think that they can do what they want and don't have to face any consequences.”

"What was previously denied is now taking place in public"

Keskin warns that torture and violence against women are now more legitimized than ever before. In particular, the fact that the interior minister openly justifies violence is a novelty even in Turkish history. In the past, such violent crimes were concealed, but now they are taking place in public, said Keskin, describing the appalling development.

"It all has to do with the lack of a constitutional state"

Keskin said that Turkey has not implemented any of the conventions for the protection of women and children from violence and that it even questions the most important one, the Istanbul Convention. “They talk about reforms, no reforms are necessary, they just need to implement the existing conventions. But that is not happening because Turkey is not a constitutional state. The written law and its implementation differ significantly here. The whole problem has to do with the lack of a rule of law. That's where the real problem lies.”

"With confidentiality orders, they want to take lawyers out of the game"

Keskin said that she is preparing for the Gercüş case and added that the state is trying to take the plaintiffs' lawyers out of the game through confidentiality orders and bans on press, since the lawyers are the ones who bring the truth to light. Keskin said: “The files are not shown to lawyers nor to the public. So it was in the case of Nadira Kadirova [Uzbek Nadira Kadirova allegedly committed suicide in the apartment of AKP MP Şirin Ünal] and the same happened with Ipek Er. Now they want to do this with Gercüş.”