‘Dying to Divorce:’ UK documentary on Turkish domestic violence in Oscars race

Arab News analiz yazım (https://www.arabnews.com/node/1979441/lifestyle)

ANKARA: A movie highlighting domestic violence in Turkey has been nominated as the UK’s official entry for the Best International Feature Film award at the Oscars.

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The five candidates for Best International Feature Film are set to be announced in February, before the Academy Awards take place on March 27.

Although one film cannot decrease domestic violence and murder figures overnight, “Dying to Divorce” has already triggered a global public debate about the issue that has universal relevance.

Filmed over five years by producer Sinead Kirwan and director Chloe Fairweather the film revolves around the testimonies of two Turkish female victims of abuse, Arzu Boztas and Kubra Eken.

The documentary also follows Ipek Bozkurt, a defiant female lawyer in Turkey fighting the culture of violence through the courts, and Aysen Kavas, a women’s rights activist. The personal narratives and a critical eye on the systemic shortcomings give the movie further emotional impact.

Mother-of-six Boztas, a housewife married at 14 in central Anatolia in a conservative milieu, was left disabled after being shot at close range six times in her arms and legs when she asked her husband for a divorce.

In the film, her conservative father who gave permission for the marriage, said: “I ruined the lives of my children just to keep with tradition.”

Eken, a successful TV presenter at Bloomberg News in London, was struck several times on the head by her producer husband two days after giving birth to their daughter. She suffered a serious brain hemorrhage in the attack that for years prevented her from speaking and walking, although her husband blamed her situation on the Caesarean section operation she had.

Both victims had difficulties claiming justice for what had happened to them and securing custody for their children. But with the help of lawyers and activists in Turkey they finally won legal victories following years of battling through the courts.

Despite coming from different socio-cultural environments, the women were united in wanting to tell their stories to the world.

The film, now showing in UK cinemas, has already received several prizes and nominations at European film festivals and was nominated for a British Independent Film Award.

Figures show that in recent years, more than 400 women have been murdered annually by either their partners or family members with some attackers even getting their sentences reduced by claiming provocation or for showing good behavior during their trial.

Domestic violence and femicide remains a major problem in Turkey where 38 percent of women experience abuse by their partner, according to World Health Organization data.

Bozkurt, who will be attending a number of special screenings of the documentary in Scotland, is part of the We Will End Femicide platform that has been monitoring cases of violence and murder on a daily basis for 11 years.

The lawyer told Arab News that the power of the documentary came from its elaboration of the issue from a global perspective without reducing it to a mere domestic problem for Turkey.

She said: “Domestic violence is also a major problem in many Western countries, including the UK. We tried to demonstrate the inner strength of these two ladies and their relentless fight to stay alive by using the power of the media. And I believe such a narrative will inspire many women around the world.”

Bozkurt pointed out that gender inequality penetrated across various social segments and was not restricted to disadvantaged communities.

“However, fighting against it requires a holistic and integrated approach. Not only politicians, but also media and activists have a key responsibility. This documentary, by not using the pornography of violence, emphasized the core of their fight against impunity and tried to show that these women have a cause to defend not only for themselves but also for the rights of their fellows,” she added.

In recent years, more women in Turkey have come forward to fight for justice over domestic violence and for changes in legislation to protect them.

Kavas, a representative of the We Will End Femicide platform, noted that the movement had empowered women to speak up.

She told Arab News: “We gave them a boost for not giving up from the struggle for their rights. But we, the women of Turkey, prefer to have more descent lives rather than being the subject of Oscar-nominated documentaries.

“I’m not fighting because this is something that can happen to me. I’m fighting because it can happen to anyone.”

On Nov. 9, 28-year-old Basak Cengiz, a young architect, was stabbed to death by a man wielding a samurai sword when she was walking down a street in one of Istanbul’s crowded districts. Her attacker admitted he was simply out to kill someone. “I preferred to kill a woman because I thought she would be an easier target,” he said.

Kavas helped Boztas with her legal case. “She is now living with prosthetic legs and had several operations after the violence she endured. However, she always says that in the past she was feeling herself less free when she was married with her ex-husband.

“With the campaigns that we have been carrying out for years, women are not quiet anymore on the subject of violence. We made a lot of noise, and they no longer feel alone,” Kavas said.

Further information on the documentary can be found at http://dyingtodivorce.com

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