I was a Turkish child bride………..

We need to be protected from rapists, not married to them

Anonymous (Guardian, UK)

When I heard about the proposal in Turkey that child rapists marry their victims I had to share my story. I feel ashamed of being a Turk

In Turkey, backbenchers of the ruling AK party have proposed that child rapists be allowed out of jail on the condition that they marry their victims, a scheme that will supposedly allow girls under the age of 16 to be “reunified” with the men who abused them as a family unit. When I first heard the news, I started sobbing and couldn’t stop. I kept thinking about all the girls who would go through what I had gone through. I couldn’t imagine this becoming legal.

I feel ashamed of being a Turk. It is awful enough that the rape of children happens; but now they have tried to legalise it. I thought that we’d moved on, that those days were behind us. Now I realise nothing has changed. Men are still doing their best to put women precisely where they want them to be.

Why am I writing anonymously? Because I am still frightened of my attacker.

When I was 14 I lived in southern Turkey. I was top of the class and very popular. I had a close friend from school, and sometimes I would go to her house. Once or twice I met her older brother, who was about 15 years older than me. I called him “abi”, meaning “elder brother”. We didn’t really speak. One day my friend said, “My abi wants to take me to the cinema, will you come with me?” I asked my mother and she said yes – he was regarded as an important man in the community and was well respected.

He took us out a few times in his car. He always dropped me off first before taking his sister home. Then, one day he dropped my friend off and drove in the opposite direction to my house. I was terrified. He stopped the car just outside town and turned to me. I started screaming before he could touch me. Suddenly a policeman approached the car and asked what was going on. He tried to lie; he knew he was in trouble, but he was taken to the police station. I was escorted home and sent to my room. The next day I was not allowed to go to school.

My uncle came a couple of days later, saying, “I’m going to sort this out, but you have to get engaged to this man.” I said there was no way I would, but my uncle said I had to if I wanted to go back to school. I found out later that they changed my birth certificate to make me two years older, so that my friend’s brother could be released from prison.

‘The government argue it’s for the good of the raped child and her offspring – that it will make her more respectable

Once we were engaged, I was allowed back to school, but the teachers humiliated me and I lost all my friends. I got good marks and I could have gone to university. But my mother and uncle said, “No, you’re going to get married.” I refused. They said, “Look, this will be a formality, you can’t go to university if you don’t get married.”

I remember the day my family put me in a taxi to the registry office. I made them stop the car twice; I was desperate, terrified. Both times they said, “No, you have to go, otherwise we will be humiliated.” I signed the papers and we started our life together as a married couple.

There was not a second that I didn’t hate. All my aspirations and hopes had been dashed. I started working and at least that was something, but then he told me I had to leave work. He made my life an absolute misery, but I couldn’t do anything because he had control of our money. When I asked for a divorce, he said he would cut me into bits and scatter my parts – and “no one will find you”.

This is exactly what is going to happen to these girls in Turkey if the law is changed. It happens already, and it’ll be even worse: legally sanctioned rape. For now, the bill has been withdrawn owing to a public outcry – but the fact that it was proposed is a dark indication of the priorities of this government. There is no guarantee that a similar proposal won’t be made in future.

When people talk about rape there are many cliches, but what is absolutely true is that the victim thinks that they’re the one who is the cause of it; that they are the problem. They think: “Why couldn’t I have pushed him harder, why couldn’t I have bitten him or scratched his face?” I could never be the same again, that was the horror of it all. In the end I escaped, but it nearly killed me.

The change in the law being proposed is cultural, not moral, and the government knows this. It argues it’s for the good of the raped child and her offspring – that it will make her more respectable, save her honour and keep the family together. But actually it’s all about getting the man off the hook. If they change the law, men will be able to rape girls and then say, “I’ll just marry her.” And what’s the good of that? Once you’re married, you’re given the licence to be raped, again and again and again. At least if it wasn’t legal then you wouldn’t have to be married. At least you wouldn’t be sentenced to be your attacker’s sex slave.

Condemning a girl to a lifetime of rape is taking everything from her – her youth, her future, her happiness. When I heard the news, I knew I had to share my story. I want people to know what it’s like to go through this.

As told to Alev Scott

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