You might remember this hashtag flooding your Instagram feed during the summer of 2020. Or you might remember it as a post of a black and white selfie that requires you to post something similar if you like the post or comment on it. This challenge was so famous that even celebrities were participating. But setting aside the popularity of this challenge, what lies behind is a dark yet heartbreaking truth.
It all started in Turkey as a medium to share awareness for the issue of femicide and domestic violence involving women. Femicide and violence toward women is not a new issue in Turkey, nor in the world. But the tragic death of a 27 year old woman named Pinar Gültekin sparked this movement that later was felt around the world.
Pinar was a university student and was 27 years old by the time of her death. On the afternoon of July 16th, 2020, Sabel, Pinar’s sister, called Pinar around 3 p.m. and she said that she would call Sabel later because she was on her way to a shopping mall. In the evening, Sabel has not yet received a word from her sister. Even though Sabel tried several times to contact her sister, it all ended in vain. Worried sick, Sabel and her mother decided to drive an hour away to check on Pinar. They ended up filing a missing person report while they were on the coast, the area where Pinar lived.
After the missing report was filed, the police went straight to the mall and they started to survey the area, hoping to find Pinar. They also checked every footage of the security available in the shopping mall. After the police received permission to access Pinar’s phone records, they immediately found a person that stands out. That person is Pinar’s ex-boyfriend, Jamal.
Pinar and Jamal’s relationship was not the best at the moment. After they broke up, Pinar tried to cut all relationships with Jamal after she discovered that he was married. But Jamal didn’t feel the same way. He still tried to rekindle his relationship with Pinar.
The police questioned Jamal about Pinar and his answers were obvious. He denied everything. The police felt that there was something off with Jamal, but they let him go because they didn’t have enough evidence to arrest him.
Not long after that, the police discovered a shocking discovery. They found a sighting of Pinar in the shopping mall. But the shocking part is that she was not alone. She was with Jamal. So, Jamal was the last person she met before she disappeared into thin air.
Armed with this evidence, the police once again questioned Jamal. Jaman, however, didn’t give a consistent answer throughout his questioning. His statement kept changing. On the other hand, police also started to investigate Jamal’s activity on the day of Pinar’s disappearance. At first, they find everything in place. But one thing that successfully raised the police is what Jamal did in the gas station. Instead of filling his vehicle, Jamal bought 2 gasoline cans. The police confronted Jamal again, this time asking for the whole story about his meeting with Pinar. Jamal told them that he invited Pinar over to his country house with the exception that he and Pinar can rekindle their relationship again. But his expectation was shattered into pieces, because according to Jamal, Pinar started to blackmail him about his affair with her. Thus, Jamal confessed that because he was so enraged with Pinar, he started to beat her until she was unconscious. He also strangled her to death. Then, he disposed her body in an oil can by filling it with gasoline and setting it on fire.
This news spread like wildfire. But as shocking as it is for us, the women in Turkey can’t agree with that. Femicide was so common in Turkey that this kind of violence has become an ordinary case. The perpetrator is usually loved ones and doesn’t even pay for what they have done in jail. They all blamed the woman for making them do what they did and said that those victims brought it for themselves. These perpetrators can get themselves out of prison by showing up in court with a suit and tie. It happened so often that locals even called it ‘tie reduction’.
Hence, the #ChallengeAccepted is a medium of protest and engaging with the tragedy without compromising someone else’s safety since it all happened at the beginning of the pandemic. Black and white selfies resemble the missing person or a deceased’s photo that is usually presented in that style. The meaning of the black and white selfie, posted by millions of women around the world is that if there’s no change in society, then tomorrow, we could be the next victim.
It is heartbreaking because lots of people participating in this challenge haven’t even heard about Pinar. The meaning of the movement was washed. But the awareness of femicide burns brighter than it was before. Society realized that it’s not all about women supporting women. Everyone must contribute to the movement because that’s the only way that we can make this world a better place for both women and men.
Words by: Shafira Arifin