“Mum, don’t untie me. I want to die.”
These heart-rending words from beyond the grave helped last week to convict Britain’s latest “honor” murderer, Mehmet Goren, 49. The father of four brutally killed his 15-year-old daughter, Tulay, ten years ago for having fallen in love.
“You did all this simply because you regarded it as unacceptable that she, rather than you, should choose the man she wanted to marry,” the judge told the murderer, whom he described as having an “enigmatic smile.”
Instead of experiencing a schoolgirl’s joy for life, shortly before her death a bound and helpless Tulay was lying face down on her bedroom floor, her hands and feet having turned a black and blue color from the clothesline restraints her father had tied her with. It was in this terrible state of pain and suffering that Tulay addressed these pitiful words to her mother, Hanim Goren, who wanted to free her but was prevented by her husband.
Police believed Tulay was drugged, tortured and killed the following day. But first he had Tulay’s eight–year-old brother kiss his sister goodbye for the last time. The 15-year-old’s body has never been found. First buried in the family garden, it was later dug up and removed to an unknown site.
It was Tulay’s grieving mother, finally finding the courage to tell the truth ten years after her daughter’s 1999 disappearance, who delivered this devastating testimony during her husband’s ten-week trial in London. Nuray Gulen, Tulay’s older sister, also gave valuable testimony that ended in her father receiving a 22-year prison sentence, at one point shaking her fists and screaming at her him from the witness box in Turkish.
Tulay’s death followed a familiar pattern regarding honor murders. When her father discovered she was no longer a virgin (she had told a friend she may even be pregnant), he and her family’s male members regarded her as a “worthless commodity.” Tulay’s two uncles were also charged in her death but were acquitted, although they were part of the family council where the decision to kill her may have been made.
In Islamic cultures, a wife is often acquired like a piece of property by means of a contract after negotiations between two families, in which a “bride price” is paid to the bride’s family in the form of money, real estate or other gifts. In such cases, marriage is simply a commercial transaction. The bride, and sometimes the groom, often has no say in choice of partner, as they have never been allowed to establish an individual identity outside their families, clan or religion.
One of the conditions for such “arranged” marriages, however, is that the bride must be a virgin. The highest appellate court in Turkey emphasized this last month when it allowed a man to divorce his wife because she was, supposedly, not a virgin on their wedding night. A woman’s purity, the court ruled, is a prerequisite for marriage.
If a woman is not a virgin when she marries, or is discovered to have engaged in some other form of behavior regarded as improper, no matter how slight, with a male before, or after, marriage, she may then become the target of an “honor” murder. Only the blood from her death, the family believes, will cleanse its shame and restore its “honor” in the eyes of the community.
Other reasons exist for this depraved form of misogyny that has resulted in too many young women’s deaths. They range from the female victim living too Western a lifestyle (re: independent), to wanting a divorce, changing religion, leaving the home to escape family violence, to simply having a boyfriend. Staying a night away from home or moving out, Western European social workers say, is often a death sentence for these women.
Tulay’s family also did like the fact her boyfriend, Halil Unal, was from another branch of Islam. But what apparently disturbed Tulay’s father the most was that he would not be receiving any bride price money after his daughter had run away to live with Hilal, also a Kurd from Turkey.
The wife testified at the trial her husband had sent her to demand a $10,000 bride price from Unal to cover the “shame” he had caused their family honor, but she returned home empty handed. Hanim indicated her husband probably wanted the money for gambling, testifying he was an avid gambler who would gamble away the family’s social benefits in Turkish cafes. It was Hanim Goren who later persuaded her daughter to return home, not knowing she would be killed.
A week after Tulay’s disappearance, Unal himself became the target of an honor murder. Mehmet Gornon tried to kill him in an axe attack that put Unal in hospital with a serious neck injury. Gornon and his two brothers were also charged for that assault.
There are about a dozen reported honor murders every year now in England. How many remain unreported is unknown. After each new act of such savagery, though, the English are left asking what is happening to their once civilized country that gave the world the Magna Carta and parliamentary democracy.