Fethiye marked International Women’s Day with the opening of a memorial park to remember a young woman who last year was tragically taken from this world.
Following weeks of preparation, Fethiye’s new park, dedicated to the memory of Özgecan Aslan, a young student who, on the 11th February 2015, was brutally raped and murdered in her home town of Mersin, was officially opened.
Impassioned speeches by her mother, Songül Aslan and family members, words rich with emotion from the Fethiye mayor, Behçet Saatçı and prayers from the Fethiye Mufti, Oğuzhan Kadıoğlu, brought the tragedy of the young student’s death sharply into focus.
The day chosen for this deeply moving event was March 8th, and it is no coincidence that this day also marks International Women’s Day. Throughout the day, red carnations were handed out to women and many men and women wore badges in the shape of white daisies, a flower that has come to symbolize the vulnerable purity of the young Mersin-born psychology student.
The music played at the beginning of the ceremony, the emotional words spoken through tears by Özgecan’s mother, the powerful language employed by Mayor, Behçet Saaatçi, and the exquisite flowers given to Songül Aslan by Nesrin Saatçi along with a heartfelt embrace, created an atmosphere that was touching, solemn and intense, causing many in the massive crowd to openly weep.
The moment when the black awning was removed from the statue inspired a collective gasp from the crowd, as the very remarkable and beautiful embodiment of must surely be a wish that Özgecan is now in a better place, was revealed.
The poignant nature of the occasion was briefly put at risk last night when four large white revolving statues of ballerinas, which had been placed at the four corners of the park, were spotted being removed by crane.
There was a newspaper report suggesting that their removal was motivated by conservative attitudes to the statues’ bare legs; however, the following day, in an official statement, the Municipality said that they were removed at the last minute due to their size, which would have eclipsed the delicate but powerful message made by the memorial statue, and that they were not in keeping with the park’s contemplative theme. The mayor confirmed that another more suitable place would be found for them.
Özgecan’s tragic death had a profound effect on Turkey, causing many to demand that something be done to address the country’s high level of violence against women. For anyone spending time in this park the beautiful statue will also be a stark reminder of Özgecan’s fate and must be hoped that its presence in the town will have a positive impact on everyone who sees it.