Turkey's crackdown on the practice of honor killing has resulted in unintended consequences – instead of being murdered by a close male relative for bringing dishonor to their families, Muslim women are being pressured to commit suicide.
And the numbers of "honor suicides" are soaring, reported the UK's Independent.
Despite a 2005 change in the nation's penal code requiring a mandatory life sentence for honor killers, the number of women killed by male relatives is at a record level – more than 200 a year, half of all murders committed in Turkey. But it is that change in the law that has given rise to the growing phenomenon of women taking their own lives. Prior to 2005, killers were able to receive reduced sentences by claiming provocation.
Elif, 18, from Batman in southeast Turkey, was told by her father she must kill herself so he would not be sent to prison for murdering her after she refused an offer of an arranged marriage with an older man.
"I loved my father so much, I was ready to commit suicide for him even though I hadn't done anything wrong," she said. "But I just couldn't go through with it. I love life too much."
The young woman was forced to flee and go into hiding. Her uncles and other relatives have been hunting her for the past eight months, even conducting an armed raid of a women's shelter where she had been.
"I managed to escape," said Elif. "When I was at school, a few girls I knew were killed by their families in the name of honor – one of them for simply receiving a text message from a boy."
In her hometown of Batman – nicknamed "Suicide City" – 75 percent of all suicides are committed now by women.
"I think most of these suicide cases are forced. There are just too many of them, it's too suspicious. But they're almost impossible to investigate," said Mustafa Peker, Batman's chief prosecutor.
Pekar said a woman's fate is usually determined by a family council where the alleged dishonor is discussed and the penalty pronounced. If the woman is to be killed, the youngest family member is frequently ordered to carry out the murder on the belief he will be treated more leniently by the courts. Woman ordered to take their own lives are usually locked in a room with a noose, a gun or rat poison until the deed is done.
Honor killers who are caught and convicted find themselves incarcerated with many others who've committed the same crime, said Mehmet, who was ordered by his family to kill his stepmother and her lover when he was 17.
"There were many other 'honor killers' in prison and we were treated with respect, even by the prison guards," Mehmet said.