An Istanbul court Tuesday handed down a one year and nine month prison term for Atınç Manap, a man accused of harassing a headscarf-wearing Muslim woman.
Kerime Pehlivan was about to take an elevator at a subway station in Istanbul's Bostancı last year when Manap allegedly approached her, hurled anti-Muslim insults and spat in her face. The incident was captured on security camera footage, though the defendant denied the charges.
The court ruled that Manap, who was released pending trial after the incident, insulted Pehlivan because of the "victim's obedience to her religion and dressing accordingly," although he was acquitted of charges of provoking public hatred.
Manap did not attend the hearing, while Kerime Pehlivan was accompanied by her husband and activists from a women's nonprofit group. Her lawyer, İsa Mesih Şahin, said they would appeal the acquittal of the charges regarding public hatred. "Still, this is an important verdict in the name of justice and shows that insulting someone for her lifestyle, her clothing based on her religion will not go unpunished," Şahin stressed.
The incident sparked fear among Muslim women, who have been targeted in attacks and subjected to harassment in the past by secular extremists. Pehlivan said the suspect told her: "May God's curse be upon you. The country is in trouble because of you yobaz people," using a derogatory term for conservative people.
Headscarf-wearing women in Muslim-majority Turkey were the victims of bans and mistreatment in the late 1990s, before and after a 1997 coup that targeted Muslims. Thanks to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) coming to power largely through the votes of conservatives disillusioned with years of blacklisting and oppression, a headscarf ban was removed, and women were given more rights in social life. Yet, Muslim women occasionally encounter harassment from fanatics like Almila Kursar, who was accused of hitting and pulling the headscarf of a teenager in a passenger bus in Istanbul in February 2017. In another case, a man was detained for hitting a headscarf-wearing woman in September 2017 in Istanbul.