Dying to Divorce (2021): One film, three women

Η ταινία "Dying to Divorce", που αφηγείται την ιστορία της μάχης για τη δικαίωση κακοποιημένων γυναικών στην Τουρκία, προβάλλεται στο φεστιβάλ Θεσσαλονίκης. Διαβάστε την παρουσίαση της ταινίας από τη συντρόφισσα Figen Dayıcık Fırat από την Τουρκία.

Dying to Divorce” is a documentary film co-produced by the UK, Norway, Germany, and Turkey. The film deals with the violence caused by gender in Turkey and the attitude of the govement towards women.

Three women: İpek, Arzu, Kübra. British director Chloe Fairweather tells the dramatic story of two women who were battered and permanently harmed by their husbands, as well as the experiences of lawyer İpek Bozkurt, who struggled for both women's and their own rights.

At the beginning of the movie, Erdogan's view that men and women cannot be considered equal by nature, and that motherhood is very valuable, is set forth. The link between Erdogan and the abuse of women is formed through perpetrator’s claim that her children would never harm their mother: The perpetrator is seen in the movie with the words "How to do this, we should kiss the feet of mothers".

One out of every three women in Turkey experiences violence from her husband. This is the highest rate among economically developed countries. The focal point of the film is the work of lawyer İpek Bozkurt, one of the leading activists of the “We Will Stop Femicide” platform, together with a group of activists, to defend the rights of two women who survived male violence and to ensure justice. The story of two women from very different socio-economic conditions is as follows: Arzu is married at the age of 14 to a farmer who is 10 years older than her. When she tells her husband that she wants a divorce, her husband renders both her legs and arms unusable by shooting her with seven rifle bullets. Arzu tries to rebuild her life in order to get custody of her children. Kübra is a successful TV presenter. Two days after giving birth, she is attacked by her husband and therefore suffers a cerebral hemorrhage. The brain hemorrhage causes her to lose her ability to speak and walk. Her husband denies attacking her and detains his daughter. Kübra tries to get speech therapy to be able to testify against him in court. She may not see her daughter again unless her husband is convicted. The struggle of attoey İpek, who seeks their rights, is not only against a legal system that regularly imposes light sentences on male perpetrators, but also against the power that seeks to suppress oppositional voices. İpek's life tus upside down after the July 15 coup attempt. Lawyers begin to be threatened by an increasingly repressive govement that seeks to crush the opposition. İpek has to fight for democracy while continuing to fight for Kübra and Arzu under these harsh conditions.

The subject of women in the movie, which was shot in five years, is directly related to the attitude of the political authority towards women. The balance sheet of femicides is known to everyone; a murder of a woman is committed almost every day, hundreds of women are beaten by their spouses or partners. Instead of taking precautions, the political power remains to be a mere spectator and even terminates the Istanbul Convention, making women even more precarious. The govement, which wanted to strengthen its powers after the 2016 coup, banned political protests with a series of decree laws, İpek Bozkurt and many women who struggled like her were branded as terrorists, a large “Inteational Women's Day” march was blocked, and continues to be blocked with excuses. Even in such an environment, the lawsuits and the women's struggle for justice continue, neither the battered women nor Ipek give up their cases.

Released in March 2021, the film is at the Thessaloniki Film festival these days. Although the film focuses on the lives of women in Turkey, it is known that women are also exposed to violence in other developed countries of the world. The number of women who were subjected to violence in the conditions of the pandemic has increased even more, but there is not enough coverage about it. In countries like Turkey, where political powers do not guarantee women's rights, brute force is legitimized by the male-dominated lifestyle coded into the social structure. When women who are unhappy or exposed to violence want to leave, men consider violence to be their right. When women seek solutions or have to flee, it ends in disaster. The stories in the documentary emphasize the importance of the struggle to be an independent woman regardless of class in Turkey and strengthen the women's struggle.

While the documentary "Dying to Divorce" mirrors the struggle of women, it also sheds a light on all women in Turkey and around the world who are subjected to violence.

Figen Dayıcık Fırat

Η Sinead Kirwan, που συνεργάστηκε στην παραγωγή της ταινίας, προσθέτει:


Chloe, the director made a short film about Arzu, one of our characters, for a newspaper and shared it with me. I was very shocked but at the same time in the news there were huge protests taking place in Turkey against gender violence and they were using direct action, creative protest and occupations to try and change things. This did not take place in Britain when women were killed. I thought we could really lea something from women activists Turkey. 

It was very difficult to get this made because the story kept on evolving, and in general funders want to know exactly what the ending will be but this was quite unpredictable! We, like everyone in Turkey, were completely surprised by the attempted coup and this changed the whole nature of the film. We wanted to show both the personal stories of women overcoming violence but also it became extremely important to show that this violence is not an individual issue, it stems from the society you live in and it comes in different forms. As Ipek, the lawyer in our film says ‘If you see guns so much, if you see bombs so much, of course in translates into private lives’.

We think people fighting oppression everywhere can be inspired by the sheer determination to carry on the struggle for independence in the face physical and political repression. Arzu is a poor working class women, who overcomes being shot several times, to face her husband and start an independent life. She does this with the help and solidarity of political activists.

One of the final images of the film is a huge protest of women and men in the streets of Istanbul together in defiance of the govement. It underlines our key message, we need real solidarity to stop gender violence, we need to keep being angry every time a woman is killed and we need to keep holding our govements to account for creating such a brutal system which allows women to be murdered.