Victim of an Acid Attack in Turkey
Photographer: Sedat Suna
A vicious acid attack perpetrated by a man on his ex-girlfriend in Turkey which severely disfigured her face and left her partially blind has triggered a wave of solidarity with her and criticism of the government for its lack of measures against sexist violence.
Berfin Ozek was ambushed on 15 January by her ex-boyfriend who allegedly threw sulfuric acid in her face as she returned home in Iskenderun, southern Turkey, after a day spent studying. 'I didn't deserve this, this is not my face. This is the face of the disgrace of our society,' she said. The acid melted her skin and caused her to lose the sight in one eye and partially blinding the other. Ozek was hospitalized for four months but has since returned to her home in a slum neighborhood of Iskenderun.
Ozek wants to study psychology at college but has had to leave school, so a social media campaign was launched to support her, bringing her situation to the attention of a wider public. Shortly after the attack, the Women of Iskenderun social platform launched a solidarity campaign to help raise funds and its actions reached the Turkish Parliament where the government, in the hands of the AKP Islamist party, said it would cover the costs of the medical treatment. The Ministry of Health offered financial aid for her treatment in a private hospital since her family could not afford the price of reconstructive surgery. Ozek hopes to recover some of her former appearance and is about to begin surgical treatment that will last a year and a half, and see her undergo at least five operations.
While acid attacks are not common in Turkey this case has spurred great controversy in Turkish society which has interpreted it as an escalation of violence against women.
Ozek's lawyer Mehtap Sert said, after a few months, Berfin has recovered her spirit and strength, she found a good surgeon who will take charge of her case. ‘Attacks against women are on the rise because no preventive action is being undertaken by the government,’Sert said. ‘Many cases of attacks, rape or harassment against women are ignored by the authorities.’
According to the ‘We’ll Stop Femicide’ social platform, 440 women were killed through gender violence in 2018, while 141 women were murdered and hundreds assaulted by men in the first four months of 2019 in Turkey. Women rights organizations campaign to pressure Erdogan’s government to enforce laws protecting women's rights in Turkey.
They have denounced the difficulties in documenting the increase in violence against women because the authorities do not publish official data, although figures from several NGOs reveal that femicide and aggression are up to three times higher than in other European countries.
‘Thanks to the people who are supporting and trying to help me,’ Ozek said.