I never had the pleasure of meeting you Özgecan. I never had the chance to hear you laugh with your friends or sing along to your favorite tune. No I did not know you at all but I know you now. Your name will forever be etched into my heart and into the hearts of millions of others here in Turkey and around the world who woke on Valentine’s Day, the day of romance, to the sickening news of your death at the hands of a monster. We are shocked beyond words hearing of your suffering and of knowing that the simple task of stepping on a bus is no longer safe here in Mersin.
What happened to you happens to other women every day, all over the world. Whether it is in New Delhi or Melbourne monsters can be found everywhere. But with your death comes the news that tens of thousands of people are marching in cities all over Turkey angry for your pain and suffering. They are angry that this has happened to you. For too long women have not felt safe as they stand in their kitchen, walk down the street or even step onto a bus. For too long society has looked the other way at certain behaviour but today it is time for Turkey to change and you are an important part of that change. What happened to you Özgecan and the reactions of people here in Mersin and all around your beautiful country prove that they too want things to change.
I watched with tears of pride as your friends and family defied the imam as he told them to “let the men” carry your body. Hayir. They stood by you and helped you to your final resting place. These women will never forget you Özgecan and they will stand up for you and yell your name with honour.
People no longer want to hear that women are secondary to men. We no longer want to listen to politicians who outlandishly state that “violence against women is just about selective perception (thank you Fatma Şahin, AKP Family Minister)” or “equality between men and women is against nature” (thank you Recep Tayip Erdogan, President). No Özgecan we will no longer allow politicians to sprout nonsense that should be basic human rights.
Today people are calling for much needed change and, although you had to lose your life, I hope that the powers that be will realise that changes must be made to ensure that no one else must spend their last moments in fear at the hands of another.
Özgecan your soul is now soaring in the sunlight. You have no more pain. We will remember your name and we will remember you.
I am reminded of something Maya Angelou said, “History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.”
Rest in peace Özgecan.