The Real War on Women
Honor killing, forced marriage, genital mutilation — that is a war on women.


Lee Habeeb

Her name was Derya. She lived in Batman, Turkey, she was 17 years old, and she had a problem that few American women know about, let alone have ever experienced: The men in her family were doing everything they could to get her to kill herself.

It started with text messages like this one from her uncle: “You have blackened our name. Kill yourself and clean our shame, or we will kill you first.”

What was Derya’s crime? What had she done to deserve a message like that from a relative? She had fallen in love with a boy she had met in school the previous spring.

When news of this outrage reached Derya’s family, her mother warned her that her father — her own father — might kill her. She didn’t listen.

And then the orchestrated campaign of terror began. Threatening text message after threatening text message, sent by her brothers and uncles, sometimes as many as 15 a day.

Young Derya was so overwhelmed that she did the only thing she could do to free herself from the shame and the pain: She tried to kill herself.

Not once. Not twice. Three times, Derya tried to kill herself, first by throwing herself into the Tigris River, then by hanging herself, and finally by slashing her wrists with a kitchen knife.

“I felt I had no right to dishonor my family,” she told a New York Times reporter in July of 2006, “that I have no right to be alive. So I decided to respect my family’s desire and to die.”

The reporter learned that every few weeks, in parts of Turkey deeply influenced by conservative Islam, young women were taking their own lives for the same reasons Derya tried to take hers. Others, the Times reported, were stoned to death, strangled, shot, or buried alive by their male relatives.

And what were the crimes of these young women? Well, in Batman, such offensive conduct as wearing a short skirt, wanting to see a movie, or being raped by a stranger. It goes without saying that engaging in consensual sex warrants death.

And people think there is a war on women in America?

But the Times story got worse, as the reporter explained the reason why Derya and other women and girls in Turkey were trying to kill themselves. It turns out that Turkey, in its hopes to join the European Union, was beginning to punish men for their attacks against women and girls. Honor killings, it seems, are frowned upon by the EU.

So the men who run things came up with a great new idea: Why not pressure girls to kill themselves instead?

“Families of disgraced girls are choosing between sacrificing a son to a life in prison by designating him to kill his sister or forcing their daughters to kill themselves,” said Yilmaz Akinci, who works for a rural development group in the region. “Rather than losing two children, most opt for the latter option.”

Now that is a real war on women.

And yet we have heard almost nothing from President Obama in his three years in office about Islam and women.

Even in his infamous speech in Egypt, he spoke only briefly about women’s rights, and among his comments was this:

Now let me be clear: Issues of women’s equality are by no means simply an issue for Islam. In Turkey, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Indonesia, we have seen Muslim-majority countries elect a woman to lead. Meanwhile, the struggle for women’s equality continues in many aspects of American life, and in countries around the world.

That’s right. He basically said that women are as poorly treated in America as they are in countries like Turkey and Pakistan!

What President Obama failed to mention in that speech was genital mutilation or rape or polygamy or honor killings in parts of the world where Islam is the predominant political and cultural force. And he didn’t mention those honor suicides in Turkey.

President Obama’s speechwriters must not have consulted Nina Shea of the Hudson Institute, who has been writing about this subject for years.