Story of self-defense

  • women
  • 11:33 1 March 2024
  • |
İZMİR - Sevde Unal, who was arrested for acting in self-defense against the man who harassed her and threatened to rape her, said: "Knowing self-defense makes us stronger. Self-defense is a right, it cannot be prevented or judged."
In Turkey, one of the countries where the most severe forms of violence against women occur, self-defense, which is an important method of combating male violence, is declared "guilty" with a conscious policy. Women are punished with prison sentences of up to years for defending their lives. Purple Solidarity member Sevde Unal, who last defended herself against the man who harassed her in Kocaeli in 2018, was arrested on February 1, while the complaint made to the Kocaeli Chief Public Prosecutor's Office about the perpetrator of harassment resulted in a decision of "non-prosecution".
Unal, who was released on probation on February 12 upon the objection of her lawyers, answered our questions about self-defense and the attitude of the judiciary.
We came to know Sevde Unal when she was arrested for acting in self-defense. First of all, may you tell us about yourself?
I was born on February 17, 1997 in Salihli district of Manisa. My mother, Ayşe Gül, is a woman who was forced to get married when she was only 16 years old. We grew up in this city with my siblings Sahra and Naz. Like millions of women, we were exposed to male violence by our fathers when we were children. I would like to point out that I had three back surgeries due to this violence, and then a mechanical clamp with four platinums was attached to my waist. You were born in a house where violence was present and even when you were a child, you could say, "My friends do not experience this every day, so this is not normal, I have to defend myself." The first male violence I stood up against at that age was father violence. Then, after our father's death, I clearly remember breathing a deep 'oh' and feeling like 'we are saved'. But I was unaware of the problems that would follow, what we would experience as four women in our struggle for life, and male-state violence. Another spiral of violence that I would experience as a 'child worker' at the age of 14 due to our financial difficulties would be in my business life. The types of violence, harsh working conditions and all kinds of injustices you were exposed to in your working life as a child. Not to mention the fact that you are made to work for a penny without any safety of your life.
I am a student at Dokuz Eylül University, Department of Archeology and Anadolu University, Department of Photography and Videography. I am also one of the members of the Purple Solidarity Women's Association. I have been meeting with women in our association and working in the neighborhoods for four years. On the one hand, I play the flute and continue my studies to improve myself in the field of music. I love music, and I enjoy being its worker and listener. To summarize, I can say that Sevde is the subject of every field in which she enjoys working.
Self-defense was my last chance when they came at me with swear words and rape threats, followed by verbal and physical abuse. This man had a previous criminal record for retention a woman. At that moment, all you think about is saving yourself and your life, so self-defense must not be punished.
How did the self-defense incident, which was used as a reason for your arrest on February 1, develop? What happened that day? May you mention?
The incident took place in Izmit, where I went to see my friends during summer vacation in 2018. When we wanted to return home at midnight, I was first subjected to verbal and then physical abuse. A group of 6-7 men, who I thought were probably on drugs, first attacked my friend in a frenzy after we shouted and asked for help. The harasser, infuriated by my cries of 'There is harassment, help', began to approach me with threats to kill me. He had already knocked my friend down and 4-5 people were kicking him on the ground. At that moment, the man, who said he came to kill me and I could see from his eyes that he was under the influence of drugs, started shouting curses and rape threats. It was my last chance at that moment to throw a glass bottle I found with me towards him to protect myself. Today, I can still say that I am grateful for the existence of that glass. I later learned that this man had a previous record of retention a woman. A piece of the glass I threw at this big, bold man entered his eye and caused vision loss in his left eye and a scar on his face. At that moment, all you think about is saving yourself and your life. This is exactly why self-defense must not be punished.
While the complaint you made about the person who caused so much horror resulted in a decision of 'non-prosecution', you, who were forced to defend yourself, were punished. What would you like to say about this?
I filed a complaint about the harassment I experienced, but the male-state decided not to pursue my complaint. Our objection was not accepted and no lawsuit was even filed against the harasser. Instead, I was fined and arrested. My disability identity, which was due to the mistake made during my last back surgery, was not taken into account during the execution process. The prison sentence of 9 years and 5 months, which was already assessed at the upper limit, was reduced to 5 years, 7 months and 15 days with reductions. The Supreme Court also approved this. My lawyer informed me before I surrendered that I could complete 2 years and 8 months of the sentence in the institution I was in and I accepted this and went to prison. If I can answer your questions at my home, it is through the execution prosecutor who last evaluated my file. However, it should not be forgotten that I was released on probation, not acquittal. Both the decision and my detention in prison for 11 days are unlawful. The man-state must know that I will follow my cause until the end. 'Justice delayed is not justice', I am not guilty, we are not guilty. As a woman who practices self-defense, I would like to say this on behalf of all of us; They want us to see the damage. Let us remain silent even if we are subjected to violence, harassment and rape. Let's say, 'He is a man, he can do it'. But it must be known that men cannot do it, women cannot remain silent and cannot be silenced.
When we look at the big picture, the dominance of male-dominated ideologies is the real problem. It is also necessary to see that male violence will not be eliminated with purely deterrent punishments unless the system itself is eliminated.
In Turkey, women who were forced to act in self-defense were previously sentenced to life imprisonment. There were even people who left the country because of these penalties. Is this attitude of the judiciary a political attitude aimed at preventing self-defense? What do you think?
Of course, I consider it as prevention. I would like to deepen the topic I just opened here. The judiciary, which centres and implements male domination entirely, has shown us various precedents on this issue. It judged women who were subjected to various forms of violence at home, at work, by their closest relatives or by men they did not know, like me, and who used self-defense, to the highest degree. I think that the duty of the judiciary is to impose deterrent penalties against all kinds of violence against women. When we look at the big picture, the dominance of male-dominated ideologies is the real problem. It is also necessary to see that male violence will not be eliminated with purely deterrent punishments unless the system itself is eliminated. It would be an inadequate approach to find solutions to the problems caused by the main problem without eliminating it. This will prevent us from seeing the picture in its entirety. However, what we need to see in the big picture is; One of the biggest and most powerful pillars of some systems with deep-rooted histories, a rotten system of exploitation like capitalism, is that they are fed by the unpaid domestic labor of women, and with this labor, a handful of rich people are adding to their wealth every minute in a world where we are becoming poorer day by day.
Self-defense, which is an important method of fighting against violence, is disguised as a 'physical attack' and presented to the society as a 'crime'. As a woman who defends herself, we would like to hear from you; What is self-defense and why is it vital for women?
At the Purple Solidarity Women's Association, of which I am a member, instructors who are experts in the field of 'defense arts' give lessons for physical self-defense. Together, we expand the ideas of defensive materials during an attack and learn various techniques to neutralize the attacker. For emotional self-defense, we organize workshops on 'violence and its types', and in our meetings with our psychologist comrades, we strengthen our psychological resistance and get to know the forms of violence comprehensively. Again, in these workshops, we learn and discuss together the reactions we should give to violence. Not only is it not 'scary', it is essential, and in its clearest form, it is vital to know and apply it. Knowing self-defense makes us both stronger and more powerful. We do not know where and in what form the increasing male violence will occur. Maybe we can be exposed to it in the way we encounter it most often, by our closest ones, or maybe by men we don't even know, on the street. There is no such thing as just 'violence is here'. It can happen anywhere at any time, and when that moment comes, self-defense is vital. I wish we did not have to learn and the necessity was not of vital importance, but unfortunately, every woman must deepen herself in this regard in order not to be trapped in a pressure of violence whose place and time are unknown and to avoid being exposed to the consequences of this pressure. Violence is not all or just physical. There are economic, digital, emotional and sexual forms of violence. Through our readings, as you understand the issue within yourself, there are many examples that make us say, 'Is this violence too?'
We do not belong in places where we want to be squeezed and captive like a housewife, mother of children, someone's wife or someone's daughter. We must unite; Let's be together so we can stand against violence. Let's grow the light against the darkness together.
There are thousands of women in the country who are faced with violence. Do you have a message for these women based on self-defense?
As a woman who was exposed to all kinds of violence from a very young age, I can say that; We women do not belong in places where we want to be captive. We do not belong to the adjectives that they want to put us in, such as housewife, mother of children, someone's wife or someone's daughter. Bearing any of these attributes should be within our sole and exclusive decision, and only we should be able to decide on this. My life struggle is about this. As a woman who knows well the physical and spiritual devastation that violence leaves on us women, as can be seen from my story, I can say very clearly that; It is not possible to get over it, to treat it, to say 'it's over'. It is possible to dress the wounds it inflicts on our souls, but it is not possible to cure them. It is impossible not to see the damage it has done to you and the great changes it has made to your smile. It is impossible for it not to change your perspective on life, the people in it, life and of course the concept of happiness, right and injustice. I always say that a woman can recognize these deep scars in another woman's soul from her eyes. For this very reason, 'woman is the homeland of women'. We, women, must unite, we must come together so that we can stand against violence in larger numbers. We must unite so that we can rekindle and see the power within us that they have perhaps dampened or strived for. Let's build a wall of flesh against the violence that comes from everywhere and in every form, let's remember our power together, let's grow the light against the darkness together. Self-defense is a right, it cannot be prevented or prosecuted. They will go, we women were, we are, we will be.
TOMORROW: Women's voice in the fight against masculine media
MA / Semra Turan

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