Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Medine Memi and the Duty to Protect

After burying alive 16-year-old Medine Memi, her father and grandfather face life in prison for "premeditated homicide with aggravating circumstances, perpetrated with cruelty." Memi had been missing for over forty days when her body was uncovered in a concrete-covered hole outside the family chicken coop. After complaing to police about severe beatings received at home, it is entirely possible that her father and grandfather killed her out of revenge. However, authorities and media jumped to call the crime an honor killing, claiming the motive for her family's savagery had to do with Memi spending time/having friendships with boys. In a very provocative post, Jenny White criticizes the media for having jumped to the conclusion that the crime was an honor killing, pointing out that Memi's father was most likely the source of this information.
Honor killings are a familiar story — but this might well be a case of outright murder for revenge and to hide family violence. That would demonstrate the low status of women outside of the “honor” paradigm (and the authorities’ disinclination to take their claims seriously). In the most recent Turkish article, the father and grandfather are reported as claiming that when Medine reported the beatings to the police, the father and grandfather told the police that she was beaten because she was “talking to boys”. The police now say they began a “procedure” (islem) at the time. Yet Medine disappeared for 40 days before anyone investigated.
Significantly, it will be interesting to see if any investigation is made of these local authorities who seemingly did little to prevent Memi's horrible death. Memi's case parallels that of Nahide Opuz, whose case was brought to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) and resulted in a historic decision last summer in which the ECHR ruled that failure to protect women from domestic violence constitutes gender-based discrimination, in addition to violating an individual's right to life and be free from torture. According to the ECHR, the state has a responsibility to protect women from domestic violence. In the case of Medine Memi, local authorities seem clearly to have fallen short.

No comments: