A female student was hit in the face on a bus in Istanbul, Turkey on June 14th for wearing shorts. The student then chased after the man who attacked her, but he pushed her to the back of the bus and then fled.
Melissa Saglam, a university student, was wearing shorts while riding the bus last week when a man on the bus stood to get off. The man, who has been identified by local press as Ercan Kizilates, allegedly said to Saglam, “Are you not ashamed to dress this way during Ramadan?” before striking her face. He then tried to leave the bus, but Saglam chased after him. He shoved her to the back of the bus and then fled.
Turkish police issued a warrant for the man’s arrest this week and detained him, but he has since been released. His explanation for punching Saglam was that her clothing “provoked” him.
Footage of the attack rapidly spread online, and women’s activist groups in Turkey have been quick to condemn Kizilates actions and to offer support to Saglam. One of the groups, We Will Stop Femicide Platform, offered statistics on violence against women in Turkey. They said that men had murdered 173 women from January to May of this year, and men murdered 328 women in 2016. Many rights groups have been speaking out on the erosion of women’s rights as the Turkish government continues the Islamization of Turkey.
You can watch the video of the attack here. Kizilates not only has medieval ideas about how women should dress, but he is also a coward. He waits until he is about to get off the bus and only then verbally and physically assaults Saglam before he tries to run away without facing any consequences. That is incredible cowardice. And the act itself, attacking and dehumanizing a woman just for what she is wearing, is disgusting behavior.
Saglam has been quoted in the press as saying, “My only wish from the justice system is that an appropriate, dissuasive punishment is given to the assailant. I do not want him to walk around freely because I cannot anymore. Since being assaulted I have been unable to go anywhere without my mother. I cannot even get on public transportation.”
Religions have always fought tooth and nail against modernity and social progress. They are trapped by their traditions and their sacred, unalterable holy texts. We can be grateful that in many societies religion has lost much of its power, but in countries where Islam has control of the government, or wields tremendous cultural influence, we see the results of 6th century ideals clashing with 21st century society. It is a problem, and we need to talk about it. Men should not have free reign to beat and berate women just because they are wearing shorts. That kind of barbarism has no place in our modern world, and we need to be able to criticize any belief system that promotes it.