YALIM, TURKEY Last month a woman named Cemse Allak was buried in a corner of a municipal cemetery here. Ms. Allak, unmarried and pregnant, had died from a stoning.
Villagers and local lawyers said Ms. Allak as well as the man who had made her pregnant had been killed to restore the honor of their families.
|For seven months she lay semi-conscious, skull crushed, unable to move or speak.|
Relatives visited once, in the beginning, to tell the hospital staff that they could not pay for her care. The fetus inside Ms. Allak died six weeks after the attack.
When Ms. Allak died on June 7, no one from her family claimed her body, and none of her relatives attended the funeral.
Just two days before Ms. Allak's funeral, the elected Parliament of this predominantly Muslim nation approved a sweeping human rights law that, among other things, abolished a provision that often reduced the prison terms for murders committed in the name of "family honor."
None of her family claimed her body, and none attended her funeral.
|The legislation is part of a broader effort to secure Turkey's long-hoped-for admission to the European Union and, more profoundly, to answer the centuries-old question of Turkey's place in the world: whether in Europe or the Middle East.|
"Honor is not a trivial thing," shouted Celilie Allak, Ms. Allak's sister-in-law, explaining the deaths. "What else were we supposed to do?"
Much of Cemse Allak's story has been lost in a whirl of conflicting versions of her death. By most accounts, Ms. Allak fell victim to the age-old honor code that survives in the villages of southeastern Turkey, a system so unforgiving that some villagers here said they were relieved to learn of Ms. Allak's death. If she had survived, the villagers said, the family of the man who had been killed with her would have been obliged to take revenge on Ms. Allak's family, since it was Ms. Allak's brother who was suspected of his murder.
"When the girl Cemse died, the matter was closed," said Shelalettin Cakar, a local farmer. "In such cases, if one dies and the other lives, it is not equal. So it was better for both of them to die."
Ms. Allak's brother, Mehmet, as well as four other relatives, have been charged in the murder of the man, Hila Acil, who was stoned to death at the same time in a field outside town. Despite last month's legislative
|"Rape is wrong in every case nonetheless, the family was dishonored."|
Nearly everyone in this hardscrabble village agrees that Ms. Allak's problems began with Mr. Acil, age 55 and the father of 11, who was known as a man who could never take his eyes off the local women.
"He is my friend, but he was like this since the day he was born," said a pistachio farmer, who would not give his name. "He had very wide eyes."
According to accounts from Ms. Allak's family and other people in Yaylim, the incident began when Mr. Acil dropped Ms. Allak's father off at work, and then returned to the Allak house where he apparently found Ms. Allak alone. What happened next is unclear, but Ms. Allak, whom neighbors described as a quiet and unassuming woman, became pregnant.
Some members of Ms. Allak's family said she had been raped; others in the town suggested that the two had engaged in consensual sex. Conversations with villagers and family members made clear that many saw little difference between the two. Villagers who conceded that Ms. Allak might have been raped said that she had still brought shame upon her family.
"Rape is wrong in every case," said Baki Allak, a cousin, as he stood at the top of the gorge where the two people were stoned. Nonetheless, he added, "the family was dishonored."
Until June 2003 Article 462 of the Turkish criminal code allowed judges to reduce murder sentences 80 percent or more in "honor" cases.
|In an interview, Mr. Demirkesen, Mehmet Allak's lawyer, said his client had killed Mr. Acil and Ms. Allak. He said Mr. Allak had not followed the couple into the gorge with murder on his mind, but he said the two men got into a physical confrontation when Mr. Acil insulted his sister. Ms. Allak, according to Mr. Demirkesen, stepped in front of one of the stones that Mr. Allak threw at Mr. Acil.|
Dr. Adnan Ceviz, a neurosurgeon who treated Ms. Allak, dismissed the notion that her skull had been crushed unintentionally. The side of her head, he said, had been struck over and over in the same place.
"She was thrown to the ground," Dr. Ceviz said in an interview. "This was not an accident."
The stoning of Mr. Acil and Ms. Allak appeared to follow in the tradition of recm, which is, according to villagers here, the religiously sanctioned trial and stoning of a dishonored woman or man by an entire village.
For years, men and only occasionally women accused of killing their spouses or family members could invoke Article 462 of the Turkish criminal code. That gave judges the discretion to reduce a murder defendant's potential sentence by more than 80 percent.
Emin Sirin, a member of Parliament who supported repealing the law, said he hoped the legislation would quickly bring the medieval practice to an end.
|Neighbors in the village grew concerned that her survival would set off a vendetta.|
But abolishing the more pernicious traditions of village and town will take a much longer time, and require far more effort, than merely passing laws.
Mr. Demirkesen, the lawyer for Mr. Allak, wondered why Ms. Allak's case had generated such publicity.
"There are a lot more interesting honor killings than this one," he said, and then proceeded to tell of four other such killings that he knew of in recent years in the area.
In the months that Ms. Allak lay in the hospital, her neighbors in the village said they grew concerned that her survival would set off a vendetta between the Allaks and the Acils. If Mr. Allak had indeed killed Mr. Acil, and if Ms. Allak survived, then the Acil family would be obliged under local tradition to take vengeance.
"These traditions do not die easily, but they will die."
|In February, the Allak and Acil families met for a "peace dinner" to try to obviate the need for a revenge killing. A picture of the families eating together appeared in the Independent Agenda, a local newspaper. The headline read, "Peace Established in Honor Killing."|
Hence the relief expressed by villagers when Ms. Allak finally died.
"If both of them did not die, the vendetta would have gone on for years," the pistachio farmer said.
Though Ms. Allak's family did not visit her in the hospital, many women did. Over the months several women from Kamer, a women's association in Diyarbakir, where Ms. Allak was hospitalized, brought her medicine, helped wash her and pushed her wheelchair around the hospital grounds.
One of the women, Hayriye Ascioglu, said that Ms. Allak's face would brighten as soon as she entered the room, and that Ms. Allak's eyes would follow her as she walked around. When nurses trimmed Ms. Allak's fingernails, she would pull back her hands in pain.
"I would say to her, 'If you hear me, blink,'" said Ms. Ascioglu. "And she would blink."
Under Turkish law, a deceased person must remain unburied for up to two weeks to give a family time to claim the body. Ms. Allak's death appeared in the papers; still, no one from the family came to get her body.
Kamer, the women's association, saw to it that Ms. Allak had a coffin. The group's members flouted Islamic tradition by carrying the coffin into the municipal cemetery themselves.
In another snub to the old way, the women and not the men, as custom dictated stepped up to throw the first handfuls of soil over Ms. Allak's coffin. About 100 women came in all, and the scenes from Ms. Allak's funeral made the front page of the Diyarbakir Event, a newspaper.
In the days since the funeral, some of the women who cared for Ms. Allak have been reflecting on her trial. For Meral Bestas, a local lawyer who attended the funeral, Ms. Allak's story seemed to offer equal measures of hope and despair.
"These traditions do not die easily," Ms. Bestas said in an interview in her office. "But they will die, I'm certain of that. Turkey is changing very fast."