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Nobel winners in Turkey slam sexual violence against women

Three Nobel Peace Prize Laureates tell Istanbul conference: 'Polite women do not make history.'

Nobel winners in Turkey slam sexual violence against women

By Burcu Arik


Society is "erasing the responsibility of men" towards sexual violence, a Nobel Laureate has told an Istanbul conference.

Jody Williams -- who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her campaigning work against landmines in 1997 -- was speaking in the aftermath of the killing of the 20-year-old Turkish woman, Ozgecan Aslan, whose charred body was found in Mersin on Feb. 13.

The case of the murdered student has rocked Turkey, sparking a national debate on violence against women.

Williams said: "She was attacked and killed and, after her death, we are asking: 'What did she do to invite that violence?’"

"By doing that we are erasing the responsibility of men. We should not be ashamed, we should stand together and never tolerate any sexual harassment against women," she added.

Williams was speaking alongside Nobel Peace Prize Laureates Tawakkol Karman and Shirin Ebadi who met Wednesday in Istanbul to discuss the impact of war on women and children as well as sexual violence and harassment.

Tawakkul Karman -- the first Yemeni and Arab woman, and the second Muslim woman, to win a Nobel peace prize -- began her speech saying: "We are Ozgecan."

Karman said that when we talk about suffering, women and children come first to mind. "Due to wars, women do not only lose their husbands or children, they are exposed to sexual harassment and violence."

"When we talk about the impact of war on 'women and children', we actually categorize women as somebody in need of protection," Williams added.

Saying that women are second-class citizens everywhere, even in "so-called advanced parts of the world," Williams added: "I don’t care that Hillary Clinton is a secretary of state; women still do not have the same power and are not as respected as men."

"Polite women do not make history: that is why Tawakkol Karman is called the ‘Iron Lady’; that is why Shirin Ebadi is fierce and that is why I am controversial in my country," she said.

Shirin Ebadi from Iran is an activist and former judge awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003 for her efforts to promote democracy and human rights.

"I am Iranian. I was born and grew up there. When I look at the area I realize that there have been two factors that block peace. One is lack of democracy ... and the other factor is a lack of social justice," she said.

Indicating that those factors have always caused wars, Ebadi said: "Look around yourselves. Please answer this question. If [Syrian President] Bashar al-Assad respected his people and what they want, do you think Syria would be in the same condition today?"

Ebadi also criticized extremist groups for manipulating Islam. "Islam is the religion of peace and equality. It never advocates killing nor the oppression of women. [Extremists] are the men who misunderstand Islam and the Quran" she added.

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