Instagram’s ‘Women Supporting Women’ Challenge Inadvertently Brings Awareness to Turkish Femicide

protest against femicide and sexual violence in ankara

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Right now your social media feeds are probably flooded with black and white selfies as part of the “Women Supporting Women” viral trend.

Women upload a snap of themselves with a caption about female empowerment and then “challenge” someone else to do the same. According to the New York Times, more than 3 million people have used the hashtag #challengeaccepted so far. It’s not totally clear how it began or what exactly it accomplishes, but some people are now using the trend to bring awareness to Turkey’s high rates of femicide, which is defined by the the World Health Organization as the “intentional murder of women because they are women.”

Whether the challenge has any teeth is up for debate (a lot of debate), but the widespread violence against women in Turkey is very much a real issue. Here’s everything you need to know.

women's demonstration for the istanbul convention in turkey

A July demonstration organized by We Will Stop Femicide, an organization tracking the number of women murdered in Turkey.

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The recent murder of Pınar Gültekin shined a light on Turkey’s femicide problem.

The 27-year-old student’s body was discovered earlier this month in the woods outside of Muğla, a city in south-western Turkey. According to The Guardian, she was beaten and strangled to death by her former partner, who “burned her body in a garbage bin and covered it in concrete.” He is being detained on homicide charges, according to the outlet.

Turkish media reportedly quoted her alleged murderer as saying he “killed her in a moment of rage,” blaming Gültekin for his actions after she threatened to tell his wife know about the relationship. At a vigil for Gültekin in Istanbul, women reportedly chanted: “We are here Pınar, we will hold them accountable.”

Her death sparked nationwide outrage and several protests, including one in Istanbul hosted by a group called We Will Stop Femicide. The organization tracks the number murdered of women in Turkey based on news reports and accounts from family members. Its mission is to stop “femicide and [ensure] protection from violence. It fights against all types women’s rights violations, starting with the violation right to life.”

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Cases of violence against women in Turkey are on the rise.

Femicide crimes are committed by “partners or ex-partners, and involve ongoing abuse in the home, threats or intimidation, sexual violence or situations where women have less power or fewer resources than their partner,” according to WHO.

Cases in Turkey have been steadily increasing over the years.

According to Al Jazeera, the number of murdered women in the country has more than doubled since 2012. Last year alone, 474 women were killed, which The Guardian reports is “the highest rate in a decade in which the numbers have increased year on year.” In 2020, that number is expected to be even higher.

“Violence against women is a problem everywhere. In Turkey we have a strong women’s rights movement but we also face a lot of opposition,” We Will Stop Femicide’s general secretary Fidan Ataselim told The Guardian. “In the last 20 years society has changed a lot: more women are demanding their right to work and go to university. The more choices we have, the more intense the backlash gets.”

How are Turkish femicides connected to Instagram’s ‘Women Supporting Women’ Challenge?

The trend didn’t originate as an awareness campaign for Turkish femicides as several outlets have reported. According to Forbes, travel journalist Tariro Mzezewa tweeted about a conversation she had with women in Turkey who said the challenge began there “as a response to them being frustrated over always seeing black and white photos of women who have been killed.” Mzezewa has since posted the below thread:

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Taylor Lorenz, a tech reporter for The New York Times, spoke with a representative from Instagram in this piece she wrote, who said the earliest photo connected to the challenge was posted a week and a half ago by Brazilian journalist Ana Paula Padrão.

However, women in Turkey and beyond are now sharing black-and-white photos to raise awareness about femicide using the hashtag #İstanbulSözleşmesiYaşatır, in reference to the Istanbul Convention, a treaty created to combat violence against women in Europe. According to The New York Times the treaty has been “caught up in a maelstrom of disinformation and populist rhetoric, cast as a threat to national sovereignty and twisted by conspiracy theories and smear campaigns.”

Turkey is currently considering withdrawing from the treaty, according to CNN.

The challenge may not have originated in Turkey, but celebs are using it to voice solidarity with victims of femicides.

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This content is imported from Instagram. You may be able to find the same content in another format, or you may be able to find more information, at their web site.

This content is imported from Instagram. You may be able to find the same content in another format, or you may be able to find more information, at their web site.

This content is imported from Instagram. You may be able to find the same content in another format, or you may be able to find more information, at their web site.

This content is imported from Instagram. You may be able to find the same content in another format, or you may be able to find more information, at their web site.

This content is imported from Instagram. You may be able to find the same content in another format, or you may be able to find more information, at their web site.

This content is imported from Instagram. You may be able to find the same content in another format, or you may be able to find more information, at their web site.

Femicide rates are also high in countries like El Salvador, Venezuela, and Mexico.

According to a report published by the Small Arms Survey in 2016, “among 25 countries with the highest rates of femicide in the world, 14 are from Latin America and the Caribbean.” Topping the list are Syria, El Salvador, and Honduras.

Cases in Mexico have increased by over 100 percent in the last five years, the country’s Attorney General Alejandro Gertz Manero said in February. In 2019, there were 1,006 reported incidents of femicide in Mexico, which is a 10 percent increase from 2018, according to The New York Times. Violence against women has soared since the COVID-19 pandemic hit Latin America, “confirming fears that lockdowns would put many women in danger,” according to Reuters.

Staff Writer Rose is a Staff Writer at ELLE.com covering culture, news, and women’s issues.

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