Right now your social media feeds are probably flooded with black and white selfies as part of the "Women Supporting Women" viral trend.
Women upload a snap of themselves with a caption about female empowerment and then "challenge" someone else to do the same. According to the New York Times, more than 3 million people have used the hashtag #challengeaccepted so far. It's not totally clear how it began or what exactly it accomplishes, but some people are now using the trend to bring awareness to Turkey's high rates of femicide, which is defined by the the World Health Organization as the "intentional murder of women because they are women."
Whether the challenge has any teeth is up for debate (a lot of debate), but the widespread violence against women in Turkey is very much a real issue. Here's everything you need to know.
The recent murder of Pınar Gültekin shined a light on Turkey's femicide problem.
The 27-year-old student's body was discovered earlier this month in the woods outside of Muğla, a city in south-western Turkey. According to The Guardian, she was beaten and strangled to death by her former partner, who "burned her body in a garbage bin and covered it in concrete." He is being detained on homicide charges, according to the outlet.
Turkish media reportedly quoted her alleged murderer as saying he "killed her in a moment of rage,” blaming Gültekin for his actions after she threatened to tell his wife know about the relationship. At a vigil for Gültekin in Istanbul, women reportedly chanted: “We are here Pınar, we will hold them accountable."
Her death sparked nationwide outrage and several protests, including one in Istanbul hosted by a group called We Will Stop Femicide. The organization tracks the number murdered of women in Turkey based on news reports and accounts from family members. Its mission is to stop "femicide and [ensure] protection from violence. It fights against all types women’s rights violations, starting with the violation right to life."
— Filmmor (@Filmmor_) July 21, 2020
Cases of violence against women in Turkey are on the rise.
Femicide crimes are committed by "partners or ex-partners, and involve ongoing abuse in the home, threats or intimidation, sexual violence or situations where women have less power or fewer resources than their partner," according to WHO.
Cases in Turkey have been steadily increasing over the years.
According to Al Jazeera, the number of murdered women in the country has more than doubled since 2012. Last year alone, 474 women were killed, which The Guardian reports is "the highest rate in a decade in which the numbers have increased year on year." In 2020, that number is expected to be even higher.
“Violence against women is a problem everywhere. In Turkey we have a strong women’s rights movement but we also face a lot of opposition,” We Will Stop Femicide’s general secretary Fidan Ataselim told The Guardian. “In the last 20 years society has changed a lot: more women are demanding their right to work and go to university. The more choices we have, the more intense the backlash gets.”
How are Turkish femicides connected to Instagram's 'Women Supporting Women' Challenge?
The trend didn't originate as an awareness campaign for Turkish femicides as several outlets have reported. According to Forbes, travel journalist Tariro Mzezewa tweeted about a conversation she had with women in Turkey who said the challenge began there “as a response to them being frustrated over always seeing black and white photos of women who have been killed.” Mzezewa has since posted the below thread:
! @TaylorLorenz isn’t anti women! She did everything right in her reporting on the challenge story. I was curious about the trend, looked into it and & was led to Turkish women who told me about how they have been posting photos because of femicide there.
— Tariro Mzezewa (@tariro) July 29, 2020
Taylor Lorenz, a tech reporter for The New York Times, spoke with a representative from Instagram in this piece she wrote, who said the earliest photo connected to the challenge was posted a week and a half ago by Brazilian journalist Ana Paula Padrão.
However, women in Turkey and beyond are now sharing black-and-white photos to raise awareness about femicide using the hashtag #İstanbulSözleşmesiYaşatır, in reference to the Istanbul Convention, a treaty created to combat violence against women in Europe. According to The New York Times the treaty has been "caught up in a maelstrom of disinformation and populist rhetoric, cast as a threat to national sovereignty and twisted by conspiracy theories and smear campaigns."
Turkey is currently considering withdrawing from the treaty, according to CNN.
The challenge may not have originated in Turkey, but celebs are using it to voice solidarity with victims of femicides.
THIS ! #Repost @annasophiarobb ・・・ I learned this morning, that this “challenge” originally began in Turkey, to highlight violence against women. The black & white photos serve as a reminder & action of solidarity with the women killed, as their photos appear in black & white in the newspapers. I love shouting out and supporting our sisters & seeing the beautiful faces of people I love in my feed. Let’s continue to support & protect each other Also, I want to make sure the original message is amplified. Lives are on the line. Please learn about the #instanbulconvention donate to women’s shelters, follow @auturkishculturalclub & continue to protect & stand with our PIBOC womxn here in the US. #Repost @auturkishculturalclub ・・・ The gruesome murder of #pınargültekin is spawning a movement against Femicides in Turkey. Take action with us now. Please Share! #eminebulut #gülistandokunerede ———————- UPDATE: By Turkish Women, we mean TURKISH WOMXN, TURKISH WOMEN, WOMEN IN TURKEY, WOMXN IN TURKEY & honor/celebrate ALL different communities in Turkey that are also at risk at this time. We have outlined many of these groups before & will continue to accept edits from groups we have missed. With that in mind, we ask for patience & logic as we work to make this better. For example, our inclusion of Kurdish women is not an attempt to erase the legacy of Armenian/Assyrian/Arab/All Aramaic women. Please continue to hold us to do better while understanding we are literally 2 people dealing with 100,000+ notifications, most of which are spam. Please refer to our Stories & first Story Highlight for the most up-to-date clarification & info as Post Content on IG cannot be edited. #challengeaccepted
A post shared by Arianne Phillips (@ariannephillips) on Jul 28, 2020 at 11:20am PDT
I have never understood femicide or the hatred towards women. I have discovered that the exploration of my feminine energy and the coming together of women has strengthened my soul. I believe that the respect for women, and the surrender to the mystery of our power can strengthen the world. I’m so grateful to all of you who have been part of this unity. I support the women in Turkey that started this movement against femicide and I am grateful for you for inspiring this unity. Thank you 🙏 @sofisia7 I accept your challenge #kadınaşiddetehayır #istanbulsözleşmesiyaşatır Me es muy difícil entender el femicidio y el odio hacia las mujeres. He descubierto qué la exploración de mi energía femenina y la unión de las mujeres han fortalecido mi alma. Creo que el respeto al las mujeres y el rendimiento ante el misterio de nuestro poder, fortalecerá al mundo. Apollo a las mujeres de Turquía que empezaron este movimiento y estoy muy agradecida a todas ustedes que han sido parte de esta unión. Gracias 🙏
A post shared by Salma Hayek Pinault (@salmahayek) on Jul 29, 2020 at 11:37am PDT
UPDATE: I recently learned that this challenge originated in Turkey to stand in solidarity with the hundreds of women killed. Their photos would appear in newspapers in black and white. I’ve shared more in stories, and you can learn more at @auturkishculturalclub. Let’s all continue educating, supporting, and uplifting each other! #challengeaccepted! Love to see #womensupportingwomen 🤍🖤 Thank you for nominating me @melaniegriffith @lisarinna @heather_parry @donnakaranthewoman @joannegair @ariannephillips @jbird520 @gucciwestman @amandadecadenet
A post shared by Demi Moore (@demimoore) on Jul 27, 2020 at 9:09am PDT
Turkish women wake up everyday to a black and white photo of a woman who has been murdered. The government and justice system is doing nothing to stop these crimes. Just this week several women have been murdered. In 2019 they had almost 500 women murdered and who know how many unrecorded. Get the word out. The black and white challenge is to lift up and support Turkish women. Stand in solidarity with Turkish women. Get the word out❤️🙏🏻 thanks for the nom @katiegreenthal @laurajaynenew @ashleytisdale @nataliesaidi @lisarinna and @camillawithlove #womanempowerment #womensupportingwomen #justiceforallwomen
A post shared by 🔮Vanessa Hudgens🔮 (@vanessahudgens) on Jul 27, 2020 at 5:27am PDT
Challenge accepted. #istanbulconventionsaveslives #womenempowerment #womensupportingwomen - I’ve been told that the true meaning of this hashtag and this b&w photo- ‘It is to shed light onto the Istanbul Convention, women are being subjected to violence and this convention is to end forgiveness for the attacker/murderers.’ With that in mind, adjust your hashtags if you didn’t already do so. Thank you @jessicaroseweiss, @bellathorne and @edibow for inviting me. Let’s ride gals. Post your b&w in support of this movement, these women need the world to hear.
A post shared by Florence Pugh (@florencepugh) on Jul 27, 2020 at 2:25pm PDT
We are linked. Oppression of women anywhere is oppression of women everywhere. I have learned how this challenge originated and want to express my complete support for the women in Turkey who are fighting for their lives. We see you. Challenge accepted, @ariannephillips 👊 #womensupportingwomen #instanbulconventionsaveslives
A post shared by Olivia Wilde (@oliviawilde) on Jul 26, 2020 at 9:59pm PDT
Femicide rates are also high in countries like El Salvador, Venezuela, and Mexico.
According to a report published by the Small Arms Survey in 2016, “among 25 countries with the highest rates of femicide in the world, 14 are from Latin America and the Caribbean.” Topping the list are Syria, El Salvador, and Honduras.
Cases in Mexico have increased by over 100 percent in the last five years, the country's Attorney General Alejandro Gertz Manero said in February. In 2019, there were 1,006 reported incidents of femicide in Mexico, which is a 10 percent increase from 2018, according to The New York Times. Violence against women has soared since the COVID-19 pandemic hit Latin America, "confirming fears that lockdowns would put many women in danger," according to Reuters.
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