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Tragedy in Mardin turns spotlight on blood feuds.

ySTANBUL (CyHAN)- Two mothers and their three small children unfortunately joined the list of the thousands of victims of blood feuds or killings motivated by tradition in Turkey after they were shot by armed assailants outside a prison in the southeastern province of Mardin on Thursday.

Blood feuds are chains of revenge murders between two families that might start over the smallest of conflicts and continue on for decades. Despite steps taken to democratize the country and expand human rights, Turks continue to hear news of blood feud victims every day, with the news mostly coming from the country's eastern and southeastern regions.

The five victims -- Emine ypek (27) and her kids Nizamettin (7), Narin (10) and AyE-e SE-rer (38) and her son SE-leyman (4) -- who were planning to visit jailed relatives in prison, lost their lives at the site of the attack.

According to initial reports, members of the ypek and SE-rer families moved from their hometown in the southeastern province of Mardin to Diyarbakyr last year due to a land dispute with the Erkan family in Mardin's Savur district. An armed fight between the families led to the killing of two members of the Erkan family, Ali and Osman, while two members of the SE-rer family, AbdE-lkadir and Celal, and one member of the ypek family, Mehmet, were jailed due to their roles in the killings.

Fearing that the incident would turn into a blood feud, Mehmet ypek's wife, Emine, took her seven children with her and moved next to the SE-rer family in Diyarbakyr, they were however unable to escape from tragedy.

The house where members of both families lived in Diyarbakyr's Bay-lar district were set on fire by the Erkan family in January and ypek's two kids aged five and three lost their lives in the fire while 11 others were injured.

The brutal killing of the women and innocent children motivated by a blood feud has sent shockwaves across the country, with many questioning the underlying reasons behind these murders and possible solutions.

Nebahat Akkoc, the president of the Diyarbakyr-based Women's Consultation and Solidarity Center (KAMER), told Today's Zaman that it was not usual for women and children to be the victims of blood feuds in Turkey while the victims of honor killings have always been women.

Akkoc said there have been frequent incidents during summer when women or children were targeted in blood feuds while they only used to be killed by mistake in such cases in the past.

Examining the Southeast region where incidents of honor killings or killings motivated by blood feud or tradition frequently take place, she said women started to become victims of blood feuds due to their claims to a share of their family's inheritance.

"Although women have a legal right to receive a share of their family inheritance, they are mostly denied this right in the region. Yet, some men have begun forcing their wives to claim their share from their family's inherited property, which leads to intra-family disputes and makes women the new targets of blood feuds," she said.

Yet, Akkoc noted that some men forcing their wives to claim their share of the family inheritance should not be interpreted as an improvement on their part or of women's rights because such men still continue to deny their own sisters any share in their family inheritance.

"Women are cornered and they become targets," she said.

When asked about the measures that need to be taken to prevent such tragic incidents from happening, she said there is a need to conduct studies on a large area including villages to raise awareness about gender discrimination, the rights of private property and rights of succession and explain to people that social development can never be possible if women's rights are ignored.

Governors' offices in eastern and southeastern provinces and civil society groups in the region have been working hard to put an end to family feuds. Thanks to their efforts, a significant distance has been covered in the fight against this deadly tradition but it is still alive.

According to Associate Professor Mehmet Devrim Topses, who teaches at the department of sociology at Ecanakkale 18 Mart University and who has studied extensively on blood feuds and killings motivated by tradition in Turkey, it would be misleading to think that such murders are committed due to the lack of education or legal loopholes as he believes they are the products of traditions, which he describes as "a social reality."

He said for traditions to change or disappear, there needs to be radical changes in the social structure.

"Blood feuds are the result of feudal production methods which are dependent on the use of land. A feudal structure creates and nourishes human relations where an individual only exists as part of a family or a tribe. Regions which cannot integrate with the general economy of the country also cannot integrate their traditions with the national culture. In this regard, the issue of blood feuds cannot be resolved through education services or maximizing punitive measures," Topses explained.

What needs to be done, according to the academic, is to ensure the spread of a national economic network based on industrialization and encouraging production to all the regions of the country and eliminate things like land feudalism.

"Following this process, if educational institutions and legal bodies assume a function which supports the new social structure and its values, they will be helpful," Topses said in further remarks.

Over the past five years, "committees of peace" have been set up by local authorities in many provinces notorious for their frequent feuds. These committees usually have about 15 members, including the provincial governor of a region, known as the kaymakam, as well as the local police chief, the commander of the regional gendarmerie unit and respected senior individuals from the community. The committee members separately speak to feuding families to convince them to put an end to their vendettas. When the hostile families are convinced, the committee throws a small dinner party to bring the two families together. However, most of the time, the families are not easily convinced and there are cases in which the committees have failed to convince one or both of the families to let go of their grievances.

In remarks to the NTV news channel on Friday, Professor RE-stem Erkan, who heads the sociology department at Diyarbakyr's Dicle University, said Thursday's murders in Mardin went beyond being motivated by a blood feud and was more like a massacre as women and children had been killed in the tragedy.

"There is only the motivation of taking revenge, punishment and annihilating a family [behind these murders]," he said.

In his view, the ongoing violence in the Middle East and in the region, due to years-long terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) terrorism, makes the use of violence a routine part of daily life.

'Islam has nothing to do with blood feuds'

Considering the fact that the perpetrators have sometimes tried to justify their actions on religious grounds, Professor Hamdi DE[micro]ndE-ren, a prominent theologian, strongly denounced a connection between Islam and blood feuds.

He said the reason for efforts to associate blood feuds with Islam is likely due to a misperception about the Islamic principle of qisas, an Islamic term meaning "equal retaliation." In the case of murder, it means the right of the heirs of a murder victim to demand the execution of the murderer.

DE[micro]ndE-ren said qisas only concerns the murderer and does not apply to his or her relatives and the murderer may escape execution if the family of the victim forgives the murderer or agrees to receive blood money.

"What is important in qisas is that the decision is made by a court after seeing concrete evidence of murder; it is not made by individuals," he said.

(Cihan/Today's Zaman) CyHAN

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Publication:Cihan News Agency (CNA)
Date:Sep 20, 2013
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