Journalist Ayşe Önal’s writings have covered everything from Kurdish separatism to Turkish Hezbollah. She has been blacklisted by the Turkish state for some of her coverage. For a recent book, Honour Killing: Stories of Men Who Killed, and related documentary, she interviewed men in prison for “honor” killings around Turkey. Anna Louie Sussman has done a two-part interview with Önal about her work. (Part 1, Part 2). An excerpt:
…One man, Murat, killed his mother Hanim, who had been having an affair with her step-cousin Halil. The whole bazaar, where Murat ran a stall belonging to his uncle, was abuzz with the gossip. His uncle insisted that Murat must kill Hanim, otherwise he said, “I won’t be able to show my face in the market.” But it was not until Sevda, the woman Murat loved, turned him down that he realized how much it meant. Her family would never give her to him, because she told him, “My mother said your mother is a bad woman.”
He stayed awake all night, pacing the streets, and returned at dawn. He picked up a gun that his sleeping father, a security guard, had left beside the bed. A few minutes later, he killed his mother with three bullets.
“No one else could have done this project,” Altan said. “Both because of the quality of Onal’s work, and her commitment to it. She showed us a side of Turkey we don’t often see: painful stories about community pressure.”
After the program aired, Onal says, she began to hear the women’s side too. Phone calls poured in from women scared of being killed by their family, and Onal received them at home, offering help where she could. Grateful to finally have a sympathetic ear, men called as well.
“They would tell me ‘I don’t want to kill my sister,'” Onal said.