A woman in Turkey is awaiting trial after beheading a man who she says raped her repeatedly for months and is the father of her unborn child. Her lawyer says the woman killed the man to protect her honor.
Nevin Yildirim, a 26-year-old mother of two, lives in a small village in southwestern Turkey. She said the man, Nurettin Gider, began the attacks a few days after her husband left in January for a seasonal job in another town, according to a source close to the case.
Yildirim said Gider threatened her with a gun and said he would kill her children, ages 2 and 6, if she made any noise, according to the source. That was the first of repeated rapes over the next eight months, the source said.
At one point, Yildirim said, Gider sneaked into her house while she was asleep and took pictures of her, the source said. One of the pictures shows her pregnant body. Gider threatened to publish the pictures if she didn't obey him, the source said.
In small villages like hers, honor is held above all else, and women carry the burden of honor for their families. Pictures like those would have been devastating for Yildirim and her family and could have posed a danger.
On August 28, at least five months pregnant by a man who she said continued to rape her, Yildirim said she decided she had had enough. Gider was climbing up the back wall of her house. "I knew he was going to rape me again," she said at her preliminary hearing August 30.
She said she grabbed her father-in-law's rifle that was hanging on the wall and she shot him. He tried to draw his gun and she fired again. "I chased him," she said. "He fell on the ground. He started cussing. I shot his sexual organ this time. He became quiet. I knew he was dead. I then cut his head off."
Witnesses described Yildirim walking into the village square, carrying the man's head by his hair, blood dripping on the ground. "Don't talk behind my back, don't play with my honor," Yildirim said to the men sitting in the coffee house on the square. "Here is the head of the man who played with my honor."
She threw Gider's head to the ground, the witnesses said. Video from Turkish broadcaster DHA, which arrived on the scene before the authorities, showed Gider's head on the ground. Witnesses called authorities and Yildirim was arrested.
Gider was 35 and the father of two children, 15 and 9. He was married to an aunt of Yildirim's husband. Yildirim told her legal representative she regrets what happened, the source said.
"I thought of reporting him to military police and to the district attorney, but this was going to mark me as a scorned woman," Yildirim said, according to the source. "Since I was going to get a bad reputation I decided to clean my honor and acted on killing him. I thought of suicide a lot but couldn't do it."
Yildirim said she was worried people would judge her children because of what happened, the source said. "Now no one can call my children bastards," she said, according to the source. "I cleaned my honor. Everyone will call them the children of the woman who cleaned her honor."
The source said Yildirim went to a health clinic a while ago seeking an abortion, but health workers told her she was 14 weeks pregnant and abortion was not an option. In Turkey, abortion is allowed during the first 10 weeks of pregnancy, after which it is permitted only to save the life or health of the mother or in cases of fetal impairment, Human Rights Watch said.
At her hearing, Yildirim said she doesn't want to keep the baby and that she is ready to die, the source said. The public prosecutor's office has ordered a medical examination to decide whether Yildirim may have an abortion and to assess her mental stability, the source said.
Yildirim's father, Zekeriya Yildiz, told DHA his daughter did not report the alleged abuse to anyone in the family. "If she would have told us, we would have taken other precautions," he said. Yildirim is in the local jail while she awaits trial.
In a report last year, Human Rights Watch decried gaps in Turkish law that it said leave women and girls unprotected from domestic abuse. Some 42% of women older than 15 in Turkey and 47% of rural women have experienced physical or sexual violence at the hands of a husband or partner at some point in their lives, the group said.
"She has lived through a terrible trauma. She must be charged with self-defense," said Gursel Oztunali Kayir, a sociologist at Akdeniz University and a member of Antalya Women Support Organization.