The Monument Counter: A Digital Memorial for Women Killed by Violence

The story of ‘Anıt Sayaç’ (The Monument Counter) starts with the exhibition Counter (2013). In this exhibition which has both digital and physical components, visitors were directed to the address anitsayac.com through QR codes embedded in the objects. The website kept being updated and took its current form after the end of the exhibition in April 2013. Having decided to create a database of women who were murdered by men, the Monument Counter team started collecting the data by themselves, as their inquiries to the Ministry of Labour, Social Services and Family for the data were left unanswered. Therefore, the team made a review of all the news that was published in 5 years between 2008 and 2013. This data was combined with the data of the We Will Stop Femicide Platform and consequently, the list of women who have been murdered was published on the website.

Because public institutions do not have a transparent approach towards femicides, independent media organizations such as bianet.org (Independent Communication Network) and civil society organizations that work for women make a special effort to track femicides, record the data on these murders and share their archives with the public mostly via digital platforms. For example, the website kadincinayetleri.org is a platform aimed at preventing femicides and punishing the perpetrators by drawing attention to negligence involved in these murders. The data on the website was based on the Male Violence Monitoring Report prepared by bianet.org (Independent Communication Network) when their inquiries were left unanswered by official institutions, similar to the experience of the Anıt Sayaç team. In 2015, Ceyda Ulukaya mapped the femicides that occurred in the last 5 years to create a database. In addition to the data presented on Anıt Sayaç, the Femicides Map shows the distribution of murders by provinces and districts. The map can be accessed on kadincinayetleri.org.

As evidenced by several studies, these murders stem from the rejection of the equality of women and men, and sexist social and political approaches. The story of these murders points out the open or hidden consent of many institutions and persons had a role in many of these murders, and show that these murders should be understood as not isolated but organized, systematic and political. This argument is also supported by the fact that in almost every case, perpetrators are from the close circle of murdered women. As part of the Femicides Can Be Prevented Campaign, the team led by Prof. Hülya Uğur Tanrıöver conducted a study which examined 949 femicides committed between the years 2009 and 2013. The study confirmed that one out of two women is murdered by her husband in Turkey. The perpetrators of the remaining murders mostly consist of close relatives or acquaintances of women.

Status
Completed
Date
2013
Owner
Form
Scope and Purpose

‘The Monument Counter’, is an online monument and a counter updated every day to continue the memory of women who were victims of violence against women. The website aims to commemorate women who have lost their lives due to violence against women and to ‘count’ the number of murdered women every day to draw attention to the increasing numbers of women who died because of male violence. Anıt Sayaç was developed to create awareness and retrieve data in an environment where femicides are increasing. But, the website is more than a civic involvement project on violence against women, it is a monument for women who have lost their lives. Additionally, as stated on the website: “The counter … reports the continuity of violence. The Monument Counter does not only demonstrate a worrying increase, a burdensome accumulation but also invites an urgent count down. As the counter counts up, hope vanishes. It disappears one by one.”

According to the data of Anıt Sayaç, at least 2714 women were murdered by men in Turkey since 2008 and the number of women, who have lost their lives to male violence, is increasing every year. At least one woman is murdered in Turkey where official data on femicides is very difficult to obtain. When you open the website you see a large wall made out of bricks. Each brick contains the name of one woman who has been murdered since 2008. When you click that brick you see information published in the press on the murder. Along with information as to why, how and by whom the woman was murdered, or whether she demanded state protection or not, news pieces on the murder can also be read. Therefore, it is possible to observe the change in the media language concerning the violence against women and murders, and how it creates the social and political context that is used to legitimize the killing of women.

Anıt Sayaç does not include murders that are not a result of domestic violence or violence against women. Moreover, the website features the names of women mentioned in the news. Therefore, it is possible that the number of women, who have lost their lives due to violence against women, is much higher than the data shown on the website.

Impact

While Anıt Sayaç constitutes a monument that continues the memory of women who have lost their lives because of male violence, it also shows that data that seems incomprehensible or sporadic repeats itself in other cases. An analysis of these systematic patterns can shape actual policies that aim to prevent male violence. For this reason, the function of memory studies is not limited to continuing the memory of people or social groups that were subject to grave violations of human rights or creating collective conscience. It is also a reminder for policymakers of measures that should be taken to “never again” allow such violations in the future.

Therefore, the report prepared by the Istanbul Convention Monitoring Platform for GREVIO (the specialist committee formed to monitor the implementation of the Istanbul Convention) in September 2017 emphasized the importance of data regularly collected and shared by women’s organizations that have activities in shelters and organize solidarity work, and by independent media organizations. In this report, femicide data published by the Bianet news agency and We Will Stop Femicide Platform was mentioned as an example of data collection carried out by non-governmental organizations. Moreover, the report states that the data collected by the state and civil society should be shared on a database that is sensitive to gender, sexual orientation, and gender identity.

Challenges

A major challenge faced in the fight against violence against women and murder is the lack of transparency of official institutions and persons regarding these issues. Since the inquiries to the Ministry of Labour, Social Services and Family, Ministry of Justice, General Directorate of Security and the Gendarmerie General Command were left unanswered, independent initiatives’ efforts of memorialization and their databases can only rely on femicides that are mentioned on the news.

Turkey signed the Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (the Istanbul Convention) in 2011. Since the convention was opened for signature in Istanbul, it is known as the Istanbul Convention. The Istanbul Convention stipulates a comprehensive framework (in which the state works in collaboration with institutions, law enforcement, and civil society organizations to eradicate violence against women and domestic violence) for the fight against violence targeting women. Article 11 titled “Data collection and research” of the Istanbul Convention obligates Turkey to collect data to combat violence against women. The parties are obligated to collect disaggregated relevant statistical data on violence within the framework of the convention at regular intervals. Moreover, it shall support research on these cases of violence to study its root causes and effects, incidences and conviction rates, as well as the efficacy of measures taken to implement this convention.

In its first evaluation report on Turkey published on October 15, 2018, GREVIO criticized the lack of adequate and effective collection of data by law-enforcement agencies and criminal courts in the framework of Article 11 of the Istanbul Convention. Moreover, it expressed its concern over increasingly restrictive conditions experienced by independent women’s organizations who have advocated the Istanbul Convention and its principles. Moreover, the language used by the officials and judiciary practices are shaped according to an understanding which legitimizes the killing of women, instead of creating awareness in the public and establishing deterring principles. Moreover, in most of the femicide cases that are known because they were reported in the news, the way women live and dress are problematized by the panel of the judges and the place and time of the murder are considered as factors that can legitimize a murder. This situation illustrates the difficulty of overcoming concrete socially and politically structured challenges in the prevention of murders and the right to access to justice.