A man who harassed a headscarf-wearing Muslim woman before spitting on her was captured and taken into custody. A group of demonstrators, meanwhile, staged a protest at train station in Kadıköy where the incident took place on March 12.
The suspect, identified as 36-year-old Atınç M., was caught in security camera footage shouting and spitting on Kerime Pehlivan, a commuter. Pehlivan told police that she took the elevator after the suspect exited it at the time of the incident. Security camera footage shows M. waiting for others in the elevator to leave and when alone with Pehlivan, he shouts and spits before leaving.
After he was referred to the court, judges ordered his release pending trial. He was also ordered not to travel abroad during the legal process.
The incident sparked fears among Muslim women who have been target of attacks and harassment in the past by secular extremists. Pehlivan has said that 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.
A group of demonstrators, including the victim's husband, carried banners reading "no to violence against women" and "don't interfere with my lifestyle" in a silent protest at the station. Ömer Pehlivan gave an account of the attack to reporters and how his wife feared for her life. He also called upon other Muslim women who faced such harassment to take a stand and file complaints for such people no matter the scale of harassment. "No one has a right to have a say on what a person wears," he said.
Headscarf-wearing women in Muslim-majority Turkey were the victims of bans and maltreatment in the late 1990s, before and after a 1997 coup that targeted Muslims. Thanks to the ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party that came to power largely with 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 by 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. Suspects in both cases were freed, and both claimed they had not specifically targeted headscarf-wearing women.
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